• AFP visits lonely site of siege on the 20th anniversary
By Mark Anderson
WACO, Texas—On July 8 and 9, this AMERICAN FREE PRESS writer visited the remote Mount Carmel Center church site some 12 miles outside of Waco, Texas, in order to recognize an anniversary that even most “patriot” media have downplayed or ignored.
It was 20 years ago that heavily-armed federal agents descended upon a remote religious group and laid waste to what became known as the “Branch Davidian compound,” as their building complex was derisively labeled by big media, law enforcers and sundry bureaucrats. This Orwellian onslaught resulted in the killing of 82 people, 18 of whom were children 10-years-old and younger, according to the Davidians’ own account.
With the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) forming “the tip of the spear,” this shocking murder was carried out as if the federal government sought more than just attacking the Davidians. It was as if the central state wanted to fire a proverbial “shot over the bow” to warn any other would-be renegades that there is a distinct tolerance limit on any counter-culture movements that meet with the disapproval of our Washington commissars.
And after the 51-day, widely televised standoff between the Feds and the Davidians, few can forget what was done to the largely defenseless men, women and children at Mount Carmel.
While, today, elements of the surviving Davidian sect are reorganizing and trying to move on with their lives and practice their religion, this baptism by fire bestowed upon the Branch Davidians in 1993 reportedly also involved military units, who some say escalated the event into a fiery massacre, which seared a deep wound into the American body politic.
The word “Waco” soon came to represent a watershed event regarding the deadly use of power by the leviathan central state, regardless of one’s opinion on the sect’s leader, David Koresh. His sometimes troubled, complex background, and his unorthodox religious practices, confounded and mystified some, and today some Waco residents with whom this reporter spoke are reluctant to voice an opinion or even discuss the matter.
A woman employed at the local newspaper noted: “I haven’t been out there in seven years,” while indicating she’d rather forget all about it. That’s a fairly common refrain in and around Waco, among those old enough to remember what happened.
Currently, elements of the surviving Davidian sect are reorganizing and trying to move on with their lives and practice their religion. The apparent new leader is Pastor Charles Pace, who resides on the grounds behind the chapel.
20 Years Later, A Community Which Cannot Quite Forget
• AFP visits site of what is now the ultimate symbol of police state abuse
WACO, Texas—In an arid, lonely, windblown field in McLennan County, along Double EE Ranch drive just off Farm to Market Road 2491, sits a small chapel built since the siege where the Branch Davidians’ “compound” once stood.
While there are small commemorative stones right by the chapel, the main memorial about 200 yards from the chapel consists of two large granite slabs that display the names, ages and nations-of-origin of the deceased. Between them, a smaller stone simply lists names.
Interestingly, the two larger stones include the names of 24 dead Davidians from England; with two from Canada; four from Australia; one from Israel; one from New Zealand; and the rest from the U.S. Rarely if ever do other accounts report the international origins of some of the deceased Davidians.
David Koresh, aka Vernon Howell, is listed with the others on the center stone in alphabetical order, with no special placement or emphasis.
A infant’s weathered pacifier and some small toys are placed on top of the larger stone to the left of the center stone. They were either left by visitors as a remembrance or found on the grounds.
The names on the larger stones include “Aborted baby Summers USA,” “Aborted Fetus Gent USA,” and “Chica Jones, Age 1 ½ USA,” among other children from age 1 on up. You’d have to be literally made of stone not to be moved.
Etched in the center stone are these words: “On Feb. 28, 1993 the Davidians came under attack by ATF and FBI agents. For 51 days, the Davidians and their leader, David Koresh, stood proudly. On April 19 . . . the Davidians and their church were burned to the ground. 82 people perished . . . 18 were children 10 years old or younger.”
Yet, a small stone close to the chapel shows the surviving church members did not neglect acknowledging the four BATF agents who lost their lives in an initial confrontation with the Davidians in February of 1993—in an exchange of gunfire which also killed a few Davidians during an attempt to serve a warrant on the Davidians over alleged violations of federal firearms laws.
AFP VIDEO: Mark Anderson visits the Waco siege site
The city of Waco, meanwhile, officially remains in near-total denial over the events of 20 years ago. Only The Waco Tribune-Herald has placed some exhibits on the Waco siege in its Through Our Pages Museum, formerly displayed at the Helen Marie Taylor Museum. The exhibit’s centerpiece is a tabletop diorama of “the Davidian cult compound,” as most media call it, with a faint whiff of scorn.
The exhibit’s centerpiece is a tabletop diorama of “the Davidian cult compound,” as most media call it, with a faint whiff of scorn. “It includes minute detail, down to cars, animals and debris around the site in the time before the federal standoff and the conflagration that killed about 80 people,” the Tribune-Herald noted.
Yet, the mayors who have served Waco since the assault and most other local leaders have urged a virtual blackout that the siege ever happened. But the imprint of the event will not quite fade.
What the leadership truly seems to miss is that this was not a “lone nut” working in a textbook warehouse accused of shooting a president—another watershed event that gives a different Texas city an identity crisis still lingering after 50 years.
Rather, at Waco, the government itself did most of the shooting against a largely defenseless religious sect. In the kind of world that many of us wish existed, the greater Waco community, and the nation at large, should have told the federal government, “Never again, the slaying of the innocents.”
While the Davidians clearly did not deserve such a fate, whatever their beliefs, the tendency of those in the community and the nation to be silent about the siege does not just deny the event happened—it denies the pursuit of justice itself.
Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor. Listen to Mark’s weekly radio show and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.