From Cult to Controversy: The Siege At Waco


Photo Courtesy: Vox

It has been 30 years since the tragedy at Waco, Texas where almost 80 people were killed, 25 of whom were children. It’s important to remember the ones lost in this horrific shoot out and building fire. Following the newest Netflix documentary “Waco: American Apocalypse” the tragedy seems to be the latest fixation of the true crime community; however, it has turned other heads for different reasons. Many are wondering where the line is drawn for Freedom of Religion and second amendment rights in the United States? 

Photo Courtesy: ATF

On February 28, 1993 about 70 ATF officers raided a small building that housed the Branch Davidian Church on a plot on land in Waco, Texas. However, it is uncertain who fired the first shot. It was a chaotic two hours of constant firing back and forth, killing four federal agents, and injuring dozens more. From within the house it was reported that six of the Branch Davidian members were killed and many others injured— including David Koresh himself, who had been shot. Following this battle, four children were released. The rest of the children were held for negotiations between the FBI and Koresh during the 51 day standoff. 

On April 19, 1993 the 51 day standoff between David Koresh’s Branch Davidians, a religious group fo

Photo Courtesy: PBS

unded in 1955 by Benjamin Roden, and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) unit finally came to an end. More than 80 people were killed, including 25 children and 4 federal officers. The building was burning to the ground as tanks took down walls from the building, and a constant firing of bullets rang from firearms from both sides. This was a tragic event that captured the attention of the nation and sparked widespread controversy. This captured the attention of some who believed the Davidians were doing nothing wrong.

The anti-government movement in the United States had risen after the siege at Waco, many using it as a cry for the movement. “Many believed that the ATF’s handling of this situation, as well as the FBI’s use of extreme force during the final day, was excessive and was criticized by thousands. Those who criticized the handling of the situation claim that the force was excessive and unnecessary. 

Many believed Waco was a prime example of what they already believed: that the United States Government was trying to murder those who owned guns by targeting citizens who had done nothing to hurt anybody else. The Davidians had been hoarding guns and manufacturing illegal firearms. Some of these weapons were able to shoot non-stop once the trigger was pulled. This is what originally set the ATF onto them. 

 People also argue that the Davidians were doing nothing wrong, believing they were simply just practicing their religion. The Davidians believed Koresh was able to communicate to God. Him and his followers believed the end of the world was near. They believed that the world would end in confrontation between themselves and the government, and that they would later be resurrected. Koresh claimed that he was the Messiah; all of his followers believed him, therefore believing all his claims. This led to Koresh claiming that he needed to have multiple wives, most of them underaged girls, fathering at least a dozen children with them. 

So whether or not what they were doing is covered by the first and second amendment rights became a hot debate, many feeling very passionate about the side they choose to argue for. Some however, felt a little too passionate. 

Photo Courtesy: FBI

On April 19, 1995 there was a bombing in Oklahoma City. This was the largest homegrown terrorist attack in

our nation’s history. 168 people were killed and hundreds more had been injured. Timothy McVeigh was the perpetrator, and his motive was that he didn’t like the federal government and wanted “revenge” for what occurred at Waco two years prior. 

Whether or not the ATF’s use of force was unnecessary at Waco will most continue to be a hot debate. However, it can most likely be agreed upon that both sides were wrong in some way and made mistakes. So, as you watch Netflix’s latest documentary, it is important to remember those who were killed during the raid and siege and to remember those who survived and came forward with their stories.