As former president Donald Trump was ushered into court in DC Thursday afternoon, dozens of protesters and counter-protesters lined the blocks around the E. Barrett Prettyman US Courthouse. Some danced in celebration at “Trump’s indictment party,” while others marched down the road waving American flags. Obscenities were flung, insults traded, but the presence of any real agitators was small.
For what was billed as such a historic event, the afternoon was shockingly calm. Protesters clashed occasionally, but the Trump supporters and his critics mostly ignored one another. Both groups were, perhaps unsurprisingly, far outnumbered by the media and onlookers on the street.
At its best, the afternoon resembled a raucous block party — a man in an inflatable baby Trump suit waddled about crying, giant speakers blasted techno music and Trump 2024 flags flew high. Observers posed with the most colorful characters, while counter-protesters danced to a live band’s “Fuck Trump” song. At its worst, protesters shouted curses within inches of each other’s faces. One protester wearing a MAGA hat was told to “kill herself” if she wanted to make the country great again.
Dion Cini, who traveled from Brooklyn, said he was surprised that more people did not show up to support the former president. Cini, who has attended all three of Trump’s criminal arraignments and doesn’t think Trump guilty of any of the charges of criminal wrongdoing, said this is the most important indictment yet. “We have to send a message to the rest of the world that if something like this hasn’t happened in your country yet, it will. If it can happen in America, it can happen anywhere.”
Suzanne Monk, a DC resident and a self-proclaimed January 6 activist, said she will vote Trump even if he is arrested. She said she feels comfortable with the precedent the indictments might create: “We are using the courts to go after a former president. If I were Joe Biden, I wouldn’t want to be pushing that.”
Despite the occasional clash, Monk said the protest does not represent how Americans across the aisle view each other. “The media wants to get more clicks, which means they need to divide us. I would 100 percent say that we are not nearly as divided as we seem. My next-door neighbor flies a Black Lives Matter flag, and we exchange Christmas gifts every year.”
But not everyone agreed. DC resident Donald Clark said pro-Trump protesters represented most of the Republican Party and that it is “frightening” how tightly Trump controls them. “They are here with these banners giving the impression of patriotism, but we are the true patriots,” he said. “They showed how they wanted to regain democracy January 6, but we do it in the courtroom.” Clark said he trusts the institutions to “hold accountable America’s biggest rogue.”
During his thirty-minute court appearance, Trump pleaded not guilty to four criminal counts. Trump spoke briefly to reporters before returning to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, saying it was a “very sad day for America” and called the hearing a “persecution of a political enemy.” The next court date is set for Monday August 28.