Crowds Gather in New York as Trump Faces Charges
Tensions are high as hundreds of people—both supporting and denouncing former U.S. President Donald Trump—began arriving this morning outside the New York City courthouse where Trump is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon.
Most of the information for this report came from live updates from two publications: The New York Times and The New York Post. If Trump addresses the crowd prior to entering the courthouse or after the arraignment, or if the protests lead to wider civil unrest, we will update this post.
Update 4:30 p.m. EDT: Prosecutors charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records under New York State law. Usually misdemeanors, each of the charges rises to a felony charge, prosecutors say, because the false records were used to aid or conceal another crime. The other crime in this case, the prosecutors allege, is campaign finance violations related to payments to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump entered a not guilty plea, and after the arraignment his attorneys said the charges were baseless. Justice Juan Merchan did not issue a gag order for Trump or anyone else related to the case. During the proceedings, however, he did urge the defendant and witnesses to avoid statements that “incite violence or civil unrest.” Donald Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump shared links on social media that claimed that Merchan’s daughter worked for the Biden-Harris campaign during the 2020 election and alleged the entire prosecution and trial are part of a left-wing plot.
There are no news reports of civil unrest leading to violence outside the courthouse where hundreds of pro-Trump and anti-Trump protesters gathered. News outlets report that Trump is flying back to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida this afternoon and would issue a statement this evening. The live feed from The Washington Post was also referenced to write this update.
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The New York City Police Department and other authorities had several days to plan how to best keep the peace and protect everyone involved. An article in The New York Times reported that authorities believe that a level of civil unrest similar to the riots seen on 6 January is unlikely:
"The F.B.I. has not identified any specific threats, two officials with knowledge of the situation said. Because of that, the bureau, which was criticized for not publishing a bulletin before the Jan. 6 riot, has not distributed an intelligence bulletin to law enforcement, one of the officials said.
"As of Sunday, neither law enforcement officials nor outside experts have picked up evidence that Mr. Trump’s defenders or detractors are gearing up for a major event on a day when a man elected to the nation’s highest office will be booked in Lower Manhattan.
"The city’s police department, which has a sprawling, sophisticated intelligence operation that developed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has tracked isolated threats on social media, but it has yet to detect larger plans that might spur violence or mass disruption."
One possible reason, sources cited in the report say, is that the thousands of arrests from the 6 January 2021 incident at the U.S. Capitol have thinned out the ranks of those with the influence who are available and willing to call for mass protest and violence.
One visible part of today’s security plan is the division of a park across the street from the front of the courthouse into pro-Trump and anti-Trump sides, with a barrier patrolled by police officers separating the two groups—and police aggressively working to ensure the groups do not mix and that any attempts at infiltration are spotted and thwarted quickly.
As of 11:30 a.m., no significant altercations between the groups had occurred, although one shouting match followed by one Trump supporter stumbling over a barricade was exhaustively covered by The New York Post (see their coverage timeline around approximately 10 a.m.).
Firebrand U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene tried to address the Trump supporters, but press reports say her short speech was largely inaudible over the protestors.
Another security preparation being completed by NYPD is the evacuation of the courthouse at 1 p.m., approximately an hour before Trump is scheduled to arrive. All press and people not employed at the court will be cleared from the building. The reporters who received permission—and the line of media to get credentials started to form Monday afternoon—will then be ushered into the courtroom.
Video of the proceedings is prohibited. Still photography will be allowed in the courtroom prior to the start of the session, but photographers will be escorted out before hearing starts.
In an announcement to his staff on Monday, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg described the efforts the court was taking to safeguard the proceedings, including restricted access to the 15th floor of the courthouse and that the office’s wireless networks would be turned off for much of the afternoon, which The New York Times reported was a precaution requested by the U.S. Secret Service.
Media reports that Trump is expected to enter a plea of not guilty himself, as opposed to having his attorneys enter the plea. Media also report that Trump and Bragg will make statements after the proceedings.