Trump’s Been On Trial A Month Now. So Far, The World Has Not Ended.

NEW YORK — As significant as the events inside a lower Manhattan courtroom this past month have been, with the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president, perhaps more significant is what has been happening on the streets outside: nothing.

No rioting. No violence. Not even the hint of civil war.

Despite dire warnings from Donald Trump and some of his allies that prosecutors in New York and elsewhere would trigger mayhem if they dared charge him with a crime, so far at least, his trial has taken place with virtually no protest at all.

Early Monday in the park across from the courthouse, there were no pro-Trump protesters. A single anti-Trump protester walked back and forth holding a sign: “TRUMP 2 TERRIFIED 2 TESTIFY.”

“People are now aware that there is a cost for showing up for him,” said Heather Cox Richardson, a historian at Boston College who in recent years has been warning about a Trump-centered autocratic movement. “They’re not willing to put themselves on the line for him.”

In the blocks surrounding the courthouse itself, local business owners seemed unaware that Trump had called for protests on his behalf. “Didn’t know anything about it,” said one jewelry store owner, who asked that his name not be used.

Salim Chowdhury, owner of the Kabob Town two blocks up the road, said he has seen plenty of large protests come up Canal Street, from Black Lives Matter to recent ones for Gaza. He has not seen much of anything regarding Trump. “We’re not worried,” he said.

Trump has made it clear from his daily tirades to the reporters in the corridor outside his 15th floor courtroom that he has noticed the lack of major demonstrations on his behalf despite his repeated calls for one, including one on social media the day before his trial began when he wrote: “MAGA 2024! SEE YOU TOMORROW.”

“It’s like an armed camp outside. You can’t get one person within three blocks of this courthouse,” he said May 13, falsely claiming that police were denying people access to the courthouse area.

He repeated and embellished the lie as he entered court Monday: “Outside looks like it’s supposed to be Fort Knox. There’s more police than I’ve ever seen anywhere because they don’t want to have anyone come down. There’s not a civilian within three blocks of the courthouse.”

Trump has already proved that he can incite violence. For weeks following his 2020 election loss, he lied that it had been “stolen” from him, perhaps most consequentially at a rally near the White House on the morning of the congressional vote to certify the election results. He urged the tens of thousands of his followers he had called to Washington on that day to march on the Capitol to pressure lawmakers and his own vice president into overturning the outcome and awarding him a second term.

“When you catch somebody in a fraud, you’re allowed to go by very different rules,” Trump told them.

Over the next several hours, 140 police officers were injured in the attack, some gravely. One died hours later, and four others died by suicide in the coming weeks and months.

In the 40 months since Jan. 6, 2021, 1,424 of his followers who participated in the assault have been tracked down and arrested by the Department of Justice on charges including trespassing, assault on a police officer, and seditious conspiracy. There have already been 1,019 convictions from guilty pleas and jury verdicts, and new arrests continue to this day.

Indeed, the DOJ’s aggressive pursuit of seemingly every person who entered the Capitol complex — which at the time was not open to the public because of COVID-19 restrictions — may be the biggest reason Trump has been unable to unleash havoc again, at least to date.

“Jan. 6 failed, thankfully, and it led to severe consequences for those who participated,” a former congressional aide who worked with the House committee investigating Jan. 6 said on condition of anonymity. “It’s reasonable to assume those key points might dissuade anyone from trying to engage in those tactics again, despite Trump’s pleas.”

Those pleas began more than two years ago, when it became clear he was under criminal investigation in at least three jurisdictions.

“If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere, because our country and our elections are corrupt,” he said to a rally audience in Conroe, Texas, on Jan. 29, 2022.

Seven months later, after Trump’s Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Florida, was searched for secret documents he had taken with him when he left the White House, Trump warned against a prosecution: “I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.”

As the months passed and prosecutors closed in, Trump’s language and tone escalated.

“PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” Trump demanded in a social media post on March 24, 2023, just days before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought the first of four total felony indictments.

There have been individual cases of violence by Trump supporters. In 2022, after the Mar-a-Lago raid, a man was killed as he tried to shoot his way into an FBI office in Ohio. A Texas woman was charged with making threats against Tanya Chutkan, the federal judge overseeing the prosecution against Trump for the Jan. 6 coup attempt.

Trump was able to get small groups of protesters for his arraignments in New York and Miami last year, and managed to persuade about 50 supporters to come to the courthouse the day of his trial’s opening on April 15.

But, at least so far, there has been no massive attack by Trump followers, as there was on Jan. 6.

Some Trump allies claim that no one is protesting for him because both the ongoing New York City trial on charges he falsified business records to hide a $130,000 hush money payment as well as his other prosecutions are actually helping him.

“Look at the New York Times polling,” said Mike Davis, a former Senate staff lawyer who has become a favorite legal voice in Trump’s orbit, when asked what happened to the massive protests Trump had called for. “That’s what happened.”

Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman who unsuccessfully challenged Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, said Trump’s hardcore supporters have not cared enough about the New York case to be angry about it. “They really don’t take this trial seriously at all. They don’t care about this one. They actually think he’ll get off on this one,” he said.

Amanda Carpenter, a former staffer in Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s office who now works for the nonpartisan Protect Democracy, said it’s important to keep in mind that while Trump’s calls for unrest may not have brought actual violence so far, the undercurrent of violence appears to be slowing down the court calendar in his favor.

In Atlanta, a trial on Trump’s attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia originally scheduled for this spring now has been postponed. In South Florida, the federal judge presiding over the classified documents prosecution has repeatedly stalled the proceedings and recently canceled a summer trial date.

And the biggest case, the Washington, D.C., federal prosecution based on Trump’s actions leading to Jan. 6, is on hold until the Supreme Court considers Trump’s argument that he has immunity for everything he did because he was president at the time. Unless the high court returns a ruling quickly, a trial on the charges before the November election seems unlikely there, as well.

“I think we should take into account whether these threats were successful in getting much of the trial action delayed,” Carpenter said.

And Walsh, who supported Trump in 2016 but quickly became a vocal critic after watching his behavior in office, warns that just because there has not been violence yet doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in the days to come.

“Trump going on trial for January 6th would be different,” he said.

Davis, who argues that all four of the indictments are illegitimate, agrees: “Wait until they try to imprison Trump.”