Four years after Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh and about 80 followers died during a botched FBI raid on their compound, dozens of survivors and relatives gathered Saturday to remember their dead and demand justice.
Amid the charred ruins of their compound at Waco in central Texas, the surviving Branch Davidians held a prayer service in memory of Koresh and the 81 others killed by flames or gunfire when the building burned down April 19, 1993.Relatives, many crying, knelt at the graves of those who perished as invited speakers paid tribute to the religious group and condemned what they said was an FBI cover-up.
In Washington's Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, a small group of demonstrators used the anniversary to protest the government's assault on the Branch Davidians' compound.
"FBI Killed a Village and Its Children," said a banner, making reference to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's book on children, "It Takes a Village."
A spokeswoman, Carol Moore, of the "Committee for Waco Justice," said the Oklahoma City bombing might not have taken place had Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno prosecuted the federal agents involved in the Waco assault in which 76 Branch Davidians were killed.
"I personally blame the Oklahoma City bombing on Clinton and Reno," she said.
But there was little anti-government rhetoric at the Waco memorial service. Instead, most people spoke of religious freedom and the belief that theirs was violated.
"The Branch Davidians symbolize the eternal struggle for the right of humans to pray to their God as they see fit," said former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is representing some of the survivors in a civil suit against the government.
Others distanced the group from radical militias and also paid tribute to the ATF agents who died at the start of the siege, even as they criticized those who ordered the raid.
"We do not sponsor the hatred of people who have affected our lives," said Clive Doyle, a Davidian who suffered burns in the fire and was then jailed on weapons charges. "We stay away from militias or groups with that type of reputation."