Miami, Florida – Encircled by journalists, a man dressed as Uncle Sam standing on a hoverboard sang an ode to former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
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Local officials said they are preparing for protests around the court where Trump is to be formally presented with the 37 criminal counts he is facing – all relating to the mishandling of classified documents.
Trump, who is seeking the White House again in 2024, has denied the charges, dismissing them as a push by his foes to derail his campaign.
There have been concerns about political violence and far-right demonstrators in Miami and fears of scenes similar to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol when Trump’s supporters stormed the building to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
But hours before Trump was set to arrive at the court, only a few – often eccentric, if not peculiar – supporters of the former president had shown up. By midday, far more reporters than demonstrators were at the scene.
A man draped in an American flag held a pig’s head on a spike and smiled for the camera as blood and other liquids dripped from the animal’s head. He said it was a reference to Lord of the Flies, a 1954 novel by William Golding that explores leadership, violence and chaos.
Duane Schwingel, who was dressed up as Uncle Sam with a top hat and American flag-themed coat, pants and bowtie, said he was at the courthouse to convey a message in support of “freedom, democracy, fighting communism” and “equal application of justice”.
Almost all Trump supporters interviewed by Al Jazeera cited perceived scandals by Democrats that they said went unpunished: Hillary Clinton’s emails, Hunter Biden’s business dealings, Biden’s own issue with retaining classified documents.
While each of these controversies has its own nuances and some were investigated by law enforcement, the prevailing sense among Trump’s backers is that he is being unfairly singled out while others are let off the hook.
“I want to remind people that regardless of what party you’re in, we have to all be treated the same. And there is evidence against Hillary and evidence against Biden, but they haven’t been charged,” Chaunce O’Connor, who rode a bicycle while carrying a giant Trump flag, told Al Jazeera.
Despite Trump’s hostility to the mainstream media, the demonstrators supporting him on Tuesday were mostly friendly and jovial.
There was a brief security alert when a suspicious device was found and journalists were asked to clear an area outside the court. Police moved what appeared to be a television monitor with an anti-media slogan on it, and declared the area safe.
A trailer featuring digitally altered images of top Democrats – including Biden and Clinton – behind bars circled around the courthouse throughout the morning.
More than a dozen African American demonstrators wearing shirts that said “Blacks for Trump” chanted the president’s name as helicopters hovered above the building.
The few protesters were scattered around the courthouse, not gathered as a single unit.
Bob Kunst sat behind a sign that read, “Lock Biden up”, on a sidewalk a short distance from the heart of action outside the building.
He said he is a registered Democrat but the party has turned “fascist” and is doing everything it can to stop Trump. Kunst added that the charges against Trump distract from real issues.
As he campaigns for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Trump will have to deal with the federal charges as well as a criminal case in New York related to a hush money payment to a porn star ahead of the 2016 elections.
Kunst said the legal issues will help Trump “tremendously” not just with Republicans.
“There’s a whole bunch of Democrats like myself that are really angry. Why are we going through this?” he said.
A Trump supporter who chose to identify himself by the first name Jay said he came all the way from Texas to back Trump during his court appearance.
“By being here, I hope he’ll know that we love him and support him,” the protester said, dismissing the charges as part of a years-long campaign to “get” the former president.
Asked about how the charges may affect Trump’s 2024 chances, he said: “Trump will win big and be our next president.”