Biden backers sue 'Trump Train' members, police over campaign bus incident

People react to news of a Biden-Harris win in Alvin, Texas

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - Several people who were traveling last October on a campaign bus for Democratic President Joe Biden that was surrounded by supporters of Republican former President Donald Trump on a Texas highway filed a pair of federal lawsuits on Thursday over the incident.

One lawsuit, which named more than a half-dozen members of the "Trump Train" as defendants, accused the Trump supporters of violating the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 law named after the violent white supremacist organization and intended to prohibit groups from engaging in voter intimidation.

The second lawsuit claims the public safety director in San Marcos, Chase Stapp, and several unnamed local law enforcement officers failed to provide emergency assistance as Trump backers played a "madcap game of highway 'chicken,'" swerving within inches of the bus and sideswiping one staffer's vehicle.

Video footage taken on Oct. 31, 2020, showed pickup trucks and SUVs bearing Trump flags surrounding the Biden bus along Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin. At the time, the Biden campaign said the caravan attempted to force the bus off the road, putting staffers and volunteers at risk.

The incident gained national headlines when Trump tweeted video of the incident a day later with the message, "I LOVE TEXAS!"

The FBI office in San Antonio said last November it had opened an inquiry into the matter. A spokesperson for the agency said on Thursday there was no update on the investigation and declined to comment further.

A San Marcos spokesperson declined to comment on behalf of Stapp, the city and the police department, citing pending litigation.

The plaintiffs include Wendy Davis, a former Texas state senator who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014. The lawsuits were brought by Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan group whose mission is to defend against authoritarian threats; the Texas Civil Rights Project; and the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

The lawsuits are seeking unspecified damages.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Jonathan Oatis)