Two years on from the January 6 Capitol riots, and following a familiar call to arms from former president Donald Trump, it was widely feared that crowds of his supporters might swarm the streets of New York to protest his indictment by the Manhattan district attorney.
But by Friday afternoon, the anticipated hordes were conspicuously absent.
At Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan and the downtown courthouses — key loci of the Trump criminal proceedings — protesters and partisans were scarce, and heavily outnumbered by city police, curious tourists and the media.
“We want to do this in a peaceful way,” said Jose Sandoval, one of a handful of supporters of the former president who had come out to protest near Trump Tower, while two women nearby set out anti-Trump placards on the pavement.
“I think it’s a witch hunt against him,” said Christian Konopatzki, a resident of Trump Tower, who was wearing a bright red “45” baseball cap and sporting a pin of the American flag on his lapel.
The mismatch between the preparations put in place by local police, including an increased presence of officers in lower Manhattan, and the relative paucity of protesters comes despite an explicit rallying call from Trump.
Earlier this month, the former president posted on his Truth Social platform that he expected to be arrested as part of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into hush money payments allegedly made to the porn star Stormy Daniels.
“PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” he wrote.
The sentiment had echoes of Trump’s tweet of December 19 2020, two weeks before his supporters stormed the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, in which he said: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
It remains unclear whether the calm on the streets of New York will last. Trump is expected to be arraigned in Manhattan on Tuesday. Depending on how that is orchestrated, it could create an unprecedented and inflammatory spectacle of an American presidential candidate being paraded in handcuffs.
In an ominous sign, Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene announced on Twitter on Friday morning that she planned to come to the city to coincide with the date Trump must surrender himself to prosecutors. “I’m going to New York on Tuesday,” she wrote. “We MUST protest the unconstitutional WITCH HUNT!”
In the days since Trump urged his supporters to protest his indictment, he has warned of “death and destruction” if he were to be charged, and shared an item on social media in which he was pictured holding a baseball bat beside an image of Bragg.
New York City has responded with a heavy police presence, particularly around the court complex where Trump would be processed.
The calm may also be attributable to conservative media and influencers. On Fox News, for example, Sean Hannity decried the indictment but urged his viewers on Thursday night to remain peaceful and not “take the bait”. Leftwing politicians, he suggested, were eager for Trump’s supporters to discredit themselves through violence.
Conservative social media channels featured similar messages when Trump first predicted he would be arrested. While the media awaited rumoured caravans of Trump supporters from Long Island, none arrived.
Trump is far more loathed than loved in his hometown. On Friday morning, about two-dozen anti-Trump demonstrators from a group called Rise and Resist gathered outside the former president’s iconic Fifth Avenue tower. They held placards featuring headshots of Trump and the phrases: “Tick tock, time’s up” and “Perjury, Extortion, Treason”.
Jamie Bauer, a local volunteer, said they had been anticipating an indictment since Trump announced his run for the presidency in 2015. “He has a criminal history and we’re waiting for it to finally catch up with him,” he said.