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News / Politics

Trump invokes Jan. 6 at Waco rally

Former president says his ‘enemies are desperate to stop us’

By Associated Press
Published: March 25, 2023, 5:53pm

WACO, Texas — A defiant and incendiary Donald Trump, facing a potential indictment, held the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign Saturday in Waco, Texas, a city made famous by deadly resistance against law enforcement.

In an extraordinary display, Trump opened his rally by playing a song, “Justice for All,” that features a choir of men imprisoned for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021, deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol singing the national anthem and a recording of Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Some footage from the insurrection was shown on screens.

Trump, in a speech brimming with resentments, defended the insurrectionists and berated prosecutors overseeing multiple investigations of the Republican former president. He framed the probes as political attacks on him and his followers.

“You will be vindicated and proud,” Trump said. “The thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced.”

His rally Saturday at the airport grounds in Waco comes as Trump has berated prosecutors, encouraged protests and raised the prospect of violence should he become the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.

Some of his recent rhetoric, including at the rally, has echoed language he used before the Capitol insurrection by a mob of his supporters seeking to stop the transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden, who won the presidential election.

Trump declared Saturday that his “enemies are desperate to stop us” and “our opponents have done everything they can to crush our spirit and to break our will.”

He added: “But they failed. They’ve only made us stronger. And 2024 is the final battle. It’s going to be the big one. You put me back in the White House, their reign will be over and America will be a free nation once again.”

His eyebrow-raising choice of venue in Waco comes amid the 30th anniversary of a 51-day standoff and deadly siege between U.S. law enforcement and the Branch Davidians that resulted in the deaths of more than 80 members of the religious cult and four federal agents and has become a touchstone for far-right extremists and militia groups.

Trump’s campaign insisted the location and timing of the event had nothing to do with the Waco siege or anniversary. A spokesperson said the site, 17 miles from the Branch Davidian compound, was chosen because it was conveniently situated near four of the state’s biggest metropolitan areas — Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio — and has the infrastructure to handle a sizable crowd.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said before Trump’s arrival that he was the one who had suggested Waco as the venue. Any suggestion Trump had picked the city because of the anniversary was “fake news. I picked Waco!” he told the crowd.

Trump did not make any direct references to Waco’s history in his speech, telling the crowd he told Patrick he wanted to hold his rally in a place with overwhelming support.

Audience members held signs handed out by the campaign that said “WITCH HUNT” and “I stand with Trump.”

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