AUSTIN, Texas - Civil rights organizations and people who were part of a Biden campaign caravan last fall that was surrounded on a Texas highway by Trump supporters filed two federal lawsuits Thursday, including allegations that local law enforcement failed to respond to efforts to intimidate them.
Videos shared on social media from Oct. 30 show a group of cars and pickup trucks — many adorned with large Trump flags — riding alongside the campaign bus as it traveled from San Antonio to Austin. The Trump supporters at times boxed in the bus. At one point, one of the pickups can be seen colliding with an SUV that was driving behind the bus.
The incident led Democrats to cancel an event later in the day. Then-President Donald Trump criticized the FBI at the time after the agency said it was investigating.
The two lawsuits, filed by Protect Democracy, the Texas Civil Rights Project, and Willkie Farr & Gallagher, include former Texas Sen. Wendy Davis — a Democrat who attracted national attention for her 13-hour filibuster of an anti-abortion bill in the state Capitol — who was on the campaign bus that day.
"I really worry about the opportunity — if things like these go unaddressed — for this to be considered the new normal," Davis said Thursday during a press conference.
One complaint alleges seven drivers involved in the so-called "Trump Train" violated an 1871 federal law often called the "Ku Klux Klan Act," originally designed to stop political violence against Black people. The lawsuit accuses the group of participating in a "pre-planned vehicular assault" against the Biden-Harris caravan while driving through the college town of San Marcos. The Ku Klux Klan Act has also been cited in some injury lawsuits following the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, advocates said Thursday.
Timothy Holloway, who drove the Biden bus, said during the press conference that about 20 minutes after leaving San Antonio, he noticed some Trump-marked vehicles began to follow him and others tried to slow him down. He said he tried to focus on driving but that he feared for his life, especially when local law enforcement was called but didn’t respond.
"I wasn’t around for the civil rights era, but what happened in Texas felt like something that could have happened back then," said Holloway, who is Black.
Another complaint was filed against San Marcos law enforcement and public safety officials and staff, who "turned a blind eye to the attack, despite pleas for help."
A spokeswoman for the city of San Marcos told The Associated Press in an emailed statement that "due to pending litigation, neither the City of San Marcos nor the San Marcos Police Department will be providing a comment on this matter."
Acacia Coronado is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.