On this day in 1993, agents of the loathsome federal agency known as the BATF executed a raid on the home and church of a peculiar religious sect, not far from the Texas town of Waco. The BATF was well known for heavy handed and unlawful tactics. At the time of the raid, the BATF was under tremendous scrutiny for their long list of various wrongdoings. It was rumored that their budget was about to be slashed and the agency might face being disbanded. BATF in their aspirations to cling to power conceived a plan to assault the Branch Davidians and to allow the news media to film it all. This was their way of demonstrating how necessary and important the agency was. Things didn’t go quite as well as they had hoped. Trigger-happy goons of the BATF fired first killing several dogs on the property and then launched their assault against the residents. At the time, Texas law permitted a citizen to use force to repel an unlawful arrest. The members of this community returned fire killing 4 federal agents. The Davidians suffered 6 fatalities. Thus began the stand-off between member of the Davidian Community at Waco and federal authorities. James Bovard has an excellent piece about this awful day in American history.
Because federal agents had been killed, the matter was turned over to the FBI and their “Hostage Rescue Team”. The siege upon this group of citizens lasted 50 days and then Attorney General for the U.S., Janet Reno gave permission to end it. End it they did. In a most barbaric manner.
On April 19th, 1993.
It was approaching the lunch hour and I was servicing the draft system in a tavern in Seattle, Washington when the cheering began. I looked up to see a CNN live report being broadcast from Waco, Texas. There was a U. S. Military tank ramming into the building and knocking down the walls. The Branch Davidian church had just burst into flames. The images on the TV screen were surreal. I struggled to process the fact that this was not happening in some far off dictatorship. It was happening in America and being televised live. I remembered the news reports had indicated that there were still many women and children inside that building!
Among the exuberant comments from people at the bar was one that struck me to my core. A young man, I estimated to be about 35 years old said, “They should have handled this problem weeks ago.” My jaw dropped. I was appalled. I turned to the outspoken one who had exclaimed that he approved of the government’s actions and I said, “I hope when they come to your house, they exercise a little more restraint.” He just stared at me. It was clear that my comment was over his head.
The names of the deceased Davidians are:
1. Katherine Andrade, 24, American
2. Chanel Andrade, 1, American
3. Jennifer Andrade, 19, American
4. George Bennett, 35, British
5. Susan Benta, 31, British
6. Mary Jean Borst, 49, American
7. Pablo Cohen, 38, Israeli
8. Abedowalo Davies, 30, British
9. Shari Doyle, 18, American
10. Beverly Elliot, 30, British
11. Yvette Fagan, 32, British
12. Doris Fagan, 51, British
13. Lisa Marie Farris, 24, American
14. Raymond Friesen, 76, Canadian
15. Sandra Hardial, 27, British
16. Zilla Henry, 55, British
17. Vanessa Henry, 19, British
18. Phillip Henry, 22, British
19. Paulina Henry, 24, British
20. Stephen Henry, 26, British
21. Diana Henry, 28, British
22. Novellette Hipsman, 36, Canadian
23. Floyd Houtman, 61, American
24. Sherri Jewell, 43, American
25. David M. Jones, 38, American
26. David Koresh, 33, American
27. Rachel Koresh, 24, American
28. Cyrus Koresh, 8, American
29. Star Koresh, 6, American
30. Bobbie Lane Koresh, 2, American
31. Jeffery Little, 32, American
32. Nicole Gent Little, 24, Australian, pregnant
33. Dayland Gent, 3, American
34. Page Gent, 1, American
35. Livingston Malcolm, 26, British
36. Diane Martin, 41, British
37. Wayne Martin, Sr., 42, American
38. Lisa Martin, 13, American
39. Sheila Martin, Jr., 15, American
40. Anita Martin, 18, American
41. Wayne Martin, Jr., 20, American
42. Julliete Martinez, 30, American
43. Crystal Martinez, 3, American
44. Isaiah Martinez, 4, American
45. Joseph Martinez, 8, American
46. Abigail Martinez, 11, American
47. Audrey Martinez, 13, American
48. John-Mark McBean, 27, British
49. Bernadette Monbelly, 31, British
50. Rosemary Morrison, 29, British
51. Melissa Morrison, 6, British
52. Sonia Murray, 29, American
53. Theresa Nobrega, 48, British
54. James Riddle, 32, American
55. Rebecca Saipaia, 24, Filipino
56. Steve Schneider, 43, American
57. Judy Schneider, 41, American
58. Mayanah Schneider, 2, American
59. Clifford Sellors, 33, British
60. Scott Kojiro Sonobe, 35, American
61. Floracita Sonobe, 34, Filipino
62. Gregory Summers, 28, American
63. Aisha Gyrfas Summers, 17, Australian, pregnant
64. Startle Summers, 1, American
65. Lorraine Sylvia, 40, American
66. Rachel Sylvia, 12, American
67. Hollywood Sylvia, 1, American
68. Michelle Jones Thibodeau, 18, American
69. Serenity Jones, 4, American
70. Chica Jones, 2, American
71. Little One Jones, 2, American
72. Neal Vaega, 38, New Zealander
73. Margarida Vaega, 47, New Zealander
74. Mark H. Wendell, 40, American
18 children were burned to death in the raging fire. Various members of government, including BATF, FBI, President William J. Clinton, AG Janet Reno to this day claim their actions were justified. I ardently disagree! The actions of the federal government of the U.S. were horrific, deplorable and shameful to any nation that considers itself to be free.
Not one member of the government was ever held to account for what they did. Congress held hearings that resulted in no disciplinary actions against any state actors.
The actions of the federal government at Waco forever changed my view of this government. I pray that this type of egregious action never again rears its ugly head in my homeland. However, I feel that the multitude of law enforcement agencies throughout America learned nothing and will continue to overstep their lawful authority until one day, there will come a dreadful blow-back.
For further reading about the Davidians and what happened, I recommend the book titled A PLACE CALLED WACO, by David Thibodeau. He was one of the few surviving members.
Added later, after arguing on several blog-forums;
What amazes me about those who say, “The Davidians brought it upon themselves” is the fact that they try to assert that anyone who is/was appalled by the government’s actions at Waco is somehow a supporter of Koresh and his follower’s silly beliefs. That is a classic non-sequitur.
What those who argue against such actions are actually arguing in favor of:
#1- The right of the people to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.
#2- That every man, woman and child should be afforded due process at law.
#3- That self defense is a basic human right.
#4- That innocence is presumed to exist until and unless it is proven in a court of law that one is guilty.
#5- That the use of military personnel and equipment is strictly forbidden in civilian policing.
#6- That the aforementioned are fundamental tenets secured by the Supreme Law of the Land – The U.S. Constitution and therefore must be obeyed by state actors.
#7- That there should be some level of accountability for perpetrators of government’s wrongful actions.