Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

New Yorkers react to Trump indictment with celebration and relief: ‘A great day in American history’

Trump predicted death and destruction if he was indicted. On the day it happened, none of his supporters turned up. Alex Woodward, Richard Hall and Ariana Baio report

Friday 31 March 2023 08:39 BST
Outside of the courthouse, protester Robert Hoatson celebrates the Trump indictment
Outside of the courthouse, protester Robert Hoatson celebrates the Trump indictment (Ariana Baio / The Independent)

When he announced his imminent prosecution in his hometown of New York City, Donald Trump called on his supporters to protest, predicting “death and destruction” and visions of World War III.

Outside his namesake skyscraper on Fifth Avenue – the street where he once suggested he could shoot someone and get away with it, home to his Trump Organization and the imposing glass tower from where he descended his beloved “golden escalators” to announce his 2016 presidential campaign – the protests never came.

Instead, tourists carrying M&M store bags hung around the half dozen camera crews with their lenses pointed at the door to ask what they were filming. Others looked for magnets inside the building’s gift shop, sat with their shopping bags in a quiet lobby or posed for photographs near Trump memorabilia behind glass.

But New Yorkers who have watched Mr Trump’s ascent alongside mounting allegations of fraud and corruption over decades found a moment of catharsis, when on 30 March, New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced a criminal indictment against him, making him the first former president to face criminal prosecution.

Tracy Smolin, who posed for a photo with two middle fingers outside Trump Tower, said the news is still hard to believe.

“My cousin texted me like, ‘Go and see if there’s people and riots!’ … There’s three people. They’re over it,” she said. “It’s been going on for so long … We’re still hopeful that something will happen … I feel very disillusioned from the whole process, but I want to see him arrested for the things that he’s done.”

Outside Manhattan Criminal Court, where the indictment was filed, throngs of reporters crowded outside the doors hoping for a glimpse of Mr Bragg. But there were no crowds of Trump supporters to defend the former president’s proclaimed innocence.

“I’m here to celebrate a great day in American history,” said Robert Hoatson, who held signs reading “LOCK HIM UP” and “THROW AWAY THE KEY.”

“This is a turning point, hopefully, in the salvation of our democracy,” he said. “The man that spearheaded such destruction and deceit and crimes has now been indicted, and hopefully he will be held accountable.”

Mr Trump is expected to be criminally charged in connection with a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the leadup to the 2016 election, a payment that allegedly could be tied to felony fraud or campaign finance violations.

The former president also is at the centre of federal investigations surrounding the events of 6 January, 2021 and alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago compound, as well as a criminal investigation into his efforts to overturn election results in Georgia.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg leaves the Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday after announcing Donald Trump would be indicted (Ariana Baio / The Independent )

Em Ingram, a 20-year-old New York University student who lives just across the street from the court, said she has been waiting every day for news of an indictment since Mr Trump predicted his imminent arrest on 17 March.

“I think that this is one of the less important things that they could have focused as the first thing to indict them for, so I have some mixed feelings. But I think it, it needed to happen,” she said. “I think there’s definitely the potential that this will backfire and spur even more pro-Trump sentiment, but at the same time, he’s a criminal and that’s very clear to me and I think that’s very clear to a lot of Americans at this point.”

Across far-right social media accounts and message boards reviewed by The Independent, the former president’s prediction of his own arrest was the evidence his supporters needed to support long-running conspiracy theories that Democratic officials and President Joe Biden’s administration have weaponised the federal government against him.

But unlike the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, which was organised openly across social media platforms, discussion of protesting Mr Trump’s potential arrest has largely revolved around denouncing the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation, echoing the former president’s incendiary and dramatic rhetoric about the state of the US, or suggesting protests are a federal trap. Others believe the 2024 presidential candidate did not sufficiently support January 6 defendants, and, as one supporter wrote, “it doesn’t sit right” that he can summon them to his cause.

A protester holds up signs in support of the Trump indictment (Ariana Baio / The Independent)

“I thought [his supporters] would be packed here, protesting. But I think people are getting the message. He talked about destruction and death possibly after he was indicted, but I think people are – hopefully – becoming more wise to his total insanity,” Mr Hoatson said.

“New York is a Democratic city so I think New York is gonna be thrilled,” he added. “I’d love to see the perp walk. I’d love to be in the courtroom if that’s possible. And I’d love to see him writhe and wriggle.”

Outside Trump Tower, Susan Cohen said a criminal indictment against Mr Trump is long overdue, “not just now but from over decades,” pointing to long-running allegations of real estate fraud and malfeasance and accusations of sexual assault.

“I think that’s where there is Trump fatigue, if you want to talk about Trump fatigue,” she said. “Everyone calls him Teflon Don because he gets away with this.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in