Davidians plan memorial to commemorate anniversaryApril 17, 1997
Matthew Lester / The Baylor Lariat
The surviving Branch Davidians plan a ceremony to honor the April 19th anniversary of the compound fire that killed 85 people.
By Martha Roberts
April 19 is a date ingrained into the memories of Americans as the anniversary of two events that changed the face of society: the Branch Davidian compound fire that killed 85 cult members in 1993, and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 in 1995.
However, though local and federal law enforcement officials deny taking any special security precautions to prepare for the Mt. Carmel anniversary, some surviving Branch Davidians are planning a memorial ceremony to commemorate their dead comrades.
Services will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the site of the former compound, located 10 miles from Waco on Double E Ranch Road in Mt. Carmel. Attempts to reach two surviving Davidians, Clive Doyle and Ruth Riddle, were unsuccessful.
The Baylor Department of Public Safety, which assisted in a search of the Waco U.S. Attorney's office in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing, is one of the few law enforcement agencies taking special precautions for the anniversary in Waco. Chief Jim Doak would not elaborate on the procedures.
'We are highly aware of the importance of that date, and we are addressing it as it is appropriate,' Doak said. 'To say anything beyond that would not be appropriate.'
Truman Simons, lieutenant in charge of field operations for the McLennan County Sheriff's Office, said that the department has 'no special plans' for the anniversary, or for the services being held at the Mount Carmel site.
'We haven't had any problems out there yet and we aren't anticipating any this time,' Simons said. 'We're not paying any particular attention.'
'We don't discuss what we're doing as far as security, because that would mean that the procedures we take wouldn't be very effective,' special agent spokesman Dan Vogel of the Oklahoma City FBI said in a telephone interview. 'We have been at a fairly high level of security for a long time and we will continue with that.'
Chief Deputy John Butler with the U.S. Marshals Service in Dallas said in a telephone interview that the marshals are doing 'what we do every day' in response to the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Reading from a prepared statement intended to answer journalists' inquiries about the Oklahoma City bombing case, Butler said 'the Marshals Service is constantly vigilant in the area of court security, and each and every day we work to ensure court security...however, we don't discuss specific procedures we take to protect the courts.'
The U.S. Marshals Service protects all court and bankruptcy court buildings and some federal buildings. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building housed offices of the IRS, CIA and FBI along with other federal organizations.
Butler was unable to comment further on security matters, but expressed concern over media coverage of the anniversary.
'I hope the media attention isn't a self-fulfilling prophecy,' Butler said. 'As the media gets into a frenzy, it brings the individuals out of the woodwork ... it's a negative impact on security.'
At least one student was also concerned about the negative impact the media had had on Waco during the standoff in 1993.
'The only thing that made me upset about it was the media coverage,' Staci Jo Crow, a Waco freshman, said about the Branch Davidian standoff. '(The media) didn't really represent what Waco was; they just showed a poor side of Waco. As far as the Davidians ... they chose their deaths and how it was brought out, and it doesn't matter.'
The bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City was allegedly in retaliation for the final raid on the Branch Davidian compound and the subsequent fire that killed all but nine of the people inside. Timothy McVeigh, the alleged bomber and Branch Davidian sympathizer, will stand trial in Denver for the bombing once a jury is selected.
A home video surfaced last year showing McVeigh distributing pamphlets and bumper stickers outside the Branch Davidian compound during the standoff in protest of the government's actions.
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