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And the Siege Goes On....

By Benedict D. LaRosa

It was just another day at the siege. Saturday, April 3, started off with the usual uneventful press conference. Rob Ricks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and David Troy of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) each spent 15 minutes avoiding tough questions and giving out as little information as possible.

Troy stressed that there is no gag order to prevent agents from talking to the media. The BATF is investigating allegations of foul-ups made to the media by agents who participated in the Branch Davidian raid. These agents would not he punished for going to the media. he added.

Ricks admitted that the FBI has now identified citizens from the United Kingdom and Israel as among those within the compound. When asked about the armed demonstration by the Unorganized Militia of the United States scheduled for that day in Waco. Ricks scoffed that they were worthy of the name "unorganized."

Two groups planned demonstrations for that day. Indiana lawyer Linda Thompson called for the Unorganized Militia of the United Slates to assemble in Waco with unloaded rifles and shotguns at a site 12 miles from the siege. Not quite 50 people showed up in various attire ranging from camouflage fatigues to civilian dress Most were armed with long guns. some of which were capable of automatic fire.

Although the show of force was to last from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. it wasn't until late in the morning that anyone showed up at the site. By early afternoon, all but ten had left. Thompson considered it a good turnout, however, and stressed that she had received over 800 calls of support from all over the country.

"This is just the beginning of our organizing." she added.

The purpose of their assembly, she said, was to identify to each other who they were and to send a message to an out-of-control government that such actions as occurred at the Branch Davidians' compound would not be tolerated.

"They (the government) will hear more from us in the future." Thompson promised.

By 11 a.m. a larger group of about 70 unarmed demonstrators had assembled at the main roadblock to the Branch Davidian properly across FM 2491 just off Loop 340, northeast of Waco. There they faced approximately 30 state and federal law enforcement officers, over half of them heavily armed with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests.

Among those present were Larry Dodge, head of the Fully Informed Jury Association. Jack DeVault, a leader of the Bexar County Right to Life forces, members of the Libertarian Party of Texas who have kept a vigil near the roadblock every weekend since the incident began on February 28, an insurance company regional vice president, and a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel. Though the rank-and-file consisted of men and women of all ages, a majority of the demonstrators were middle-aged, middle-class citizens. There were many military veterans among them.

Demonstrators gather near the Mt. Carmel site on Saturday, April 3. (Robert Carrier photo)

The goal of the demonstrators was to "lend support to the besieged families at Mt. Carmel." as the Branch Davidian property is known.

They demanded the immediate withdrawal of the federal agents, the punishment of those responsible for the attack on the Branch Davidians, and restitution to the victims for the damage, injury and misery inflicted upon them.

The protestors claimed that federal agents were there without authority, and that state and local officials had relinquished their police powers unlawfully to the "unconstitutional United States police." One protestor described the federal agents as "hit men for the New World Order."

Among the slogans chanted by the demonstrators was "BATF Go Home and Take Ann Richards With You." referring to the governor of Texas. They claimed her support for gun control encourages abuses of power such as occurred against the Branch Davidians. Gun control, they explained, puts honest citizens exercising their right to keep and bear arms on a collision course with law enforcers sent to restrict that right.

The demonstrators also held the governor responsible for allowing the federal government to usurp state authority. One young woman, who bad supported Ann Richards in the governor's race, admitted she was disappointed in the governor's behavior.

"She took advantage of the situation to push her gun control agenda, and has refused to assert her authority to end the siege." she said. "She has turned out to be just another politician taking away the rights she is sworn to protect."

A counter-demonstrator appeared on the scene as the demonstration got underway, heckling the protestors and defending the actions of federal agents. He was seen as an agent provocateur because of his efforts to agitate and incite the protestors into going beyond peaceful demonstration. There was speculation that he was a paid government informant or groupie. A relative of his at the scene said that the counter -demonstrator knew several BATF agents, and a few people reported seeing him several weeks before talking with BATF agents and carrying a check for $500. When it appeared the heckler might provoke a violent response from the demonstrators, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers formed a semi-circle around him as if to either protect or support him. However, the confrontation never went beyond shouts and ridicule.

Plainclothes officers infiltrated the crowd of demonstrators and surrounded them. Some seemed to carry concealed listening devices. One uniformed FBI agent look a video tape of the demonstrators, concentrating on the leaders.

Early in the afternoon, the demonstrators began moving to another roadblock at the rear of Mt. Carmel along Frazier Lane off Highway 84. Jack DeVault, chief organizer of the demonstration, passed out maps with instructions to fellow protestors, the press, and anyone else interested. No attempt was made to keep their plans or movements secret. When asked what his intentions were, DeVault said that they would get as close to the Branch Davidian compound as possible, but would stop if opposed.

After about 25 demonstrators and a few press people had moved down Frazier Lane from Highway 84. seven heavily armed sheriff's deputies closed the road behind them. No more demonstrators or media people were allowed through. The deputy in charge refused to provide an explanation for the action and shouted at us to turn our recording equipment off.

This reporter, along with his camera crew, managed to find an unguarded back road to the site of the new demonstration. There, the 25 or so protestors and handful of media people, all unaware that they were now isolated from their compatriots by the roadblock, faced over 50 heavily armed and angry law enforcers from the BATF, FBI, U.S. Marshal's Service, DPS, Texas Rangers, and Sheriffs office. BATF agents in groups of two were hidden among the homes near the roadblock, effectively surrounding the demonstrators.

The protestors carried a "Don't Tread on Me" flag. No effort was made by them to break through the roadblock. They peacefully milled around with signs which read "U.S. Out of Waco" and similar sentiments. Several of the demonstrators reminded the officers of their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Some argued that state and local lawmen "ought to be standing over here with us," that they should be handling the situation with the Branch Davidians instead of federal authorities. It was apparent from their facial expressions that a few sheriffs deputies sympathized with this argument, though not a word was spoken by any of them. But the senior officers appeared grim-faced and angry at the denunciations directed at them by the demonstrators.

"Why is the warrant sealed?" asked one protestor. "Where is your authority to be here?" asked another of the federal agents. "Why are you picking on peaceful people?" demanded one woman. "Your motto is to protect and to serve." shouted another woman. "But whom are you protecting and whom are you serving?" Chants of "Let the media in" were heard from time to time.

After an hour or so of such harangues, it began to rain. The protestors dispersed back up the road to their vehicles. The demonstrations were over. Despite unpleasant remarks, angry expressions on both sides, and an obvious attempt by law enforcers to intimidate the demonstrators and media through an overwhelming show of force, cooler heads prevailed. There was. however, more tension and less courtesy on the part of lawmen toward the media at the end of the day. Some speculated that the officers in charge had planned a surprise for the isolated demonstrators at the Frazier Lane-FM 2491 roadblock, but enough media had slipped through to thwart their plans.

And the siege at Mt. Carmel goes on. o

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