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Courthouse where Trump pled not guilty was surrounded by press, police and protesters


Our top story today - former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to a 34-count felony indictment in a Manhattan courthouse. That courthouse was barricaded and surrounded by law enforcement and onlookers. NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence was outside all day, and he joins us now. Hey, Quil.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Hey. How are you?

FLORIDO: I'm doing well. Thanks. You and hundreds of press, police and protesters waited for hours to get a glimpse of the former president. What did you see?

LAWRENCE: Well, starting from last night, journalists were queuing up to - for this event. They waited overnight. I got here around 6 a.m., and people started filing into the square outside the courthouse. There were some celebrity politicians, I guess you'd call them. George Santos came through. Marjorie Taylor Greene came through the scrum of demonstrators. But there was no real protest speeches, no stage. Actually, Marjorie Taylor Greene's megaphone seemed to have malfunctioned, so no one could hear her.

After about seven hours of that, the president - the former President Trump finally arrived in a motorcade from Trump Tower uptown, and we got a glimpse of him. I could see him halfway down the block behind the police barricades, and he waved to the crowd. He didn't say anything. And then he walked into this giant courthouse, which - underneath a granite inscription from Thomas Jefferson, which says, equal and exact justice to all men, whatever state or persuasion.

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FLORIDO: This small square near the courthouse that you mentioned, it was filled with people. So who else was there? And what were people saying about Donald Trump's court appearance today?

LAWRENCE: Yeah. I would say there were scores of protesters, demonstrators, I don't know, maybe 200 in total. They were outnumbered maybe 5 to 1 by journalists and police and separated by barriers shouting at each other. There was a pro-Trump section and a anti-Trump section, and they were shouting across barriers at each other. But it was - honestly, it was a circus. There were some literal stuntmen here. I spoke with Ricardo Varona, who was wearing an orange sweatsuit on rollerblades, spinning two basketballs, one on his finger, one on the tip of an American flag. And he told me he just loves Trump.

RICARDO VARONA: You know how somebody got game and all of that? I like a president that got all that because some of these guys be just talking. He got movements. He got style. He got what it takes. No other president could be like him.

LAWRENCE: You know, and not far from him was Lydia Pacheco, who was carrying a plaque with a Puerto Rican flag on it. And here's what she had to say.

LYDIA PACHECO: I'm here to see this guy to pay for the crime that he committed against our nation and the crime that he committed against my island, Puerto Rico. I hope that he get convicted. I hope he get indicted for - and be in jail for a long, long, long, long, long time. That's what he deserves.

LAWRENCE: You know, she said she couldn't forget Trump's sort of halting response to hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico in 2018. And she was even carrying a roll of toilet paper to remember that President Trump had gone to Puerto Rico but handed out - thrown out towels of - paper towels to people. So there's just so much history and so many different opinions to have formed over - about President Trump over the years in office and the years since.

FLORIDO: I've been speaking with NPR's Quil Lawrence in Manhattan, who was outside the downtown Manhattan courthouse, where Donald Trump was indicted today. Thanks, Quil.

LAWRENCE: Thanks a lot, Adrian. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Quil Lawrence is a New York-based correspondent for NPR News, covering veterans' issues nationwide. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of American veterans and a Gracie Award for coverage of female combat veterans. In 2019 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America honored Quil with its IAVA Salutes Award for Leadership in Journalism.