Trump Wanted to See Crowd Outside Trial. He Got 50 Randos.

Spencer Platt/Getty
Spencer Platt/Getty

Outside the Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday, a “Christian conservative rapper” who identified himself as “Shawn DVS 7.0” awaited the arrival of Donald Trump.

“Sometimes I have my disagreements with Trump, but nobody compares,” he said, resting a full-size American flag pole on his shoulder. Democrats, he added, “couldn’t get him with collusion, they couldn’t get him with all the other stuff before, so now they’re going with all these side angles.”

He was one of about 50 Trump-stanning protesters who gathered for the start of jury selection in the first of Trump’s four criminal trials. Penned up outside 100 Centre St., they carried signs reading “Trump 2024, Save America,” and “The Purge Begins, Tuesday November 5.”

They were easily outnumbered by the phalanx of reporters and police—which left at least one of them disappointed.

“I thought more people would be here,” said the woman, who gave only her first name, Sophia. She had taken the subway an hour and half from Queens to lower Manhattan to sort-of attend the first-ever criminal trial of a former president.

“When they do finally take our freedom of speech away and screw us over, nobody better say anything about it,” she added. “Shut up, you didn't fight for your rights.”

The courthouse sideshow included some familiar Trumpworld figures, including far-right conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer and Andrew Giuliani, the son of former Trump attorney and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Asked about the weak turnout on the street, the younger Giuliani replied: “I’m more worried about what’s going on in that courtroom than out here.”

Andrew Giuliani outside of Manhattan Criminal Court.

Andrew Giuliani outside of Manhattan Criminal Court.

Spencer Platt/Getty

There was a small crowd of counter-protesters, who marched by around 9 a.m., carrying signs reading “Election interference is a crime,” and chanting, “No one is above the law.” They stopped briefly in front of the barricades before being hurried along by police, earning little more than some snide comments from the Trumpers.

One pro-Trump protester and a counter-protester briefly tangled physically on the sidelines of a press conference Loomer and Giuliani gave. No one was arrested. (“Pushing is not assault,” a police officer who witnessed the altercation told the counter-protester, an older woman from New York who identified herself as Bebe.)

Loomer did not seem to notice the mini-skirmish, telling the crowd through a megaphone that their job was to ensure the media did not only cover the left-wing protesters—which seemed unlikely given that the number of reporters in the pro-Trump pen outnumbered the protesters themselves.

“If anybody is committing election interference it is these corrupt communists,” Loomer said, referring to the counter-protests signs, before leading the crowd in a chant of, “Fire Tish James, fire Alvin Bragg.”

Bragg is, of course, the Manhattan DA prosecuting Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush-money payments he allegedly made and concealed to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in exchange for her silence about a fling. Bragg alleges the payments were part of a broader strategy to influence the results of the 2016 election.

Officers escort an anti-Trump protester away from pro-Trump demonstrators.

Officers escort an anti-Trump protester away from pro-Trump demonstrators.

Adam Gray/AFP via Getty

MAGA supporters, unsurprisingly, believe the trial itself is election interference—a, shall we say, trumped-up case designed to sink a man running for re-election. And they have all sorts of theories about what is really going on.

Shawn, for instance, thinks that Michael Cohen, the Trump attorney who made the hush-money payments to Daniels and later turned on him, was the one having an affair with Daniels. (One of Shawn’s biggest hits on Spotify is a song called MAGA Vibe,” the lyrics of which include: “Somebody go get the grill and the deer Trump Jr. killed.”)

Trump appears to be trying to turn his criminal trial, which will keep him trapped in a courtroom for six weeks, into a surrogate campaign event, telling his supporters on Truth Social on the eve of the trial that he would “SEE YOU TOMORROW.”

But the gathering outside the courthouse had neither the turnout nor the energy of a typical Trump rally. Most seemed to have arrived an hour or two before trial started, and Loomer and Giuliani left shortly after the former president sullenly entered at 9:30 am.

“I do notice there are more members of the media here than actual patriots,” said Patrick McAndrews, who said he was there to support Trump and to “network” for his conservative events newsletter. “I would like to have seen a bigger turnout, but we’re all sitting on our hands waiting for Trump to announce his big New York rally.”

A committed group camped out in the pen for hours as jury selection progressed and the day turned uncomfortably hot. Someone pulled out a portable speaker and started playing music; a signboard reading,”COVID-19: A Super War that Subverted President Trump” was erected. Two members of the far-right Proud Boys got restless around 12:45 p.m. “Let’s go get some tacos,” one of them urged his friend.

For those who had non-Trump business in the courtroom, the tight security and the media attention was mostly an inconvenience. One woman, after being told that the crowds were there for Trump, sighed and said, “Is that why I can’t get to my trial against my landlord today?”

Only one person seemed truly pleased with the events of that morning. Standing on a park bench in the middle of the Trump pen, wearing a poster around his neck reading, “Trump is a narcissist liar,” an older man named Marc Leavitt loudly played “God Bless America” on the flute.

Asked why he turned out that morning, he beamed and told a reporter: “It’s a great day for the rule of law.”

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