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Donald Trump Will Hold Campaign Rally in Waco During 30th Anniversary of Branch Davidian Standoff

While his campaign has said the location of the rally was chosen due to its proximity to Texas' large metropolitan areas, some have speculated the former president views it as a symbol for government persecution

Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

As Donald Trump awaits a Manhattan grand jury's vote on whether to indict him over an alleged hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016, he will host his first 2024 presidential campaign rally in a town with a now-notorious past: Waco, Texas.

Some have speculated the former president views Waco as a symbol for government persecution, particularly as the rally takes place during the 30th anniversary of one of the deadliest law enforcement altercations in American history — one that far-right groups are known to reference.

Trump's campaign, however, says the location of the rally was chosen only due to its proximity to Texas' large metropolitan areas.

"Anyone who makes that absurd comparison obviously has their own delusional agenda," the campaign said when reached by PEOPLE. "President Trump is holding his first campaign rally in Waco in the Super Tuesday state of Texas because it is centrally located and close to all four of Texas' biggest metropolitan areas — Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio — while providing the necessary infrastructure to hold a rally of this magnitude."

The statement continued: "This is the ideal location to have as many supporters from across the state and in neighboring states attend this historic rally. It also happens to be the home to the Baylor Bears, one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in America."

Related:Melania Trump Remains 'Angry' at Donald over Stormy Daniels Drama, Is Focused on Her Son and Herself: Sources

The rally comes exactly 30 years after members of the Branch Davidians, a religious group under the leadership of self-proclaimed prophet David Koresh, clashed with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the cult's Mount Carmel Center compound outside Waco, Texas.

A gun battle on Feb. 28, 1993, led to a 51-day siege that ended when an inferno erupted at the 77-acre property. In total, four federal agents were killed along with more than 80 Branch Davidians, including 25 children and Koresh.

As The New York Times reports, some Trump supporters believe the Waco rally is no coincidence, with one Tennessee woman who plans to travel to the rally telling the outlet: "Waco was an overreach of the government, and today the New York district attorney is practicing an overreach of the government again."

The Times notes that the Waco siege is a common topic among right-wing extremists, and has "remained a cause for contemporary far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys."

Trump has in the past been criticized for his refusal to denounce white supremacists and his referencing of the Proud Boys, a far-right fringe group associated with violence.

In a 2020 presidential debate, when Trump was asked by moderator Chris Wallace to clearly disavow white supremacist groups, he demurred.

When Democratic opponent Joe Biden suggested the then-president renounce the Proud Boys, Trump said, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by."

Related:Authorities Are Fielding Threats and Preparing for Pro-Trump Protesters Ahead of Possible Wednesday Indictment

Trump's rally comes days after posted on social media that he expected to be arrested in the Stormy Daniels case, urging his supporters to protest if that happens and "take our nation back."

Trump claimed he would be arrested Tuesday, though the grand jury in the case ultimately didn't meet this week. Still, Trump has remained critical of the investigation, taking to Truth Social this week to warn of "death & destruction" if he is indicted.

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Trump's legal issues in New York stem from an alleged sexual encounter he had with Daniels in 2006.

In 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that he'd arranged a $130,000 payment to the ex-porn star a month before the 2016 election so she'd keep quiet about it. Trump and his longtime (now former) attorney Michael Cohen initially denied the claims of an affair, though Cohen later admitted that there was a payment made to the porn star.

Trump has since admitted he authorized a $130,000 payment to Cohen, but has continued to deny the underlying claims that the two had an affair or that the payment was in any way connected to his campaign.

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