Clashes break out at Trump arraignment courthouse after ‘suspicious package’ sparks police response

‘I’m not enthusiastic about what I’m seeing down there on the crowd control,’ former Trump White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon says

Gustaf Kilander,Andrew Feinberg
Tuesday 13 June 2023 22:36 BST
Related video: Protester in prison garb jumps in front of motorcade as Donald Trump leaves Miami court
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Insurrections, election deniers, a man dressed as Uncle Sam and an individual with a pig head impaled on a stick all appeared outside the Miami courthouse to either protest, celebrate, or just experience former President Donald Trump becoming the first former commander-in-chief to be placed under arrest on federal charges.

One protester was tackled to the ground and arrested after running out in front of Mr Trump’s motorcade as he left the court.

Miami Police briefly blocked off a plaza in front of the courthouse on Tuesday morning. The authorities moved members of the public and the media across the street from the court as a suspicious package was investigated. The all-clear was given shortly after 11.30am on Tuesday.

According to Nicole Ninsalata of WSVN, a bomb squad responded to the sidewalk outside the courthouse, where a flatscreen TV with yellow wires coming out of the back was spotted.

Two men were spotted hanging the TV, which said, “f*** the communist controlled news media”. The TV was later investigated because nobody claimed it, according to the Miami New Times.

Protesters and supporters of Mr Trump began clashing ahead of the arraignment with video emerging of arguments where police stepped in.

As Mr Trump arrived in Florida on Monday night, footage shared on Twitter appeared to show Trump supporters confronting a man holding anti-Trump signs.

Chaos erupted on Tuesday after a protester jumped in front of Mr Trump’s motorcade as he left the federal courthouse after pleading not guilty to the 37 counts against him.

In an interview with The Independent before the incident took place, the protester identified himself as Domenic Santana.

Protester Dominic Santana is detained by Miami Police officers after attempting to rush former President Donald Trump's motorcade
Protester Dominic Santana is detained by Miami Police officers after attempting to rush former President Donald Trump's motorcade (Getty Images)
Dominic Santana of Miami is detained by Miami police after trying to block former President Donald Trump's motorcade
Dominic Santana of Miami is detained by Miami police after trying to block former President Donald Trump's motorcade (Getty Images)
Miami Police officers control a crowd after detaining protester Dominic Santana, who attempted to rush former President Donald Trump's motorcade
Miami Police officers control a crowd after detaining protester Dominic Santana, who attempted to rush former President Donald Trump's motorcade (Getty Images)

Speaking about why he was at the court, he said: “Hopefully, someday he has to be locked up. He should have been locked up a long, long time ago. He’s gotten away with it. He’s the master of spin, either graduate from New York School of Rats and he has a master’s degree and he knows how to spin it. He’s going to spin it on this one. ‘It’s political. It’s because I’m running for president that they’re accusing me.’”

“He has his case made up. He doesn’t need lawyers to defend him. He already knows the spin. Before the election, ‘Oh, if I lose it’s because of fraud’. That day he lost – ‘Oh, fraud, fraud fraud’. His Attorney General – ‘There was no fraud’. ‘You’re fired,’ the next day. Come on. Enough is enough,” Mr Santana added.

Footage from the scene appeared to show Mr Santana being tackled to the ground and arrested.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Santana told the Sun Sentinel that supporters of Mr Trump “came for me. They were calling me a communist. Trump is a rat who graduated from the school of rats. He should have been locked up a long, long time ago”.

Mr Santana is a Cuban-American retiree, according to the Palm Beach Post. He said he came to the court to confront Mr Trump’s “cult-like” following. “These charges are just the beginning of his lies.”

On Monday evening, police separated Mr Santana from the crowd following a confrontation with supporters of the former president.

Mr Santana, who lives in Miami, showed up at the courthouse the next day in the same old-school prison outfit and carrying his “Lock him up” sign.

“He should have been locked up a long time ago,” he reiterated, according to the Miami New Times.

Ahead of the arraignment, former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon appeared to be worried about anti-Trump protesters during his programme on Real America’s Voice, a rightwing broadcaster.

