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Why did people rally around Waco?

Discussion in 'Society and Culture' started by ethics, Jul 20, 2017.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    I really didn't understand it until reddit had a thread on it. And this was a wonderful answer:

    To get a full understanding you actually need to go back to the incident at Ruby Ridge, in which there was another standoff between US Marshals/FBI and the Weaver family, a family of religious white separatists at Ruby Ridge, ID.

    In the 80s the FBI began to take an increasing interest in militia and white separatist movements in the US. They began infiltrating organizations like the Aryan Nations, the National Alliance, and white supremacist personalities like Kevin Strom and David Duke.

    The Weaver family started in Iowa, and around the early-80s Randy and Vicki (husband and wife) began moving closer and closer to Christian fundamentalism. Soon after, Vicki had a vision of looming apocalypse, and they decided to sell off their assets and move the family to an isolated mountain plot in northern Idaho at Ruby Ridge. Once there, they built a cabin and began living a subsistence lifestyle.

    Their closest neighbors happened to be an Aryan Nations compound, and the Weavers would frequently attend their meetings to engage in trade and socialize with the white supremacists. Weaver himself never claimed to be a white supremacist, but sometime around the early-90s an undercover ATF agent approached Weaver at a Nations meeting asking to buy sawed-off shotguns from him, as an attempt at catching the AN in illegal arms trafficking. Weaver rejected him initially, but eventually agreed to get the shotguns for him. After failing to appear in court for the firearms charge, US Marshals went to serve an arrest warrant at the Weaver house, starting the standoff with the Weaver family.

    In the end one US Marshal was killed, Vicki Weaver and their son Sammy were killed, and Randy Weaver and his friend Kevin Harris were severely wounded. Initially there was a lot of support for the ATF, FBI, and the Marshals, but many reports later questioned the agencies actions as excessive and unnecessary. There were also questions as to whether or not Randy Weaver was a victim of entrapment by the ATF agent that talked him into selling those shotguns. It was a public relations disaster, and as a result there was a lot of distrust for government agencies and their methods of law enforcement. This spawned a Congressional investigation, and some rethinking of agency tactics.

    The case of Waco started off much the same. The ATF and FBI were receiving reports of the Branch Davidians collecting and trading illegally modified rifles, converting them from semi-automatic to full-automatic. There was little information about the sexual and physical abuse of girls and women at the time, the initial warrant was all about firearms law violations. The agents on site, wanting to avoid another incident and PR disaster like Ruby Ridge, planned a surprise raid that they thought would avoid a standoff like what happened in Idaho. It backfired horribly, and four agents were killed in the raid, and it turned into a siege anyway. It wasn't until it became obvious that David Koresh and his immediate family (his various wives and children) would not come out, and that the fire had started, that the agencies decided to assault the compound again. They were able to save some of the Davidians, but the fire was already too widespread to save all of them. Initial reports reflected a lot of the same sentiment left over from Ruby Ridge, questioning the methods and tactics of the agencies as excessive and unnecessary. It wasn't until much later that the truth of the mental, emotional, and physical abuse of women and children came out. However, public sentiments still sided with many reports and editorials that said the loss of life could have been avoided if only the law enforcement agencies employed different tactics.

    So, to give the simplest answer to your question, it was a combination of general public distrust of methods and tactics of hostage negotiation by the various law enforcement agencies involved in the siege. It was also the lingering skepticism that the Branch Davidians may have actually been criminals left from the incident at Ruby Ridge just a couple years earlier.

    Sources:

    With the recent rise in interest of white separatist and militia movements, there have been numerous documentaries being released through PBS and streaming services on these incidents. I would highly recommend checking them out to get a more complete picture.
     
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  2. SixofNine

    SixofNine Jedi Sage Staff Member

    With respect to Waco, I remember reading somewhere that it would have been very easy for the FBI and the ATF to talk with Koresh. All they had to do was catch up to him while he was outside of the compound jogging. Also, Janet Reno saw child abuse everywhere, which fit in well with the Clinton Administration, where everything was "for the children."

