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
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
"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
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,"
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.
Staff writer Rebecca Thatcher and Cox News Service contributed
to this report.