Thursday, April 6, 2023

A Celebration in New York

Send to Printer, PDF or Email

by Alex Steiner

I walked down to the Criminal Court building in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon to witness the spectacle of the arrest and arraignment of former President Donald Trump.  I was wondering how far I could walk before coming up against the police barricades.  I didn’t have to walk very far to find out.  There was a crowd of probably a thousand or so just North of the court house.  Navigating my way to the front I soon ran into the expected police barricades.  No one, including journalists,  who were not on a special list, could get through the police lines.  This crowd, let’s call them the “northern encampment”, there being a similar group south of the court house, seemed to be mostly curious rather than overtly political.  One was a tourist from France who was comparing this event, somewhat dismissively, to the demonstrations against Macron in Paris.   There  were  a good number of people there who were of no strong political persuasion but made the pilgrimage downtown just to see Trump taken down.  I have to admit that I could empathize with them.

Others just came out because it was a beautiful spring day in New York and a great occasion to participate in a kind of street theater that New York is known for.   There were of course a few Trump supporters, but they were a tiny, if very noisy, minority.  The mass mobilization of violent MAGA shock troops in the heart of liberal New York, the nightmare scenario of MSNBC and the New York Police Department, never materialized.  I later learned that Marjorie Taylor-Greene made a brief appearance but left after a few minutes when she realized the expected MAGA crowd never showed up.

I watched a trio of what appeared to be graduates of a Connecticut prep school sitting in a rickshaw, yelling “Trump, Trump, Trump” over and over again.  A single African American protester yelled back, “Fuck Trump, Fuck Trump, Fuck Trump.” A sign peeking out behind the heads of the trio proclaimed them as “EXTREME MAGA”.  It reminded me of the label on chocolate bars that try to distinguish themselves by adding the word “Extreme” to  “Dark Chocolate”. The owner of the rickshaw, an older Asian gentleman, did not look very happy hosting these snot-nosed wealthy kids from the suburbs.

Not making any progress in my attempt to get to the front of the court house from the northern encampment I decided to try the view from the West of the court building. I walked over to a green space called Collect Pond Park which was filled to capacity by a crowd of protesters and onlookers.  This site sits on top of a natural spring and in the 17th and 18th century was a source of clean drinking water for the island of Manhattan. It also served as a pristine natural landscape in the middle of downtown Manhattan. Families would come there for picnics.  By the early 19th century however the pond became heavily polluted and morphed into a disgusting sewer.  In one of New York’s earliest sanitation projects, the pond was paved over and eventually turned into a small park in the middle of Manhattan’s court district.

There was a distinctly festive atmosphere to the crowd in the park.  Even the yelling back and forth between pro and anti-Trumpists had a rhythmic charm to it.  A loud “Free Donald Trump” was immediately followed by an even louder “Fuck Donald Trump”.  A band was performing at the top of the park featuring a chant of “Fuck Donald Trump” in some kind of rap harmony accompanied by drums and cymbals.

There was a view through a metal fence of the entrance to the court house across the street but the only thing one could see were dozens of tents set up directly in front of the court.  These housed the major news organizations that were covering Trump’s arrest, including Associated Press, Eurovision, Washington Post, New York Times, etc. There were in addition to the tents what must have been dozens and perhaps hundreds of news trucks parked in the streets nearby from local radio and television stations all over the country.  It was a mystery to me what they could be reporting on since the only real news that day was the release of the indictment against Trump and his “Not Guilty” plea in court.   Only a few reporters were allowed to enter the court room to view the procedure and no cameras were allowed.  But all these news outfits were in the business of creating their own illusion of “breaking news” by filming a reporter standing in the street and providing non-existent “information” such as by speculating which door Trump will use to enter the building.


Political discourse, such as it was, consisted mostly in people holding up posters or giving out flyers.  There were also animated discussions taking place although the ones I heard seemed to have as much content as the “Free Trump - Fuck Trump” dialogue.  There were a few people who seemed to be regulars of the downtown court scene who were giving out their flyers to a captive audience that they rarely get.  One middle-aged woman gave out very tiny flyers, maybe  3 by 4 inches with a hand-written message that had the character of a hieroglyph. The words were so small and in such hard to read handwriting that all I could make out were a few odd words.  I gather she was protesting some injustice either to her personally or to someone close to her that took place across the street.  There were others handing out more traditional flyers, denouncing Trump with the slogan “No one is above the law”.  I saw one hand-written poster that said something like, “Free Julian Assange and Defend Trump against a political witch-hunt”.  The coupling of the demand to free Julian Assange, favored by the left, with the accusation that Trump is the victim of a political witch hunt is typical of those organizations calling for an alliance between the extreme left and the extreme right, a ‘Red-Brown’ coalition. This characterizes, to one degree or another, the recent politics of comedian and podcaster Jimmy Dore, Max Blumenthal and others.    The irony here is that when Trump was President his Administration went after Julian Assange with the same zeal as the current Biden Administration.

I had an extended conversation with one person in the park whose poster caught my eye, “Indict all Republican enablers, co-conspirators”.  That is exactly right and it is the one thing that the January 6th Committee completely elided.  Many leading members of the Republican Party in Congress were up to their ears in the conspiracy to steal the election from Biden.  And practically every single Republican in Congress protected Trump and his lieutenants from any kind of accountability for their crimes.  The person holding the poster was a Vietnam War veteran named George Robinson. I got into a wide-ranging political discussion with George and he agreed that not only Trump, but other recent Presidents should be prosecuted.  He also agreed that the rise of Trump was made possible by the Democrat’s abandonment of the working class.

Vietnam War veteran George Robinson

Of course there is no denying that there is a political dimension to the charges brought up against Trump.  But there is at the same time a legal dimension that cannot be ignored.  Were these same charges brought up against anyone else there is little doubt that they would have been brought to trial, convicted and sentenced years ago.  And one can argue that Trump should have first been indicted on the much more serious crimes of tampering with the election in Georgia and of inciting the mob used in the failed coup of January 6.  Those cases have been sitting around for many months, with the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, unwilling to move on the recommendations of the January 6th Committee.  Finally, one can point to the rank hypocrisy of the Democrats push to prosecute Trump when they are at the same time protecting President Biden and former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton for their many crimes.  All these facts are true,  but when it comes to shaping our attitude to the arrest and prosecution of Trump, they are somewhat besides the point.  Americans have a right to celebrate the fact that some measure of accountability is finally being exacted on this monstrosity who came out of the sewers of the New York real estate Mafia and who was instrumental in the transformation of the Republican Party into a party of neo-fascism.   So while we work out the broader political context of Trump’s arrest,  give us this moment to celebrate what will hopefully prove to be the downfall of a tyrant. 




No comments: