A defiant and incendiary Donald Trump, who is facing an indictment, conducted the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign Saturday in Waco, Texas, a community known for its deadly anti-police resistance.
In an unusual show, Trump began his rally by playing “Justice for All,” a song featuring a choir of men imprisoned for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurgency at the US Capitol singing the national anthem and a recording of Trump saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Screens showed a video from the insurrection.
In his speech, Trump backed the rebels while railing against prosecutors, particularly those in charge of various investigations into the Republican former president.
“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.”
Trump’s campaign rally Saturday’s rally on Waco airport grounds comes as Trump has chastised prosecutors, encouraged protests, and threatened violence if he becomes the first former president in US history to face criminal charges.
Some of his recent rhetoric, especially at the rally, has resembled language he used before to the Capitol insurgency by a mob of his supporters wanting to prevent the transfer of power to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Trump declared Saturday 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 unusual venue choice in Waco comes on the heels of the 30th anniversary of a 51-day standoff and deadly siege between US law enforcement and the Branch Davidians, which 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 team stated that the event’s location and date had nothing to do with the Waco siege or its anniversary. According to a spokeswoman, the site was chosen because it is ideally located near four of the state’s largest urban regions, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and has the infrastructure to manage an enormous crowd.
Before Trump arrived, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stated he was the one who selected Waco as the venue. Any suggestion that Trump chose the city for the anniversary was “fake news.” “I picked Waco!” he exclaimed to the gathered people.
Trump made no overt allusions to Waco’s past, instead telling the crowd that he informed Patrick he wanted to hold his event in a site with overwhelming support, rather than “one of those 50-50 areas,” and that he urged Patrick, “Let’s go right into the heart of it.”
“But as far as the eye can see,” he immediately added, “the abuses of power that we’re currently witnessing at all levels of government will go down as among the most shameful, corrupt, depraved chapters in all of American history.”
Audience members held red and white placards that said “WITCH HUNT” and “I stand with Trump,” which were given out by the campaign.
On Saturday, Trump railed against the investigations, alleging “prosecutorial misconduct” in ongoing criminal investigations while also slamming previous examinations, including the release of his tax returns by Democrats in the U.S. House after a prolonged court battle.
“It probably makes me the most innocent man in the history of our country,” Trump said. “Friends of mine say that.”
The former president said he’s had “bad publicity,” but his “poll numbers have gone through the roof.”