NEW YORK—After a day of protesting in New York over former President Donald Trump’s indictment, a common sentiment arising in the area outside the Manhattan courthouse where Trump was arraigned was the need for more listening and less violence amid rising political tensions.
“I’m glad to see people were peaceful,” Ray, a pro-Trump protester from New Jersey, told The Epoch Times. “I’m glad to see people are taking their right to protest seriously and not being afraid to protest because we can only have a free society if people feel that they’re free to voice their opinions—even if they’re differing opinions.”
Ray, who declined to share his last name, said he was encouraged by the peaceful conversations he’d had with other protesters.
“I’ve talked to all kinds of people here, and people are listening. Not always agreeing, and that’s OK, but people are listening.”
Trump was indicted last week by a Manhattan grand jury on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records relating to a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election cycle.
Republican supporters of the former president—and some Democrats—have maintained that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is only bringing the case in an attempt to keep Trump out of the Oval Office for good.
And that was Ray’s perspective Tuesday, that the “trumped up” charges were a politically motivated attack the likes of which should never occur in the United States.
“We don’t do that here,” he said. “This is wrong. So, this to me is not even about supporting Trump or Biden. This could happen to Biden—I wouldn’t like this to happen to Biden either.”
Meanwhile, Lukas Ventouras, a 22-year-old studying at New York University, said he felt the evidence in the case weighed in the prosecution’s favor, but stressed that he had chosen to come to the courthouse to gain a better understanding of Trump’s supporters.
“I just want to learn more about the people who are supporting him and understand why they feel the way they do,” Ventouras said. “I’m really curious, and I’m just here to learn.”
And Don Folden, 70, said he had traveled from Washington just to set an example of peace.
“What I’m trying to do is be the light because there’s so much darkness out here,” he said. “I’m trying to be the light.”
Even though the overwhelming majority of demonstrators remained peaceful on Tuesday, there were times when the situation grew heated.
For example, in one case, a woman wearing a MAGA hat trampled a “Trump Lies All the Time” banner belonging to anti-Trump protesters and attempted to remove it, only to be knocked over as the banner’s owners tried to reclaim it.
In another instance, Trump supporter Steve Merczynski said an opposing protester “got in his face” during an intense argument.
Others who witnessed the altercation praised Merczynski for his response to the situation, telling him he did “the smart thing” in walking away from the argument.
Merczynski, for his part, shrugged the incident off, stating: “I’m all for debate. Debate is a good thing, you know. So, they’re just haters and they think they’re right, and I’m not going to shut up. They’re the ones who should be ashamed.”
Merczynski, who owns MAGA Hammocks, a site that sells pro-Trump merchandise, also acknowledged that the current political climate can make it difficult at times for those with opposing views to have an open and peaceful dialogue.
“That’s why people keep their views to themselves—particularly conservative people and Trump supporters,” he said. “It’s scary because you see the government is targeting Trump supporters and there’s not enough pushback. … And the fact that they could do this [expletive] to Trump means no one is safe, particularly on this side of the divide.”
Libertarian Michael Anthony, 39, of New York, expressed a similar concern that the right of the people to peacefully disagree with those in power was being erased in the United States.
“I think anyone who is cheering for Trump to be indicted over this should remember that the same frivolous kinds of cases could be used against any of us,” he said, stressing that he believed ordinary citizens were next on the target list.
“I just want to remind people that they were born free,” Anthony said. “Remember that you were born free, and try to support each other and always listen to each other. Love wins.”