“If you’re asking for trouble, you let these two groups get together because the Never Trump, the anti-Trump and Antifa, BLM, are violent people,” he claimed. “And they’re always there to get in people’s faces. They’re always there to try to pick fights. And I’m just an observer here anchoring in Washington DC, but I gotta tell you, I’m not enthusiastic about what I’m seeing down there on the crowd control. I think that we’re just asking for problems and what we don’t want today are problems.”

Miami Police investigate a suspicious item near the media area outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse where former President Donald Trump is scheduled to be arraigned later in the day on June 13, 2023 in Miami, Florida
Miami Police investigate a suspicious item near the media area outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse where former President Donald Trump is scheduled to be arraigned later in the day on June 13, 2023 in Miami, Florida (Getty Images)
Miami Police investigate a suspicious item near the media area outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse where former President Donald Trump is scheduled to be arraigned later in the day on June 13, 2023 in Miami, Florida
Miami Police investigate a suspicious item near the media area outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse where former President Donald Trump is scheduled to be arraigned later in the day on June 13, 2023 in Miami, Florida (Getty Images)

“This thing we want to get in and out of, and I hope the Miami authorities and others do the job that the NYPD does,” he added in reference to Mr Trump’s arraignment earlier this year in a separate case.

On Tuesday, supporters of Mr Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis were seen outside the courthouse in a shouting match over Covid-19 vaccines and Mr Trump’s response to the pandemic.

Osmany Estrada garnered plenty of attention as his pig head baked in the 100-degree Florida sun.

“I’m here to have fun,” he told reporters, footage tweeted by Freedom News showed. When questioned about the pig head, he said: “What’s wrong with the pig head – he’s happy, look at that!”

He pointed at the head with an American flag sticking out of its mouth, impaled at the end of a wooden pole, noting that the head was a reference to Lord of the Flies.

When asked if he supported Mr Trump, he said, “I’m here to have fun, I’m here to celebrate American democracy.”

Osmany Estrada (L) holds a pigs head as he and Gregg Donovan gather outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse
Osmany Estrada (L) holds a pigs head as he and Gregg Donovan gather outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse (Getty Images)

Election denier and 2022 Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake also appeared outside the Miami courthouse.

Speaking to Real America’s Voice, she regurgitated many of Mr Trump’s talking points.

“We need to show President Trump that we've got his back, he has had our back since he came down that escalator almost eight years to the date,” she said. “They have thrown everything at him ... impeachment hoax number one impeachment hoax number two, Russiagate.”

“It's really just an effort to continue to disparage the one man who was standing up for we the people,” she added. “We need a president who's gonna stand up for the people he's not owned by the donor class. He's not owned by the lobbyists. He's not owned by the establishment. He is working for us. And we're here to support him and tell him we know what this is – it's another witch hunt. We know he's an innocent man.”

Trump lawyer Alina Habba chose instead to focus on President Joe Biden being found to have had classified documents at his home and office, a case legal experts have said is vastly different from that of Mr Trump and is unlikely to lead to legal action.

“Joe Biden himself retained possession of classified documents but has not been prosecuted. And none of them came into possession of those documents while they were president. None of them were president, who, as the head and sole member of the executive branch, has the power to summarily declassify documents,” she said.

“The decision to pursue charges against President Trump, while turning a blind eye to others, is emblematic of the corruption that we have here. We are at a turning point in our nation's history.

“The targeted prosecution of a leading political opponent is the type of thing you see in dictatorships, like Cuba, and Venezuela. It is commonplace there for rival candidates to be prosecuted, persecuted, and put into jail. What is being done to President Trump should terrify all citizens of this country. These are not the ideals that our democracy is founded upon. This is not our America.”

Comedian Jason Scoop showed up to do his impression of the former president.

Election denier and Trump supporter Laura Loomer, a far-right commentator, claimed the legal action against Mr Trump came at this time because he’s “stronger than ever,” according to the Miami New Times.

Trump supporters and protesters clashed, and the chant “Trump is a d***,” could subsequently be heard. One man baselessly called President Joe Biden a “paedophile,” possibly in reference to the Qanon conspiracy theory.

GOP presidential Vivek Ramaswamy spoke outside the court, slamming the indictment and saying that he would pardon Mr Trump if he becomes president.

Proud Boy associate and MAGA rapper Forgiato Blow called the legal proceedings against Mr Trump a witch hunt.

