Hundreds of Donald Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters on Tuesday swarmed the streets around the courthouse in New York City where the former president was due to be arraigned on charges related to alleged hush-money payment to a porn star.
Hours before Trump was expected to hand himself in on Tuesday afternoon, crowds of people whistled, shouted and raised placards in support of Trump, who has already announced his candidacy for president in 2024.
Separated by barricades from the Trump crowd, counter-protesters celebrated the former president's indictment with signs that said "Lock him up!," a reference to a chant often heard directed at Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton during his successful presidential campaign in 2016.
A large group of reporters watched the scene.
Republican firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene, a US representative from Georgia who backed Trump's false claims that he won the 2020 election, made a brief appearance outside the Manhattan courthouse, where she had promised to lead a pro-Trump rally hosted by the New York Young Republicans Club.
"I would like to thank patriotic Trump supporters who are here today," Greene said through a megaphone in the thick crowd, eliciting a burst of cheers and chants of "U-S-A!"
In a chaotic scene,, she spoke for a few minutes and then left swiftly in a white SUV as some counter-protesters heckled her and others apparently whistled in support.
George Santos, an embattled freshman congressman from New York who has drawn calls from fellow Republicans to step down over fabrications about his background, also appeared briefly at the rally to show support for Trump but departed quickly.
Hordes of reporters and New York City police officers stood among the packed crowd. Some protesters donned costumes, including a Trump supporter wearing a mask in the shape of President Joe Biden's face, and a Trump detractor dressed as the former president in a black and white striped prison jumpsuit.
Donald Trump making history
Trump, 76, is set to become the first current or former US president to be charged with a crime. A Manhattan grand jury indicted him last week in a case stemming from an alleged payment to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to silence her claim that Trump had an affair with her. Though the specific charges have yet to be disclosed publicly, Trump has said he is innocent and intends to plead not guilty.
The former president stayed at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan last night, and a crowd of about a dozen anti-Trump demonstrators gathered there on Tuesday morning with signs that said “Tick Tock Times Up!” and shaking celebratory cowbells.
Kim Britt, 69, was among the first dozen anti-Trump demonstrators who showed up. Nearby, a handful of Trump supporters stood outnumbered and cheered as a red-hatted Trump impersonator drove past in a limousine, flanked by a pickup truck flying several pro-Trump and anti-Biden flags.
“If anyone is above the law, then we’re not going to get anywhere,” said Britt, a retired registered nurse from Manhattan, who recalled protesting at the same intersection six years ago when Trump was first elected.
Reactions from officials
“A somber moment in the life of our country, when it’s necessary to arraign a former president on criminal charges,” Schiff, a Democrat of California, wrote on Tuesday afternoon.
“As the case falls to the DA to prove, we must recognize what is most important: Even the most powerful are held to account, and that nobody is above the law,” wrote Schiff, who was the lead prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial of Trump in 2020.
“Today is a bad day for all of us & we are all going to regret it for a very long time,” Rubio, a Republican of Florida, tweeted.
"Today we set the new normal that if you really want to take someone down, nothing should stop you. You should be able to manipulate the law anyway you want to charge someone," Rubio said in a video posted on his Twitter account, describing the charges against Trump as "absurd."
“Take responsibility, hold yourself accountable, and go away,” Bowman, a Democrat of New York, said when reporters asked if he had a message for Trump.
"I stand w/Trump & will always fight against those who want to destroy our Republic," Paxton, a Republican, said in a tweet.
"I think the American people should feel reassured that when there is an ongoing case like this one that we're just not commenting," White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Schumer, a Democrat of New York, tweeted: "I believe that Donald Trump will have a fair trial that follows the facts and the law. There’s no place in our justice system for any outside influence or intimidation in the legal process. As the trial proceeds, protest is an American right, but all protests must be peaceful.
“Mr. Trump was a president of many firsts — none of which were good for our country. His arraignment is another first — all of his own making,” tweeted Dean, a Democrat of Pennsylvania, adding that the twice-impeached president was “an immoral man” and a “corrupt citizen.”
"The indictment of Donald Trump is wholly political and baseless," said Cruz, a Republican of Texas, on Twitter.