MIAMI — Hundreds of mostly Donald Trump backers gathered at the federal courthouse in Miami Tuesday for his historic federal arraignment, leading chants and waving flags on behalf of the embattled former president.
The crowd grew from a few dozen early in the day to at least several hundred by mid-afternoon, despite the scorching near-90 degree heat. They gathered in front of the courthouse, along the streets and cheered when the president arrived via motorcade around 2 p.m.
When Trump’s extensive motorcade drove up, a man wearing a mock prison jumpsuit with a “lock him up” sign walked into a blocked-off street toward the vehicles. The man, who earlier in the day was part of a loud standoff against Trump supporters, was briskly pushed out of the road by police and onto the sidewalk where media and onlookers gathered.
Some Trump opponents verbally sparred with his supporters earlier in the day, with some shouting “No one is above the law” as Trump supporters responded, “Except Trump!” But, with a large police presence at the courthouse, there was no violence or outright unruly behavior.
Several avid Trump fans also verbally attacked Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s main rival for the Republican presidential nomination, yelling “Where is Ron?” and “F— DeSantis.”
The day was mostly peaceful, however, with the throngs of supporters and opponents generally behaving well. The scene outside the courthouse also took on a slight carnival atmosphere, with vendors selling Trump merchandise including cut-out masks of his face and “not guilty” shirts as tourists and locals gawked at the spectacle. One man draped in an American flag also walked around with a pig’s head impaled on a stick.
The audience appeared to cheer loudest when Trump arrived at the courthouse and when his motorcade left around 4 p.m. As a line of SUVs drove away from the federal courthouse, a deafening roar came from a huge crowd that had gathered to see the former president after his court appearance, where he pleaded not guilty to a 37-count indictment accusing him of mishandling a trove of classified material. He is the first former president to face criminal charges.
After his court appearance, Trump visited the Versailles restaurant, a popular and historic Cuban restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood that’s a must-visit destination for politicians. There were dozens of supporters awaiting his arrival outside the restaurant and in the street, carrying over from the scene at the courthouse.
Dozens of customers, packed inside the restaurant, were overheard saying “Oh my God!” cheering and chanting “USA!” At one point, they sang “Happy Birthday” to Trump, who turns 77 on Wednesday. The former president posed for selfies with well-wishers and, at one point, shouted: “Are you ready? Are you ready? Food for everyone!”
Miami police and city officials on Monday sought to reassure the public that they were able to handle up to 50,000 demonstrators, though there were far less at the courthouse throughout the day.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez walked through the crowd during the day, pausing to speak with the occasional reporter as the crowd continued to amass outside the courthouse. After the hearing was over, Suarez, who some Trump supporters jeered at and called a “RINO” — or “Republican in name only” — declared that the peaceful event was a success.
“I feel good,” Suarez said. “The crowd is manageable.”
While there was no overt violence as some predicted, there were some minor incidents throughout the day.
At around 11:30 a.m., authorities closed off the street in front of the courthouse since people were beginning to spill into the street but reopened it shortly after.
At one point, authorities closed a street outside the courthouse as city and federal officers investigated a flat-screen television with exposed wires that had been placed on the sidewalk, local media reported. The street was opened within an hour after no danger was found.
Trump supporters, such as former GOP Arizona gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake and conservative activist Laura Loomer earlier in the week urged people to come to downtown Miami and speak out on behalf of the former president. At least one pro-Trump group put out information about busing people from central Florida to the Miami courthouse.
“We’re very loyal people,” Loomer said outside the courthouse. “We’re not like Ron DeSantis – we are loyal to President Donald Trump and we’re going to stand by him even if we have to pass the ballot for him on Election Day if he’s sitting in a jail cell in handcuffs.”
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