The indictment of former President Donald Trump turned the blocks surrounding Manhattan Criminal Court into a cartoonish partisan circus on Tuesday, with hundreds of people howling pro-Trump and anti-Trump invective past each other in a listen-free zone.
With an overwhelming police presence and barricades separating demonstrators, New York officials had prepared against the possibility that the spectacle could become a replay of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol.
But for the most part, it was lots of yelling and little actual violence.
On Monday NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell made clear that any protest area would be considered a gun-free “sensitive location” per laws enacted in the New York state legislature after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against New York’s gun carry permit law last summer.
That included Collect Pond Park across the street from the court, where hundreds of Trump supporters and Trump opponents were separated by steel police barriers, screaming back and forth at each other and occasionally engaging in theatrical pushing and shoving.
There was, however, no sign of gun devotees with carry permits attempting to tempt fate by bringing a gun into the designated “gun free” zone.
John Tancredi of New Milford, N.J., did not bring any weapons but did make his opinion clear about gun rights, wearing a black t-shirt stating, “All Faster Than Dialing 911,” next to a column of rifle and handgun calibers: .223, .308, 9mm, .40 and .45.
“I think it’s crap,” Tancredi said of the proclamation that the protest area had to be free of guns even if the gun owner has a permit. “It’s gun-free for the law-abiding citizens but not for the criminals.”
A flag-waving crowd — and dozens of photographers — surrounded embattled U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-Queens/L.I.) when he briefly stopped by Tuesday morning. Santos told THE CITY, “I support the president,” when asked if he had a message for Trump, who was set to be arraigned later that afternoon.
When U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) arrived after 10:30 a.m., she railed against Democrats and decried the upcoming charges against the former president in a brief speech. Greene used a bullhorn, since she did not have a permit for amplified sound in a city park. Her words were mostly drowned out by counter-protestors.
Towards the end of Greene’s speech, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-The Bronx/Westchester), and City Council members Chi Osse and Sandy Nurse, both Brooklyn Democrats, came through blowing loud whistles.
Bowman earlier told THE CITY that he came out to “show support for truth and support for love.” And he had a pointed message for Greene, his colleague in Congress, who on Monday tweeted “New York City looks like Gotham City.”
“You’re not from here, so watch your mouth. Don’t talk shit about our city,” Bowman said. “Get the hell out of here, and go back to your district, govern your district and govern for the country around the issues that people care about.”
The spectacle around the courthouse stretched along Worth Street, where a motorcade delivering Trump to the courthouse would later pass. Large trucks with pro-Trump flags also drove by throughout the day, passing both supporters and critics of the former president penned behind barricades.
But life around the courthouse continued. Kohinoor Begum was behind her hot dog cart in front of the city clerk’s office, at the corner of Worth and Lafayette streets, like she is every weekday. Begum told THE CITY on Monday that she didn’t want to miss a day of work because she needs the money.
The only problem Tuesday was her delivery guy was delayed. “I opened late today!” she said.
Couples still received their marriage certificates and had marriage ceremonies performed inside the city clerk’s office. The couples included David Dinis and Clara Henkues, who flew from Lisbon, Portugal, to get married.
The pair said they realized they fell in love while visiting New York City in 2018. They walked through Central Park on a freezing February day, taking photos with each other, and knowing “that we were meant for each other.” That Trump was set to be indicted a few blocks away was just a bonus, said Dinis, a journalist.
“Now we’ve got two things to remember today,” he said. After leaving the clerk’s office the couple headed to another courthouse to get their marriage license officially notarized, then planned to get lunch.
Checking out the Scene
Just outside Columbus Park at Worth and Baxter streets, Leanna Perry, 30, came out to see Trump’s motorcade – and the crowds – on her lunch break. She supported the former president during the 2020 election and said she would vote for him again in 2024.
“People don’t really like him, but I do,” she said, citing his foreign policy and stance on abortion. “Overall I think his policies are good and he’s a more intimidating president than Joe Biden. I feel like people respect our country more when he’s the president.”
Perry, who works for a cosmetics company, said being a Republican in a predominantly Democratic city can “feel very isolating sometimes.”
She said, “I think because I’m a bit edgy, people just assume I’m super liberal, but it’s a secret – I’m not.”
Inside the park, Sherman Landrum, 10, shot hoops as his dad Nick and sister Mabel, 15, watched.
The family moved to Brighton, England, from Brooklyn more than a decade ago but were back on vacation.
“It’s kind of weird to have helicopters going over all the time, but hopefully it works, hopefully justice is served,” Landrum said.
Back in Brighton, their friends “all want me to explain Trump,” he added. “Trump and guns — that’s what they want to talk about.”
Mabel said her friends, too, told her to be safe when she returned to the United States.
“When you don’t know how it is here, and you don’t know there’s good people here, you just see the violence,” she said.