A man named Xavier, who appeared to have clashed with Trump supporters the previous evening, prompting police to step in, showed up with a sign on Tuesday saying “Trump f***** half of America, and a hat stating “f*** Ron DeSantis”.

Far-right agitator Anthime Gionet, who goes under the name Baked Alaska, was also spotted outside the court. He was charged after he livestreamed his presence at the US Capitol during the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

One Trump supporter appeared on Fox Business saying that Hunter Biden, “started the war on Ukraine five years ago”.

The largely peaceful protests came after Miami officials assured the public that they would have everything under control ahead of Mr Trump’s court appearance.

Speaking at a press conference at Miami police headquarters on Tuesday morning, Mayor Francis Suarez said the city was enacting plans to “make sure that everyone has a right to peacefully express themselves and exercise their constitutional rights” in “an obviously peaceful manner”.

Miami Police on bicycles cordon off an area due to a suspicious device near the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse
Miami Police on bicycles cordon off an area due to a suspicious device near the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse (Getty Images)

“In our city, we obviously believe in the Constitution and believe that people should have the right to express themselves. But we also believe in law and order. And we know that and we hope that tomorrow will be peaceful.

“We encourage people to be peaceful in demonstrating how they feel. And we’re going to have the adequate forces necessary to ensure that,” he said at the time.

Mr Suarez, who is rumoured to be planning to enter the 2024 Republican presidential primary himself, declined to criticise the ex-president’s rhetoric and said he has not spoken to Mr Trump to ask him to retract his calls for protest, despite the former president’s history of inciting violence.

“I have not spoken to him. I don’t have his phone number,” he said.

Mr Suarez appeared to compare the events of January 6 and the potential violence that could ensue on Tuesday to the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in the summer of 2020.

He said city and state law enforcement officials handled those protests without incident and called the response to those events “a model for how to deal with those protests in the country”.

“We did things not to create unnecessary confrontations. We gave people a space to express themselves without unnecessarily creating confrontations. In that moment, in that particular case, we had a curfew that we implemented. We had a variety of different resources that we used, that I thought were different than other cities in America, and they allowed us to deescalate without creating incidents,” he said.

Vocal Trump opponent Nabine Seiler holds a sign that reads "Trump Indicted Again" outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse
Vocal Trump opponent Nabine Seiler holds a sign that reads "Trump Indicted Again" outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse (Getty Images)

“I have full faith and confidence that our department … will have the right action plan and will have the right resources in place. In the right place to make sure that there are no incidents,” he said.

But Mr Suarez repeatedly declined to address concerns about the possibility that the same violent extremist groups that responded to Mr Trump’s call for protests in 2021 would again come to support him on Tuesday.

He also told reporters there would be no effort to separate protesters and counterprotesters and said law enforcement would not be erecting any hardened barrier around the courthouse because “that’s what freedom of speech is”.

Because the courthouse is a federal facility, Department of Homeland Security personnel there began to take some precautions for potential protests on Monday.

A Trump supporter shows his support in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse before the arraignment of former President Donald Trump in Miami, Florida on June 13, 2023
A Trump supporter shows his support in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse before the arraignment of former President Donald Trump in Miami, Florida on June 13, 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)
Trump supporters show their support in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse before the arraignment of former President Donald Trump in Miami, Florida on June 13, 2023
Trump supporters show their support in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse before the arraignment of former President Donald Trump in Miami, Florida on June 13, 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

Outside the building where Mr Trump was later arraigned, marked police vehicles belonging to the Federal Protective could be seen parked strategically in areas not already rendered inaccessible to cars with concrete bollards and other preexisting vehicle barriers, blocking a path from the street onto courthouse property.

Groups of FPS officers, some leading explosive detection dogs, could be seen congregating in areas where shade from trees could shield them from the hot Florida sun.

Around 10.30am, other officers began positioning moveable barriers and stretching police tape to cordon off a wide swath of the courthouse lawn from public access in preparation for possible demonstrations by Mr Trump’s supporters, should any heed the twice-impeached, twice-indicted ex-president’s call for protests on the day of his arraignment.

One FPS officer who asked not to be identified told The Independent that he and his colleagues were hopeful that the crowd would remain peaceful, but said they were aware that things could go south quickly.

“We’re prepared for anything but we’re hoping there won’t be any trouble,” he said.

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