No, Trump Supporters Are Not Being Kept From the Courthouse – Mother Jones

Trump supporters

A few Trump supporters stay in the park outside the courthouse to wave at his motorcade at the end of the day.Andrea Renault/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

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Donald Trump can’t stop complaining that his fans are being barred from showing their support for him outside the Manhattan courthouse where he’s on trial.

On Monday, he told reporters that “they” had brought in extra police to lock down the area around the New York Supreme Court building at 111 Centre Street in Manhattan, specifically to keep his backers away.

“And by the way, outside looks like it’s supposed to be Fort Knox. There are more police than I’ve ever seen anywhere because they don’t want to have anybody come down,” Trump told reporters. “There’s not a civilian within three blocks of the courthouse, but at Columbia University they can set up a tent and burn down the doors right opposite the front entrance. It’s a disgrace.”

Trump never explained who “they” is, but regardless, he is wrong.

Nobody is preventing large crowds of Trump followers from coming to the courthouse. There just aren’t any large crowds of Trump followers trying to do that. In fact, on some days when I’ve attended the trial, there didn’t appear to be any Trump supporters outside the courthouse. And while there are indeed quite a few police officers, including officers assigned from other nearby courthouses, the area is not locked down like Fort Knox.

Immediately to the north of the courthouse is Canal Street, where Chinatown and Little Italy intersect, and at any given moment during the day there are thousands of people, mostly tourists, wandering and browsing for novelty New York City t-shirts, all within several hundred feet of where Trump’s trial is being held.

Two weeks ago a movie was being shot two blocks or so away on a narrow Chinatown side street, which had a heavy security presence of its own, complete with burly guards who blocked pedestrians with far more strictness than New York police and court officers have exerted against curiosity seekers outside of Trump’s trial.

The sidewalk on the block directly in front of the courthouse is closed—typically a lone police officer is standing by a bicycle rack-style piece of fencing—unless you have some kind of business with the court. That means hundreds of people walk up and down the sidewalk—people there to attend the Trump trial, construction workers next door where the old jail building is being torn down, lawyers, court employees, defendants, etc. It is very much not locked down.

And any one can go visit the Trump trial and watch the spectacle for themselves—provided they get up early enough. There are lines for both press and members of the public, and other than a willingness to wait in them, there is nothing prohibiting anyone from entering.

On some days—when prominent witnesses such as Michael Cohen have testified, for instance—the lines are extremely long and not everyone gets in. But on most days, there has been room to spare in the overflow courtroom. After the start of the trial and before Stormy Daniels and Cohen began testifying, there were days when there were dozens of empty seats in that room, which has a number of large television screens showing live shots of the judge, the witness stand, and the prosecution and defense tables.

Often, it’s seemed that the members of the public who did get into the courtroom were a bit disappointed. Despite Trump’s claims that he is being subjected to some dramatic act of political persecution, by mid-afternoon on most days, a large percentage of the public gallery (and, to be fair, the occasional member of the press) seemed—like Trump himself—to perhaps be dozing. (Trump has denied falling asleep.)

Trump has been bringing more and more people as part of his personal entourage—on Monday he had former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, former Hells Angel Chuck Zito, and a Republican congressman from Georgia, among others—who sit in the first two rows of the main courtroom. Most of his guests don’t stay long and some—like Sen. J.D. Vance last week—make it clear they are there to make an appearance and use Twitter.

Those seats reserved for Trump’s entourage could otherwise be very valuable real estate. Last week, as Cohen testified, members of the public standing at the front of the line were attempting to sell their seats in the courtroom to hopefuls further back, including to a handful of people in red Trump hats, for as much as $350. (There was one taker, who excitedly handed over the cash and hurried inside.)

Alongside the often lively line of hopeful spectators, Collect Pond Park—a large space in front of the courthouse—is indeed partly fenced off, and is divided in half. One side is for the public to enjoy. The eponymous pond is currently drained, but there’s always a smattering of people around, feeding the pigeons or walking their dogs.

The other side of the park is set aside for political protests, but most days it has been empty or nearly empty, and in any case, court officers have generally allowed the handful of protesters who do show up to pass back and forth between there and the side of the park intended for general use. Other than a strip of sidewalk between the park and the courthouse reserved for elaborate television set-ups, including for conservative television outlets like Fox News, there’s nothing blocking any potential Trump supporters from seeing the courthouse—or from being seen from the courthouse windows.

There just typically aren’t many to speak of. Sometimes a group of anti-Trump protesters will be hanging around, and other days, small groups of pro-Trump protesters will float through.

While I haven’t been to the courthouse every day, the largest group I’ve seen was on May 7. Local news had warned that morning that “a large protest was being planned,” but when I arrived around 7 am., there was no one there except the people waiting to get into the courtroom. Around 8 am, about 35 Trump supporters appeared, but they spent most of their time trying to arrange a series of pro-Trump banners. They struggled with some of the support posts and could be seen shouting at each other as they tried to organize themselves to hold up their signage.

At one point, a van with pro-Trump flags drove past, honking its horn. The group in the park with banners posed for pictures, chanted “USA! USA!” five or six times, and did not react when Trump’s motorcade arrived. By the lunchtime break, all of the pro-Trump supporters and their flags had disappeared.


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