Trump faces the music: the scene outside

BY:Taryn Fivek| April 5, 2023
Trump faces the music: the scene outside


“Equal and exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion.”

These words are carved into the exterior granite facade of the Manhattan Criminal Court. For the thousands who file by on their way to arraignment court each year, these words bring little by way of assurance. The New York criminal justice system is wretched, with more than 5,700 New Yorkers languishing in the hellish conditions of Rikers Island every day, while more than 37,000 New York City Police Department officers patrol our city with guns. Any given day at arraignment court reveals the brutal injustice of capitalism’s racism and its war against the poor, its rank hypocrisy and endless consumption of public money.

But not today. Today, former U.S. President Donald Trump is turning himself in after being indicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. It is the first time in the history of the United States that a former president has been indicted and forced to appear in criminal court.

Across the street from the courthouse, there is a festival atmosphere. Thousands of police have descended on Collect Pond Park and the surrounding area to make sure that two sides — protesters who claim to support Trump, and New Yorkers who are there to see Trump walk the same halls as all others accused of crime in this city — are kept apart.

Mayor Eric Adams addressed New York yesterday, as Donald Trump flew his private Boeing 737 jet to LaGuardia. “We are the safest large city in America,” he said, “because we respect the law in New York City.” The dystopian confusion in what he says is easy for New Yorkers to identify. Adams was elected (by only 14% of eligible voters in New York) in no small part by beating the “tough on crime” drum. While New York indeed is the safest major city in the United States, he sang a different tune during his first year in office, insisting on hiring more police officers while defunding our schools, libraries, and public housing. He did this by scaremongering around the George Floyd uprisings in 2020, claiming that crime was out of control while the NYPD threatened a wildcat strike.

Before George Floyd, in New York there were Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Deborah Danner, Kimani Grey, Amadou Diallo, and too many others. Working-class and democratic-minded people piled into the streets during the summer of 2020 as part of an anti-racist uprising across the country demanding an end to racist police terror. Mayor Adams played off the insecurities of a bourgeois section of our city to win his office, yet now insists that crime is down and New York is safe.

As for the rule of law, it’s difficult to know where to start — with the parking placard abuse and defaced license plates? Maybe the NYPD Strategic Response Group, who has refused three times now to appear before City Council? Or perhaps the ongoing fight against federal receivership at Rikers, where 19 people in pretrial detention died in 2022?

All this aside, Adams has called thousands and thousands of NYPD to lower Manhattan. They mix with the endless wall of reporters and cameras. The two sides, the extreme-right and progressive, pro-democracy forces, are separated by steel barricades with a gap between them.

The progressive forces hold simple, handmade signs that read “Finally, Trump ARRESTED!” and “Trump Lost – LOL!” One man taunts Trump with a cardboard cut-out of Hillary Clinton and a placard saying, “Lock him up!” They are there to witness the arrest.

The extreme-right forces fly flags that say “Trump 2024” and “Trump or Death”, some of them from metal poles more than 10 feet tall. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for her antisemitism and anticommunist beliefs, flew in the day before to try and rally the MAGA crowd, but she was quickly chased off by New Yorkers as the rally began at 10:30, as was Representative and conman George Santos.

The hordes of media covered their momentary presence and were satisfied, while the rest of the MAGA forces are left to fend for themselves in Collect Pond Park. They hurl abuse at the progressive forces and brag about their participation in the January 6th riots to journalists. A few of them wander over to try and confront those on the side of democracy, but are swiftly removed by sympathetic volunteers.

Despite the thick presence of media in their ranks, the extreme-righters are basically outnumbered by the democracy defenders across the barricades. People chant, dance, and sing. Some go around in festive costume. Someone begins blasting “Celebrate!” by 1980’s band Kool & the Gang, though police immediately force the music to end. Others step in soon after with acoustic guitars. The anti-MAGA forces are there to witness, but also to seek some sort of closure. Whether they are seasoned antifascist veterans or curious tourists craning their necks to take a look, Donald Trump’s arraignment is a historic event. Holding the former president accountable for his myriad crimes against the U.S. (and the world’s) working-class and people is a goal some of them have worked very hard on since the primary elections of 2016. What might have been a dream only five years ago now seems closer to reality.

The NYPD close off more streets around the courthouse, and helicopters begin to circle overhead. While the extreme-right continue to wave their fists at the other side, there is a natural movement of democratic forces to begin to press themselves against the steel barricades, attempting to peer through a wall of media tents to witness Trump’s arrival. People share the latest updates from social media. A reporter from ABC7 tells us that Trump has left his Fifth Avenue apartment and is on his way to downtown Manhattan. This is not an army of masked looters, of scary arsonists, rioters and criminals. These are families. Parents arrive with their children to get a better look. Anticipation builds as snipers take their positions overlooking the crowd below.

But all sides are to be disappointed. Donald Trump is escorted into 100 Centre through the back entrance, avoiding the crowds of media and witnesses at Collect Pond Park. Though the building’s granite facade boasts “Equal and exact justice to all,” former president Donald Trump does not need to walk under these words before his court appearance, as so many other New Yorkers must. Ours is the poor door. He is too powerful, too wealthy, and too cowardly to face the crowd assembled to meet him. He gets to use the VIP entrance.

To call him a “populist” is an insult to populism. He cannot even bear to greet his fans, so many of whom traveled so far to be here. One could assume that most of Trump’s biggest supporters understand his contempt for his base at this point. That’s why the numbers present at his arraignment today are so small.

The progressive forces, too, are deprived of witnessing the historic event. When those on the side of democracy realize that Trump has already entered the courthouse, they begin to disperse on their own. While the hypocrisy and cowardice are hard to stomach, many are swallowing it anyway. Yet, the mood remains jubilant. Though many do not find the closure they seek to the Trump era, anyone can see that progress is being made. It is not backroom deals, paranoid conspiracies, or the “global elite” who maneuvered Trump into 100 Centre Street, but the massive outcry and demand for democracy from a working class and people in motion. Since Trump took office, unionization efforts and anti-racist victories have been on the rise. The struggle continues for gender equity and justice. And now, for each tiny step forward, we can still see that it’s working. Even the “rule of law” — one that is genuinely equal and exact — is making progress.

Images: No one is above the law by Rise and Resist (Facebook); all other photos by CPUSA, NY District.


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