Cautious calm prevails around US court where Trump will appear

Journalists and law enforcement have gathered near the court in Miami, but there were no signs of protesters.

Cars parked outside the federal courthouse in Miami
Law enforcement vehicles wait outside the federal court in Miami, Florida, on June 12 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

Miami, Florida – David Miller, who lives across from the Miami court where former United States President Donald Trump is set to face federal charges, describes himself as apolitical.

But as he walks past dozens of journalists and law enforcement agents getting ready for Trump’s arraignment on Tuesday, the Miami resident says his main concern is order in the community.

“I just want peace. I don’t want to see people destroying stuff,” Miller told Al Jazeera on Monday afternoon.

Cautious calm — draped in anticipation — prevailed outside the courthouse. The quiet was regularly interrupted by the sounds of helicopters hovering above the onlookers.

News trucks and police cars lined the streets around the building, as journalists set up their equipment under canopy tents for protection from the afternoon downpours that come with little warning in South Florida.

But there were no protesters. Normal vehicle traffic passed through the streets, along with the occasional tourist or locals walking their dogs — often visibly confused by the scene.

For Miller, the commotion anticipated will be a nuisance for residents but an expected one, given the involvement of the former president.

“We don’t want loud noises, banging, stuff exploding, people yelling and acting crazy. Have some respect,” said Miller, who is in his early 30s.

“This is an important event. The president of the United States is about to face criminal charges; you should at least give him the chance to respectfully say his piece and not cause chaos.”

Federal courthouse
Journalists gather outside the federal courthouse in Miami, Florida, on June 12 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

Local officials ‘ready’ for protests

Local officials are expecting pro-Trump protesters and possibly counter-demonstrations at the courthouse on Tuesday, but it remains unclear how big these gatherings will be.

Trump, who is running again for the White House in 2024, became the first former US president to be federally indicted last week when he was charged with 37 counts of mishandling classified documents after leaving the presidency in 2021.

Earlier this year, he also became the first president to be criminally prosecuted at the state level when he was charged in New York in relation to a hush money payment he made to a porn star ahead of the 2016 elections.

His arraignment in New York drew crowds of supporters and opponents, but the proceeding largely passed without incident amid fears of political violence.

Trump has denied all charges against him, blaming his legal troubles on a push by his political foes to derail his 2024 campaign.

Jamila Diallo, who was standing with her young child in a stroller across from the Miami court on Monday, was not entirely sure what the fuss was all about. She had stopped watching the news, she told Al Jazeera, partly because of Trump.

“Go away for good,” she said, addressing Trump. “I’m tired of it. It’s been a long time.” Still, she added that it was “pretty cool” that the court proceedings will be in the neighbourhood where she recently moved.

Diallo had a message to pro-Trump protesters who may be looking to stir things up on Tuesday: “Stay home and don’t cause any trouble, or you’re going to end up like him.”

Miami Police Chief Manuel Morales said his department is “ready” for Trump’s arraignment in federal court. “We’re bringing in enough resources to handle crowds anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000. We don’t expect any issues,” he told reporters at a news conference on Monday.

Similarly, Mayor Francis Suarez said the city will maintain “law and order”, as well as preserve the free-speech rights of any protesters.

The officials said city law enforcement will be cooperating with federal agents as well as the county’s Miami-Dade Police Department to secure the proceedings.

A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Police Department told Al Jazeera in an email that the force is “prepared to provide any assistance, support, or resources requested by our partners at the City of Miami Police Department”.

Fears of violence

Trump and his allies have encouraged protests ahead of the court hearing. US Democrats have raised concerns specifically about comments from Kari Lake, a former Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, who invoked the National Rifle Association (NRA), a pro-gun lobby, while defending Trump.

“If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me,” Lake said on Friday. “And I’m going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA. That’s not a threat — that’s a public service announcement.”

Far-right violence has been a growing worry in the US since Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021. Trump has refused to accept his electoral loss, falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential race was “rigged”.

But outside the Miami court on Monday, the crowd consisted of bystanders, tourists, journalists and police officers, not Trump supporters.

Dustin, a Canadian tourist who chose to identify by his first name only, described the media presence around the building as a “feeding frenzy” that Trump would love to see.

He added that it was “very interesting” to witness the situation.

Dustin, who described himself as a Canadian conservative, said he feels like Trump was being singled out, while previous US presidents have done a lot worse.

“The war in Iraq, for instance, that was a colossal failure. There were no weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Dustin noted that President Biden also was in possession of classified documents outside of official settings. But Trump’s critics say that — unlike Biden and ex-Vice President Mike Pence, who was also in possession of sensitive government documents — the former president did not merely take classified files by mistake. Rather, he retained them on purpose and refused to turn them over when asked to do so by the authorities.

The case will play out in court in Miami over the next month, with the lead prosecutor Jack Smith promising a “speedy trial”.

Outside the court’s immediate vicinity on Monday, life seemed to go on as normal.

“Donald Trump, too much problems — mucho problema. But it’s going to pass,” said Manny Osorio, who operates a hotdog stand a block from the court, switching between Spanish and English.

“Maybe tomorrow is good for business,” he added, seeming to find a silver lining in the whole affair.

Source: Al Jazeera