The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A caravan of Trump backers tried to run a Biden bus off a road. Now they’re being sued under an anti-KKK act.

The FBI confirmed Nov. 1 it is investigating an incident in which a group of Trump supporters surrounded a Biden campaign bus on Interstate 35 in Texas. (Video: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)
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Timothy Holloway clutched the wheel of a Biden-Harris campaign bus last October, swerving and dodging as one hostile car bearing a Trump flag after another tried to run him off a Texas highway.

“We were terrified,” Holloway said in a news release. “They were clearly trying to scare us and prevent us from arriving at our destination in peace.”

The tactic worked — the Biden campaign canceled the rest of the day’s events, saying it feared for the safety of campaign staffers, supporters and local political candidates. Some prominent Republicans cheered the effort by the self-proclaimed “Trump Train,” while President Donald Trump himself lauded their efforts, calling the drivers “patriots” who “did nothing wrong.”

Now, Holloway — along with a White House staffer, a former Texas lawmaker and a campaign volunteer — are suing several members of the caravan, accusing them of violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which bars violent election intimidation, as well as local Texas laws. The group is also suing local law enforcement, claiming they failed to provide protection.

“Those on the bus feared injury or for their lives. All suffered lingering trauma in the days and months thereafter,” says one of a pair of federal lawsuits filed to the Western District of Texas court on Thursday. “The events of October 30 arose from a campaign of politically motivated intimidation.”

The lawsuits come as hundreds of other fervent Trump supporters face criminal charges for storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some of those who participated in the “Trump Train” were at the Capitol during the insurrection, the lawsuit alleges. The FBI has also announced it is investigating the “Trump Train” incident.

The case isn’t the only recent attempt to invoke the Ku Klux Klan Act against Trump supporters. In February, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, invoked the Klan Act in a lawsuit against Trump, Rudolph W. Giuliani and two extremist groups whose members are accused of participating in the insurrection. Thompson alleged that Trump and Giuliani violated the act by inciting the riots with false claims of a rigged election. The lawsuit is ongoing.

The 150-year-old Ku Klux Klan Act being used against Trump in Capitol attack

Along with Holloway, the bus heading up Interstate 35 on Oct. 30 also included former Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who made national headlines during a 13-hour filibuster in 2013 to halt the passage of an antiabortion bill. The bus had been driving north from Laredo, Tex., when those inside noticed dozens of cars sporting Trump campaign gear waiting along the highway and then swarming the campaign bus. Staffers frantically called 911 as the cars boxed them in, driving dangerously close and slowing down the bus.

“I flew down to Texas to help with the Biden/Harris bus tour, intended to drum up enthusiasm at polling locations. Instead, I ended up spending the afternoon calling 911,” tweeted campaign volunteer Eric Cervini — another plaintiff in the new lawsuit, who was driving a separate car during the incident. Cervini also claimed that many of the Trump supporters were armed.

The lawsuit claims that the group started coordinating “to intercept and intimidate the bus as it traveled through Bexar, Comal, Hays, and Travis counties” as soon as the campaign announced events in the state.

As the bus tried to dodge the caravan, police responded to the panicked calls for help. But as the bus made its way to San Marcos, police refused to send patrol cars as escorts, the suit says.

“Certain officers from the San Marcos Police Department said that they would not respond unless the Biden-Harris Campaign was ‘reporting a crime,’ explaining: ‘we can’t help you,’” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges that San Marcos Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp and officials from the San Marcos Police Department and San Marcos City Marshal’s Department “failed to take reasonable steps to prevent planned acts of violent political intimidation.”

The San Marcos police had no comment on the suit. The marshal’s departments did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s not clear who is representing the individual drivers named in the second lawsuit.

Trump cheers supporters who swarmed a Biden bus in Texas: ‘These patriots did nothing wrong’

Several of the people named in that lawsuit bragged about their escapades online, the lawsuit says, noting that one defendant, Eliazar Cisneros, boasted on social media that he “slammed” into the bus.

The day’s events were traumatic, the lawsuit says. The plaintiffs, who also include White House staffer David Gins, who was on the bus that day, are suffering from “ongoing psychological and emotional injury.”

“Gins was extremely shaken as a result of his ordeal,” the lawsuit says. “During the incident, he felt ‘terrorized.’ … About an hour into the ordeal, he walked to the back of the bus and broke down in tears.”

Holloway, the bus driver, had trouble sleeping for a month after the incident and says he can’t drive a bus anymore. Davis noted that she feared she’d be physically harmed if she spoke out about her experience that day.

“Those who engage in organized threats — whether they’re online death threats or mob violence — are breaking the law and will be called to account for their actions in federal court,” Michael Gottlieb, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said in a news release.