    What Really Happened At Waco
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
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  3. Arc

    Arc Full Member

    The Waco Branch Davidian debacle happened in 1993. What actually took place in relevant specific details was barely covered by the media. All we got was what the FBI told the media happen as they filmed from a distance and afterward.

    The FBI bulldozed the entire crime scene and official evidentiary documents and video associated with the whole incident were taken by the FBI and never returned or released.

    It was only in 1997 when a documentary, Waco: the Rules of Engagement was released that the entire narrative about Waco changed dramatically so compelling and authoritative was the film.

    Documentaries are my favorite genre. The Waco documentary is hands down without any qualifications IMO the best I’ve ever seen.

    Even the film critics who like the most of the rest of the country were ignorant of the specific details until the documentary were shocked and those that were journalists or any type were dismayed that they were so ignorant.

    Roger Ebert wrote:

    Watching William Gazecki's remarkable documentary "Waco: The Rules of Engagement,'' I am more inclined to use the words "religion'' than "cult,'' and "church center'' than "compound.'' Yes, the Branch Davidians had some strange beliefs, but no weirder than those held by many other religions. And it is pretty clear, on the basis of this film, that the original raid was staged as a publicity stunt, and the final raid was a government riot--a tragedy caused by uniformed boys with toys.

    Of course I am aware that "Waco'' argues its point of view, and that there is no doubt another case to be made. What is remarkable, watching the film, is to realize that the federal case has not been made. Evidence has been "lost,'' files and reports have "disappeared,'' tapes have been returned blank, participants have not testified and the "crime scene,'' as a Texas Ranger indignantly testifies, was not preserved for investigation, but razed to the ground by the FBI--presumably to destroy evidence.

    The film is persuasive because: 1. It presents testimony from both sides, and shies away from cheap shots. We feel we are seeing a fair attempt to deal with facts.

    2. Those who attack the government are not simply lawyers for the Branch Davidians or muckraking authors (although they are represented) but also solid middle-American types like the county sheriff, the district Texas Rangers, the FBI photographer on the scene, and the man who developed and patented some of the equipment used by the FBI itself to film devastating footage that appears to show its agents firing into the buildings--even though the FBI insists it did not fire a single shot.

    3. The eyes of the witnesses. We all have built-in truth detectors, and although it is certainly possible for us to be deceived, there is a human instinct that is hard to fool. Those who argue against the government in this film seem to be telling the truth, and their eyes seem to reflect inner visions of what they believe happened, or saw happen. Most of the government defenders, including an FBI spokesman and Attorney General Janet Reno, seem to be following rehearsed scripts and repeating cant phrases. Reno comes across particularly badly: Either she was misled by the FBI and her aides, or she was completely out of touch with what was happening.

    If the film is to be believed, the Branch Davidians were a harmless if controversial group of religious zealots, their beliefs stretching back many decades, who were singled out for attention by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for offenses, real or contrived, involving the possession of firearms--which is far from illegal in Texas. The ATF hoped by raiding the group to repair its tarnished image. And when four of its agents, and several Davidians, were killed in a misguided raid, they played cover-up and turned the case over to the FBI, which mishandled it even more spectacularly.

    What is clear, no matter which side you believe, is that during the final deadly FBI raid on the buildings, a toxic and flammable gas was pumped into the compound even though women and children were inside. "Tear gas'' sounds innocent, but this type of gas could undergo a chemical transformation into cyanide, and there is a pitiful shot of an 8-year-old child's body bent double, backward, by the muscular contractions caused by cyanide.

    What comes through strongly is the sense that the attackers were "boys with toys.'' The film says many of the troops were thrilled to get their hands on real tanks. Some of the law-enforcement types were itching to "stop standing around.'' One SWAT team member boasts he is "honed to kill.'' Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking'' was blasted over loudspeakers to deprive those inside of sleep (the memory of that harebrained operation must still fill the agents with shame).

    When the time came, on April 19, 1993, the agents were apparently ready to rock 'n' roll. Heat-sensitive films taken by the FBI and interpreted by experts seem to show FBI agents firing into the compound, firing on an escape route after the fires were started, and deliberately operating on the side of the compound hidden from the view of the press. No evidence is presented that those inside started fires or shot themselves. Although many dead Davidians were indeed found with gunshot wounds, the FBI has impounded all of the bullets and other evidence.

