Joe Biden’s presidential campaign canceled a Friday event in Austin, Texas, after harassment from a pro-Trump contingent.
Texas has emerged as a battleground state in Tuesday’s presidential election, with polls showing the typically Republican stronghold now only marginally favoring President Donald Trump. The Biden campaign scheduled a Friday event in the state, in a bid to drum up last-minute support.
But when the Biden campaign bus drove to Austin, it was greeted by a blockade of pro-Trump demonstrators, leading to what one Texas House representative described as an escalation “well beyond safe limits.”
The cancelation comes amid national anxiety about voter intimidation, a tactic the Trump campaign has implicitly endorsed.
Historian Dr. Eric Cervini was driving to help with the Biden campaign stop when he filmed a line of pickup trucks along the highway, many of them flying Trump flags. The drivers were “waiting to ambush the Biden/Harris campaign bus as it traveled from San Antonio to Austin,” Cervini tweeted.
“These Trump supporters, many of whom were armed, surrounded the bus on the interstate and attempted to drive it off the road,” he alleged. “They outnumbered police 50-1, and they ended up hitting a staffer’s car.”
A Biden campaign staffer told The Daily Beast that Trump supporters surrounded the bus on the highway and slowed down in front of it, attempting to stop it or run it off the road. The official sent a picture taken on the bus, showing Trump trucks surrounding the front of the vehicle. Staffers on the bus called police, who helped the bus reach its destination.
Video from the highway shows trucks surrounding the bus, at one point colliding with an SUV.
This is a traffic violation and attempted homicide. Why hasn’t anyone been arrested? pic.twitter.com/QnfF4vXMQn
— haunting student debt owners (@mcbyrne) October 31, 2020
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. 1/ pic.twitter.com/gKAjv7gv85
— Dr. Eric Cervini (@ericcervini) October 31, 2020
Footage from a CBS affiliate in Austin shows Trump supporters with signs and bullhorns surrounding the bus when it parked, with one person screaming that Biden was a communist.
Rep. Sheryl Cole, a Democrat representing nearby Pflugerville in Texas’s House, announced that a Biden event in her city had been canceled due to the harassment.
“This is a 1st for me – but we just cancelled a joint event in Pflugerville w/ @JoeBiden campaign,
@AustinYoungDems, & more, due to security reasons,” she tweeted. “Unfortunately, Pro-Trump Protestors have escalated well beyond safe limits. Sorry to all who looked forward to this fun event.”
The Biden campaign’s Texas communications director, Tariq Thowfeek, said holding the event would have placed Biden staffers and supporters at risk.
“Rather than engage in productive conversation about the drastically different visions that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country, Trump supporters in Texas today instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters, and others in harm’s way,” Thowfeek told The Daily Beat.
“Our supporters will continue to organize their communities for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Democrats up and down the ballot, and to the Texans who disrupted our events today: We’ll see you on November 3rd.”
The Trump campaign—and often Trump himself—has encouraged in-person conflict around the polls. Trump used the first presidential debate to urge supporters to act as “poll watchers,” a call that sparked concerns of voter intimidation. His son, Donald Trump Jr., made an explicit call-out regarding the Biden campaign’s Texas outreach efforts.
In a video ahead of a Friday event by Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, Trump Jr. encouraged his father’s supporters to show up at Harris’s event.
“Hey Laredo, Don Jr. here,” he said. “I heard you had an awesome turnout for the Trump Train. It’d be great if you guys would all get together, head down to McAllen and give Kamala Harris a nice Trump Train welcome. Get out there, have some fun, enjoy it. Don’t forget to vote and bring all of your friends. Let’s show them how strong Texas still is as Trump country. Get out there, guys.”
Some Trump supporters appeared to heed the call. At least one Facebook event with more than 700 responses, viewed by The Daily Beast, encouraged Trump fans to attend a Harris event in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday and “give Kamala Harris a big Texas welcome….. TRUMP STYLE!” The event was listed as canceled ahead of time, although its organizers acknowledged that some people might still try to attend, “and that’s your right.”
Trump supporters have previously been accused of intimidation this election. In Beverly Hills, California this week, an Australian television personality filmed participants at a pro-Trump rally shouting at her and threatening her in her car. A man brandishing a Trump flag at her appeared to photograph her and take down her license plate number.
“We’ve got you now,” the man shouted. “You’re going to vote for Trump whether you like it or not, you’ve got no choice.”
When Biden spoke at a Minnesota event on Friday, the same day as his campaign was ambushed in Austin, Trump supporters in a caravan of vehicles reportedly surrounded the venue honking their horns and chanting.
During early voting in the swing state of Virginia late last month, a caravan of Trump supporters drove to the Democratic-leaning Fairfax County and surrounded people in an early voting line, shouting at them on loudspeakers
“We had a couple poll observers there that had to actually escort voters in because we saw people that would get to the edge of the parking lot, and see this giant group of Trumpers yelling and screaming,” the executive director of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee told The Daily Beast at the time.