NEW YORK – Steel barriers separated crowds of protesters, roads were closed and traffic was diverted across a swath of Manhattan on Tuesday as former President Donald Trump arrived at a Manhattan courthouse for his arraignment.
Trump, who pumped his fist defiantly as he exited Trump Tower minutes earlier, was placed under arrest upon his arrival at the courthouse. Wearing a dark suit and red tie, Trump waved to the crowd as helicopters whirred above before he stepped inside.
Later, Trump was seen on camera somberly entering a courtroom to hear the charges against him. He pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts and left the courtroom after a prolonged arraignment without addressing reporters. Trump, the first former commander in chief to face criminal charges, was indicted in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign.
Earlier, New York Mayor Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said they had been preparing for the arraignment for weeks and warned protesters that violence “will never be tolerated in our city.”
►On his way to the courthouse, Trump posted on his Truth Social site, saying: “Seems so SURREAL – WOW, they’re going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
►Earlier Tuesday, Trump took aim at the proceedings in a post, saying he wanted the case moved to Staten Island.
►Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that TV cameras won’t be allowed in the courtroom.
►Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was scheduled to make a public statement at about 3:30 p.m. Trump will return to Mar-a-Lago, Florida, and make a public statement at 8:15 p.m. – but could first speak to reporters outside the courtroom.
Hundreds of demonstrators and members of the press remained in a park outside the courthouse long after Trump’s arrival, which many missed as they kept recording on smartphones even after he had entered the building.
The sight of Trump’s motorcade reaching the courthouse created such anticipation that it seemed the only noise came from the helicopters above, but his actual appearance was too quick and far from the park for many to notice.
Dueling demonstrators pro and against Trump chanted while separated by police barricades, while others found different ways to express themselves.
Some gatherers wore costumes – from a man dresses as a banana to someone in a police officer uniform holding a prison inmate in an orange jumpsuit that said, “Democrat Inmate Rino.” The Naked Cowboy, a famous Times Square performance artist and prominent Trump supporter, also joined gatherers on the pro-Trump side.
There were occasional arguments between the groups. A few Trump supporters, donning red MAGA hats and waving a Trump flag, yelled “Two genders! Two pronouns!” Opponents of the former president repeatedly yelled, “Lock him up.”
Outside Trump Tower before he departed for the arraignment, a limousine disguised to look like a U.S. Secret Service vehicle circled repeatedly. A Trump impersonator leaned out the window and railed against political “persecution.”
– Eduardo Cuevas and Asher Stockler
Some of the protesters on both sides of the barricades took to name-calling. Others chatted with the police officers between them.
Bronx native Angelica Torres, 33, stood quietly in the crowd outside the courthouse. She dismissed the prosecution as politically motivated but said the Republican Party was obsessed with Trump and failed to see him as fallible. She is a registered Republican who voted for Trump in 2020, though she didn’t have a preference for 2024.
“All this fighting, we’re going around in circles,” she said. “We’re not doing anything to make anything better. Just arguing over pettiness.”
On the other side of police barricades, across from Trump supporters, Jawanza Williams said New York City – and Manhattan in particular – rejected Trump in two presidential elections.
“We’re called out by principle,” said Williams, director of organizing at the criminal justice nonprofit VOCAL-NY. “They’re called out by politics.”
– Eduardo Cuevas
People crowded around to hear Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speak briefly in a park outside the Manhattan Criminal Court building. She was greeted by a mix of cheers and boos, including some whistles, that drowned out much of her speech despite her using a microphone. Protesters and supporters alike jockeyed for position in the small park.
Christina Lo, a retiree from Manhattan’s Chinatown just on the other side of the courthouse, cleared her schedule to support Trump, calling his indictment political persecution by Democrats.
“They had to wait until he declared his presidential run,” she said.
Dion Cini, 54, came from Brooklyn with a large “Trump or death” flag.
“It’s a tragedy what’s happening in New York City today,” he said, adding he was ultimately optimistic the trial would work in his favor. “I think Donald Trump is going to get 20 points in the polls.”
– Eduardo Cuevas and Zach Wichter
STEEL BARRIERS, POLICE PRESENCE:New York adds police presence, steel barriers ahead of Trump arraignment: Graphics
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., himself facing multiple investigations into apparent lies he told while running for office, joined the crowd outside the Manhattan courthouse. Santos said he didn’t plan to go inside the courthouse but came to “support the president.”
“I think this is unprecedented, and it’s a bad day for democracy,” Santos said. “What’s to stop the next prosecutor in two years from doing the same thing to Joe Biden and moving on every four years? So this makes bad precedent legally. … It cheapens the judicial system, and it’s not good for America.”
Near Trump Tower, Manhattan resident Ken Kidd, 65, was protesting with a small group. Kidd, a university administrator, said he is from a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he was “taught right from wrong.”
“The criminality of the 45th president of the United States brought me out here,” he said. “He’s a criminal, he’s a traitor, he’s disgraced and he’s disgraceful.”
– Asher Stockler, The Journal News
At least one flareup between anti-Trump protesters and those supporting the former president required police intervention hours before the arraignment. Social media video appeared to show a Trump supporter tackling an anti-Trump banner. Shouts of “communist agitators” and “back off now” came amid pushing and shoving among a handful of protesters who were far outnumbered by media taking in the scene. A police officer intervened and order appeared to be restored.
The line for a seat in the judge’s courtroom or two overflow courtrooms had grown close to 100 – mostly members of the media – before dawn Tuesday. Mike Magliano, one of the court officers on the scene, explained that members of the media could leave after obtaining a pass, then come back at 1 p.m. Passes were distributed at 8 a.m.
“Don’t lose that ticket, it’s the hottest ticket in town,” he said.
Up the block across from the court, Gregory Williams, 57, who came down from the Bronx, was seated next to a Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout and a sign that said, “Lock him up.”
“Today is going to be a very historic day,” Williams said. In the end, though, Williams said Trump was likely to benefit more than anyone from the media circus around the proceedings.
“In reality today is just a Trump mega-campaign event,” Williams said.
– Zach Wichter
Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina said Tuesday that Trump will undergo normal arraignment processing, which generally includes fingerprints, mugshots and paperwork.
“I think there will be a typical processing, which does not take long, 20-30 minutes. There won’t be handcuffs,” Tacopina told ABC’s Good Morning America. “And then we’ll appear before a judge, you know, deal with a couple issues right off the bat and it won’t be a long day in court.”
Tacopina also said he doubts the case will ever make it to a jury and that there will be no guilty plea. “That is one thing I can guarantee you,” he said.
TRUMP RETURNS TO NYC TO FACE CHARGES:Mayor warns protesters ‘control yourselves’: live updates
The city has stationed officers and put up steel barriers near the courthouse and Trump Tower, where Trump stayed Monday night. The heavy police presence is designed to prevent a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in Washington, after Trump urged thousands of supporters to stop President-elect Joe Biden from taking office.
Adams acknowledged that there may be “rabble rousers” taking to the streets, but added that “our message is clear and simple. Control yourselves. New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger.”
Contributing: The Associated Press