Politics

As Texas ‘Trump Train’ terrorized Biden campaign bus, some police refused to provide escort

According to the evidence—including 911 call transcripts—filed in the lawsuit, police along the route, particularly in the city of San Marcos, adamantly refused to send a police escort to protect the bus. They mocked the victims of the terrorization about their request. And they were annoyed when a neighboring jurisdiction did send an escort.

“San Marcos refused to help,” the newly amended federal lawsuit claims. The first lawsuit in the matter, filed in June, targeted the Trumpist thugs—who organized their attack on the bus using Facebook—involved in the very specific actions that threatened the bus. The second suit now targets law enforcement who “turned a blind eye to the attack—despite pleas for help—and failed to provide the bus a police escort,” according to Protect Democracy, the group of lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

The bus was part of a late Texas push for the Biden campaign, which organized several events in the state as part of a “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” tour featuring various Democratic candidates appearing with Harris. The pro-Trump vehicles, dubbed the “Trump Train,” surrounded the bus as it passed near New Braunfels en route to Austin, and remained with it until San Marcos, 20 miles down the road.

Videos showed the vehicles lined up along the freeway in wait for the bus, then speeding up and surrounding it as pro-Trump onlookers cheered and laughed. According to people on the bus, the vehicles slowed and appeared to attempt stopping the bus altogether.

One of the caravan’s Facebook organizers, Randi Ceh, posted a video on her Facebook page claiming the staff car following the bus closely was breaking the law—and when a large pickup veered and hit it on the side fender, claimed that it was the staff car driver attempting to cause an accident. A campaign staffer told The Daily Beast that the Trump supporters appeared to be trying to force the bus off the road.

The 911 transcripts reveal that top San Marcos law-enforcement figures repeatedly denied providing the bus with a police escort, though police departments in neighboring jurisdictions along the Interstate 35 route did so. When one of those jurisdictions recommended doing so, San Marcos police corporal Matthew Daenzer simply refused.

As the Biden bus entered San Marcos’ jurisdiction, a 911 dispatcher from New Braunfels contacted San Marcos police dispatch in an attempt to get them to take over the freeway escort that the city had provided. The San Marcos 911 dispatcher put both other dispatchers, as well as a Biden campaign staffer calling to plead for assistance, on hold and called Daenzer.

“I am so annoyed at New Braunfels for doing this to us,” the dispatcher told Daenzer, who began laughing, according to the transcript. “They have their officers escorting this Biden bus, essentially, and the Trump Train is cutting in between vehicles and driving—being aggressive and slowing them down to like 20 or 30 miles per hour. And they want you guys to respond to help.”

“No, we’re not going to do it. We will ‘close patrol’ that, but we’re not going to escort a bus,” Daenzer responds.

The dispatcher then mockingly described the incoming call from the Biden staff aboard the bus: “[T]hey’re like really worked up over it and he’s like breathing hard and stuff, like, ‘They’re being really aggressive.’ Okay. Calm down,” she said to Daenzer.

Daenzer responded that the Biden bus should “drive defensively and it’ll be great.”

“Or leave the train,” the 911 dispatcher replied. “There’s an idea.”

The dispatcher then got back to the Biden staffer on the bus, telling him there’d be no escort: “If you feel like you’re being threatened or your life is threatened, definitely call us back,” she told him.

“Are you kidding me, ma’am?” the staffer responded. “They’ve cut in on me multiple times. They’ve threatened my life on multiple occasions with vehicular collision. I would like an escort immediately.”

The dispatcher replied: “Okay. Our officers are not going to escort the train. They are going to be in the area to monitor any traffic infractions, but they are not there to escort. This is from our Chief.”

When the bus attempted to reach its venue in San Marcos, its way was blocked by the Trump Train drivers. So, just as it had already done with other venues, the campaign canceled its event there and continued down I-35 to Austin. When a Biden staffer informed San Marcos’ director of public safety, Chase Stapp, that the bus was skipping the San Marcos event, he also pleaded with him for an escort: “We really could use your help.”

Stapp, who had ignored previous warnings from incoming callers about the Trump Train problem, informed his superiors of the cancellation but did not pass along the request for an escort. The San Marcos law-enforcement officers also exchanged further texts afterward, mocking the people aboard the Biden bus, referring to them using a right-wing slur indicating mental disabilities.

After the incident blew up to become national news, San Marcos officials began circling the wagons, fearing they were about to be subjected to a “political firestorm” over the “debacle,” according to texts they shared. Daenzer tried to publicly downplay his department’s actions in his report, stating that “due to the staffing issues, lack of time to plan, and lack of knowledge of the route, we were unable to provide an escort.”

Wendy Davis, a former state senator who was running for Congress at the time, is among the four plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Both it and the first lawsuit against the Trump Train participants are based on the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, which prohibits organizing such a “politically-motivated conspiracy” to disrupt the campaign and intimidate its supporters.

“Though I’ve been involved in many political campaigns for myself and others over the past couple of decades, I have never before experienced the threat or fear I felt when the ‘Trump Train’ surrounded our bus,” Davis told CNN. “I’m a part of this suit because I’m worried that this sort of dangerous behavior threatens to become the new normal if we don’t stop it.”

But Republicans proceeded to normalize this kind of threatening behavior by adamantly supporting the freeway thugs. Leading the parade was Donald Trump, who tweeted:

In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong. Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!

The next day, he went even further, claiming that a CNN report on the investigation was wrong: “This story is FALSE. They did nothing wrong. But the ANTIFA Anarchists, Rioters and Looters, who have caused so much harm and destruction in Democrat run cities, are being seriously looked at!”

Trump also boasted about the caravan at campaign events. In Washington, Michigan, he told the audience: “Did you see the way our people were protecting his bus yesterday? Because they’re nice. Saw his bus. They had hundreds of cars. Trump! Trump! Trump! And the American flag.”

Republicans on the national scene joined in. At a Florida Trump rally prior to his arrival, Senator Marco Rubio—who once decried Trump’s indulgence in violent rhetoric—joined in the Trump Train parade: “I saw yesterday a video of these people in Texas,” Rubio said. “Did you see it? All the cars on the road, we love what they did.”

The behavior of San Marcos police is consistent with what has been occurring in jurisdictions around the nation: Police departments not only tolerate the presence of right-wing extremists within their departments, but have built a culture both friendly to the radical right and hostile to mainstream democracy, particularly when it’s practiced by anyone they perceive as more liberal, especially “leftists” such as Black Lives Matter or antifascists. It has had profound consequences for the communities they are tasked with protecting, most notably when it comes to enforcing laws to protect minorities, such as hate-crime laws.

“History tells us that once a cycle of political violence starts, it becomes very hard to stop—and it’s communities of color that bear the brunt,” said Mimi Marziani, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project. “A nation governed by the rule of law can’t allow for the normalization of political violence or harassment, and we must hold those who engaged in or failed to prevent this behavior accountable.”




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