A convoy of Trump supporters that swarmed a Biden-Harris campaign bus on a Texas highway last October violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which prohibits violent election intimidation, two new lawsuits allege.
One suit targets drivers in the self-described “Trump Train”, saying they conspired to intimidate and harass Biden-Harris campaigners.
The other suit names as defendants law enforcement officials in San Marcos, Texas, saying they “abdicated” their responsibility to protect the bus “despite repeated calls for help”.
The lawsuits were filed by Eric Cervini, an author and volunteer; Wendy Davis, a former Texas state senator and a Biden campaign surrogate; David Gins, now a White House staffer; and Timothy Holloway, the bus driver. Cervini was driving his own car.
The FBI previously confirmed it was investigating the incident in which a pack of vehicles flying flags in support of Trump’s re-election effort besieged a Biden bus on a Texas highway.
Court documents say some members of a New Braunfels Trump Train were “identified in media reports and on social media as having taken part in the 6 January 2021 insurrection” at the US Capitol.
Court papers also say Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act in the aftermath of the civil war and during Reconstruction “to prevent groups from joining together to obstruct free and fair federal elections by intimidating and injuring voters, or denying them the ability to engage in political speech”.
The members of the Trump Train “openly and wilfully violated that statutory command”, court papers say.
In February a Democratic congressman from Mississippi, Bennie Thompson, joined with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to sue Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani under the KKK Act, accusing them of conspiring to incite the Capitol attack.
The new lawsuits were filed on 24 June in federal court in the western district of Texas. They claim that on 27 October, when the Biden campaign made plans for the bus tour public, Trump Train members in Alamo City and New Braunfels plotted “to intercept and intimidate the bus as it traveled through Bexar, Comal, Hays and Travis counties”.
As the bus traveled from Laredo to San Antonio on the morning of 30 October, papers say, about 15 to 20 Trump Train vehicles were spotted on a “feeder road” near the I35 interstate. The bus left the highway due to safety concerns and reached San Antonio.
However, court papers say, some Trump Train members “were not dissuaded, and began deploying to pre-planned positions along I-35”. Alamo City Trump Train members started posting on Facebook that they were heading to the highway and would wait for the bus while others said they were in position, court documents say.
When the bus left San Antonio, papers say, campaign members started seeing social media posts about “the converging of vehicles”. When the bus left San Antonio city limits, a police escort departed. Not long after, court papers say, “Trump Train vehicles converged on the bus”.
The papers say: “Vehicles – most of them large trucks and SUVs – displayed a variety of flags, including Trump campaign flags, Confederate battle flags and many others. The Trump Train began harassing the bus by surrounding it, forcing it to slow down, honking, yelling and making hand gestures. Vehicles started getting close to the bus and taking videos.”
After the bus arrived in New Braunfels, a staffer called police, who sent vehicles to escort the bus. “As soon as the police arrived, the Trump Train resumed driving at around the posted speed limit and stopped harassing the bus passengers,” court documents say.
“When the bus tour reached the New Braunfels-San Marcos city line, however, the New Braunfels police dropped off, and the Trump Train resumed its harassing behavior.”
The bus passengers say they were “terrified” and called police dispatchers in New Braunfels and San Marcos, asking for an escort. San Marcos police “refused to send an escort and said officers would be looking out for traffic violations as usual”, court documents say, adding: “They said that unless the Biden-Harris campaign was reporting a crime, we can’t help you.’”
Campaign staffers say they “pleaded” for help. But while San Marcos police “assured” them they would send backup, court documents say, none came.
San Marcos police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One Trump Train participant is alleged to have “side-swiped” a campaign staffer’s SUV. A campaign event was cancelled.
Davis, who rose to national attention with a 13-hour filibuster in an attempt to block a draconian abortion bill in 2013, said: “We filed this lawsuit because everyone should be able to engage in peaceful political activity free from fear, intimidation, or threats of violence.”