After a caravan of President Donald Trump’s supporters surrounded and delayed a Joe Biden campaign bus on a Texas highway on Friday, the Democrats onboard canceled the rest of that day’s events, citing safety concerns, and federal and local law enforcement opened investigations into the incident.
Some prominent Republicans, though, have cheered the disruptive motorists. On Sunday, Trump joined that chorus of support, suggesting on Twitter that the FBI should focus on his political foes instead of investigating drivers who sought to intimidate the Biden campaign.
“In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong,” Trump said in the tweet. “Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA.”
At a Trump rally in South Florida on Sunday night, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also praised the group.
“I saw yesterday a video of these people in Texas,” Rubio said to a large crowd at Opa-locka Executive Airport where many attendees declined to wear masks. “Did you see it? All the cars on the road, we love what they did.”
The FBI said Saturday that it is investigating the incident, the Texas Tribune reported. On Sunday, the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Austin American-Statesman that it had also opened an investigation.
The tense conflict in Texas came less than a week before Election Day, echoing several similar public displays by Trump supporters nationwide who have blocked roads and harassed voters near polling stations by honking incessantly while waving Trump flags.
Friday’s highway conflict came as the bus was driving on Interstate 35 between Laredo and San Antonio. Texas congressional candidate and former state senator Wendy Davis, D, was on the bus, the Tribune reported, when it was surrounded by nearly 100 trucks decked out in Trump campaign gear.
Eric Cervini, a Biden campaign volunteer who joined the bus tour in his home state to help “drum up enthusiasm” before Tuesday’s vote, said he spent the afternoon calling 911 as the caravan confronted the bus between San Antonio and Austin.
“These Trump supporters, many of whom were armed, surrounded the bus on the interstate and attempted to drive it off the road,” he said in a series of tweets recounting his experiences. “They outnumbered police 50-1, and they ended up hitting a staffer’s car.”
People traveling with the campaign bus called 911, and police from New Braunfels, a town along their route on I-35, responded and provided a police escort. Police “responded and did not observe any traffic violations,” the New Braunfels city manager told the Texas Tribune.
Naomi Narvaiz, a member of the Texas GOP in San Marcos, posted a video on Twitter showing dozens of trucks swarming the Biden bus, honking and slowing traffic with their hazard lights flashing.
“We sent the [Biden campaign] bus out of Hays!” she tweeted, referring to the county of the incident. “Your kind aren’t welcome here! This is #TrumpCountry.”
Cervini said the campaign later canceled the remaining stops on the bus tour.
Democrats in the state and the Biden campaign denounced the incident over the weekend.
“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,” Tariq Thowfeek, Texas communications director for the Biden campaign, told CNN.
But Texas GOP Chairman Allen West pushed back, telling the Texas Tribune on Saturday that allegations that the caravan had harassed Biden campaign volunteers was “fake news and propaganda.”
On Saturday night, Trump shared a video of the trucks following the bus on the highway along with the message, “I LOVE TEXAS!” At a campaign rally in Michigan on Sunday, Trump also claimed his supporters were “protecting” the bus.
“Did you see the way our people, they were, ya know, protecting this bus … because they’re nice,” he said, according to NPR. “They had hundreds of cars.”
After his latest tweet in support of the caravan on Sunday night, the Trump campaign responded to an inquiry from The Washington Post by criticizing Democrats for unrelated incidents of property damage during protests.
“The real story is that the left is trying to extort votes out of peaceful citizens under threat of rampant violence, just like in all of the cities leftists burned this year in their ‘peaceful protests,'” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.