AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN WEDNESDAY APRIL 20 PG B1 + B5 PROTESTS MARK 'CULT' ANNIVERSARY '

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN WEDNESDAY APRIL 20 PG B1 & B5 PROTESTS MARK "CULT" ANNIVERSARY 'We Can't Let It Go,' Austin Demonstrator Says Amid Calls For A New Investigation Groups Seek Investigation of Waco Events From Staff and Wire Reports Washington - One year after a deadly fire ended the standoff between federal agents and "cult" leader David Koresh near Waco, lawyers and civil libertarians called Tuesday for an independent probe of the tragedy. The investigation is needed because the 51-day Waco drama, in which about 90 people died, is part of "a systematic problem of abuse by federal law enforcement agencies," warned Gene Guerrero, field director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union. Congress will have to create an independent investigatory commission "if people really want to know what happened in Waco," said Michael Bernard, attorney for Norman Bernard, a member of Koresh's Branch Davidian congregation. The call for an independent commission came at a news conference commemorating the first anniversary of the tragic conclusion of the federal siege of the Branch Davidian compound. In Austin, 14 people held signs in front of the Capitol protesting the the government's actions at Mount Carmel and demanding an independent investigation. The two-hour vigil was organized by the Libertarian Party and the Texas Independent Party. "Most people don't know that the government ordered tank drivers to drive tanks into a residence that was occupied by men, women and children," said Terry Liberty Parker, 49, a salesman and member of the Libertarian Party. "We can't let it go." Sara Ronder, 11, was holding a sign that said, "Save the children. Don't burn them." "The reason I made this sign is that it's ridiculous that they said it was for the children when they were crushing them," Sara said. Linda Curtis, an Austin secretary who is a member of the national committee of the New Alliance Party, drew a parallel between the FBI's treatment of the Branch Davidians and its investigation of the New Alliance Party. Recently released documents show the FBI investigated the New Alliance Party as a "political 'cult,'" Curtis said. "We want to know why the hell the FBI has gotten into the 'cult' business," she said. "They are supposed to be protecting our constitutional rights, not violating them." Terry Moser, the chairman of the Texas Independent Party, said Mount Carmel was an example of the federal government's running roughshod over citizens' rights. "We've got a situation where the servants rule the masters," Moser said. "We, the people, have let them do that to us." ACLU member Ken Loveless, a retired Federal Aviation Administration airway facilities technician, said the raid on the Branch Davidians was an "atrocious" violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. On April 19, 1993, the FBI used tanks to poke holes in the walls of the Branch Davidians' Mount Carmel compound and then pumped in tear gas. A fire soon began -- a blaze that authorities have said was started by the Branch Davidians. Koresh was among the 79 men, women and children who died in the blaze; many were found to have been shot to death. The FBI's actions were pre-approved by Attorney General Janet Reno, who marked the anniversary with a demonstration of her determination to better handle such future showdowns. On Monday, Reno took part in a crisis response training session at the FBI's Academy in Quantico, Va. The session was recommended as part of the Justice Department's review last year of the raid on Koresh and his followers. Four agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were killed (by "friendly fire") in the initial assault on the compound. FBI Director Louis Freeh said his agency had taken other steps to be better prepared for hostage incidents. Freeh and other FBI officials also are receiving the crisis training. The agency has created a new post of special agent in charge for critical incident response, who will command the on-site command post in future such crises. But critics who gathered at the ACLU Washington office said more must be done and that an independent assessment is needed. -END- Staff writer Rebecca Thatcher and Cox News Service contributed to this report.

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank