BY MASON LEIB | Carmen and Gaspar Avendano stood outside the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building — she in a wedding dress, he in a gray tuxedo — with comically resigned faces. Today was their wedding day, and an unforeseen commotion in the courthouse across the street jammed up traffic outside their celebration of holy matrimony. The wedding day crisis: The arrest and arraignment of the 45th president of the United States.
Several thousand people gathered near and around Collect Pond Park’s swath of blooming yellow daffodils Tuesday afternoon. Few eyes ventured down at the first clear signs of spring. Instead, eyes focused up at the signs either deriding or praising former President Trump. The loud, at times cantankerous, but overwhelmingly peaceful crowd gathered variously to cheer, jeer or observe the scene outside the courthouse where Trump was arraigned Tuesday morning on nearly three dozen felonies.
Differentiating between the supporters, critics, media members and casual onlookers was a challenging task, even for the crowd members themselves.
“I just am the God guy,” said Gary Becker, who found himself on the Trump-supporting south side of the park. Becker said his presence there was only to share gospel tracts with Trump, though he was doubtful he’d achieve the goal.
The only defined lines of certainty at the park were two lines of metal barricades placed parallel to each other to separate the two groups of people. Each contingent toted paraphernalia either deriding or praising the former president. But, unlike the straight barricades, there was no clear line of thoughts and feelings about the day’s events.
As Becker spoke, murmurs through the crowd indicated the rally’s headline speaker, Marjorie Taylor Greene, was set to take the stage. Moments later, though, the stage was empty as the combination of rancor and support drowned out and drove off the Georgia congressmember.
Despite the assortment of eccentric rallygoers, many held strong feelings about the indictment of the ex-president. Internet celebrity Michael Rapaport strolled around the pro-indictment side of the barricade.
“It’s a peaceful celebration,” he said as a crowd began to fill around him. “It’s not a peaceful protest. It’s a peaceful celebration of the arrest of Donald Trump.”
On the pro-Trump side of the barricade, Dion Cini also held positive feelings about the day’s proceedings. Cini felt the indictment was a political victory on multiple fronts.
“Donald Trump is going to get at least 10 to 15 more points in the ratings,” he said, adding that it was a “fun-raising” event.
Another congressmember, New York’s Jamaal Bowman spoke to reporters shortly after Greene fled the stage.
“Do your freaking job, Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Bowman shouted. “You don’t need to be in New York City talking that nonsense. Go back to your district,” he declared, emphatically clapping along as he spoke. “New York City stood up to Marjorie Taylor Greene to let her know…get the hell out of here.”
Amid the chaos, Lou Valentino, stood among reporters in the gaggle, shouting back at Bowman, encouraging him to spend more time in the Bronx, rather than concerning himself with federal politics.
“He coming out here today to make a show about Donald Trump,” Valentino said. “Who the f— cares about Donald Trump right now?”
Several supporters of the former president expressed deep concern over the indictment, slamming it as basically a political witch hunt.
Vitaly, a Ukrainian man stood 50 yards away, on the park’s north side, which was mostly populated by Trump critics. He said he came to “see what was going on,” but that he wanted to support the American people who support Ukraine and President Biden.
“It’s peaceful, at least,” murmured a man on the Trump side of the barricade.
A sign reading, “STOP HATING EACH OTHER BECAUSE YOU DISAGREE,” could be seen poking out above the heads of the crowd.
Several feet higher waved a bright red and blue flag emblazoned with: “TRUMP OR DEATH, 1776-2024”