SAN MARCOS, Texas - The City of San Marcos and supporters of President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign have reached a settlement over the so-called "Trump train" incident three years ago.
A lawsuit claimed San Marcos police failed to do their job when a group of former President Donald Trump’s supporters surrounded a Biden campaign bus on I-35.
"We hope that this shows that you are expected to uphold the law in your jurisdiction, regardless of your political beliefs," said plaintiff David Gins, who was then the Texas operations director for Biden for President.
In a settlement announced Wednesday, the City of San Marcos agreed to pay $175,000 to four people, including Gins, who were on board a Biden campaign bus three years ago. The plaintiffs say San Marcos police ignored their calls for help.
"Law enforcement turned a blind eye to a mob of a caravan of Trump supporters that surrounded the Biden-Harris bus," said Christina Beeler, a voting rights staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project.
On October 30, 2020, court documents say the self-proclaimed "Trump train" terrorized people on the bus, by showing weapons and making death threats. Video shows one Trump supporter’s truck actually hit a Biden campaign SUV that was trailing the bus.
"It was extremely scary to be going on the highway for about an hour and a half with not a single law enforcement officer in the city of San Marco showing up," said Gins.
The lawsuit, filed in 2021, claimed San Marcos police refused to respond to calls for help, and failed to prevent or stop that harassment. It argued that lack of action violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, requiring police to protect voters who face threats.
Wednesday’s settlement mandates training on how to respond to political violence.
"This training is a huge step in the right direction. We feel very confident that San Marcos is going to make changes," said Beeler.
The plaintiffs say that accountability is the key, ahead of a likely 2024 rematch between Trump and Biden that could again escalate political tensions.
"Our clients have achieved an important victory for free and fair elections," said Beeler.
"My hope is that, because of the victorious nature of this settlement, of this lawsuit, that cities and local police departments know that they need to provide protection to people when they're campaigning," said
In a statement, a spokesperson for the City of San Marcos said, on behalf of City Manager Stephanie Reyes:
"While the City of San Marcos continues to deny many of the allegations in the lawsuit, the City of San Marcos Police Department’s response did not reflect the Department’s high standards for conduct and attention to duty. As such, the City has elected to work together with the claimants to reach a resolution that will bring an end to the lawsuit and improve future operations of the City of San Marcos Police Department. The City has also agreed to contribute $87,500 toward compensating the claimants for the incident and the expenses incurred in pursuing their claims.
The City regrets that Mr. Cervini, Ms. Davis, Mr. Gins, and Mr. Holloway had this unfortunate experience while travelling through the City of San Marcos. Following this event, the City of San Marcos Police Department has been committed to improving its operations. To further its ongoing commitment, all members of the police department, both sworn and professional staff, will attend training in the coming weeks. This training will remind members of their obligation and role in developing and fortifying community trust and respect in local law enforcement.
Citizens and visitors to the City of San Marcos should have confidence in the San Marcos Police Department, and a review of this event has better positioned the Department to more fully meet the community’s needs and expectations."