    Whatever happened at Waco, these facts remain: It is not against the law to hold irregular religious beliefs. It is not illegal to hold and trade firearms. It is legal to defend your own home against armed assault, if that assault is illegal. It is impossible to see this film without reflecting that the federal government, from the top down, treated the Branch Davidians as if those rights did not apply.

    For a 4-minute Siskel and Ebert TV review of the documentary there is good old Youtube. Worth the short watch IMO.

     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
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  4. Arc

    Arc Full Member

    The following is to add to ethics excellent post on Ruby Ridge.

    Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris were charged with a variety of federal criminal charges and tried in Federal Court. Charges included first-degree murder.

    Gerry Spence represented Weaver. He shredded all of the witnesses on cross-examination and debunked the evidence presented by the government. Then when the government rested it’s case Spence rather than present a defense rested his case.

    The judge dismissed two counts after hearing government witness testimony. The jury acquitted Weaver of all remaining charges except two, one of which the judge set aside.

    Weaver was found guilty of one count, failure to appear, for which Weaver was fined $10,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was credited with time served plus an additional three months, and was then released.

    Attorney David Nevin represented Kevin Harris and argued self-defense as the defense for his client. Harris was acquitted of all criminal charges.

    In August 1995, the US government settled a civil lawsuit filed by the Weavers. The government awarded the three daughters $1,000,000 each, and Randy Weaver $100,000 because of the deaths of Sammy and Vicki Weaver.

    The attorney for Kevin Harris pressed Harris' civil suit for damages, although federal officials vowed they would never pay someone who had killed a U.S. Marshal. In September 2000 after persistent appeals, Harris was awarded a $380,000 settlement from the government.
     
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  5. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Thanks for that, Arc.
     
  6. Arc

    Arc Full Member

    An added footnote relevant to linked historical events and cause and effect that occurred to me yesterday in browsing the site:

    Timothy McVeigh in his own words confirmed that his existing hatred against the US Government for a variety of reasons was inflamed by Ruby Ridge and that Waco was his trigger. His bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was for him a direct willful act of revenge for Waco. McVeigh's attack killed 168 men, women, and children.
     
  7. Arc

    Arc Full Member

    Today I was reading in a book written by Gerry Spence.

    He is arguably the greatest defense attorney of our time. He writes in one of his books, “Win Your Case” a chapter on cross-examination.

    The following a brief excerpt from that chapter regarding a case where he was the defense counsel and is directly related to this threads topic.

    ________________________________________________________________

    The prosecutor called a witness to testify who had not been previously identified as a government witness. Moreover, he had failed to give us the twenty-four-hour notice, as was the court’s rule in the case. I, of course, objected.

    “We were not given notice that this witness would be called, Your Honor,” I pleaded to the bench. “I ask the court to order the witness to stand down.”

    The prosecutor offered a lame excuse.

    The judge gave that sly old fox look, one that said, “Come on, Mr. Spence you don’t need my help.” What he did say on the record was, “Mr. Spence, the government has called forty-two witnesses to date. [Emphasis added] They have all testified for you and you have cross-examined them. I will permit this witness under the circumstances.”

    What the judge was saying was that my cross-examination was making my defense. He’d seen that I was able to effectively cross-examine and that his granting this one exception to the prosecution would not create sufficient error in the record for a reversal in the event the defendant was convicted—a matter of little solace to me. I did, in fact, examine the witness to our benefit, and when the state had concluded its case after scores of witnesses had testified and been cross-examined by me, it seemed to me that we should rest our case without putting on any evidence. After twenty-three days of deliberation, a time that left us hanging over a bubbling cauldron of torture for what seemed like an eternity, the jury acquitted Randy Weaver.

    Yes that Randy Weaver, the one that was the centerpiece of the US Marshall's and FBI's attack and the siege of he and his family at their residence at Ruby Ridge in Idaho.
     
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