MIAMI, Florida—Protesters assembled outside the federal courthouse here on Tuesday to express their support for former President Donald Trump—to fly the Trump colors and show prosecutors that they’re up against a MAGA army.
But if protesters sought to show unity and organization, what they accomplished was a disorganized display of spectacles, flaunting a pig’s head on a pike and getting the street shut down over an abandoned television.
Trump was arraigned on Tuesday afternoon for 37 counts related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents. On social media, Trump called on fans to come to Miami for his court appearance. “SEE YOU IN MIAMI ON TUESDAY!!!” he wrote. But turnout was modest on Tuesday morning, despite efforts by pro-Trump figures like rapper Forgiato Blow to gin up attendance for a 10 a.m. rally.
“What I like about this, we been supporting Trump since day one and never switch up on Donald Trump, man what’s up. DeSant-heads need to get out here and get with Trump,” Blow (real name Kurt Jantz) said in a video outside the courthouse on Tuesday, referencing Trump’s GOP rival and Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis.
Blow’s attendance was not purely political. The prolific novelty rapper, who frequently releases songs timed to conservative news items, is promoting a new song called “Trump Indictment” and on Monday tweeted a picture of himself wearing a signboard with a QR code for a download of the tune.
“See Everyone Tomorrow Help Us Get #TrumpIndictment To #1 On iTunes,” Blow tweeted, promoting both the track and the protest against Trump’s second felony arraignment this year.
Vivek Ramaswamy, a longshot Republican presidential candidate, gave a Tuesday morning speech in which he pledged (if elected president) to pardon Trump.
Meanwhile, Tim Gionet, a far-right personality who goes by “Baked Alaska,” live streamed himself outside the courthouse on Tuesday. Gionet was recently released from prison, where he was serving 60 days for his participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. (He was also found guilty last year of defacing a Hanukkah display. “No more Happy Hanukkah, only Merry Christmas. This is a disgrace," Gionet said in a live stream of the vandalism.)
At least one member of the far-right group the Proud Boys was in attendance. A Telegram channel for the group Villain City Proud Boys uploaded a video from the grounds, although the group did not appear to have a uniformed presence on Tuesday morning. (The Villain City Proud Boys are a splinter faction of Miami’s longer-standing Vice City Proud Boys, which disavows the former group and calls it illegitimate.)
Lauren Witzke, a far-right conspiracy theorist who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in Delaware, also live-streamed from a demonstration organized by anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer. During her live stream, she wondered out loud if “federal agents” were undercover at the courthouse protests. “Let’s count the FBI in this protest,” read a sign carried by a pro-Trump protester she interviewed. Witzke later contemplated if the man holding the sign—which had toy-water guns attached—was a “fed” himself.
Witzke, an ally of white-nationalist Nick Fuentes, soon grew tired of covering the lackluster Loomer protest and turned her attention to trolling the media.
“Is CNN here?” she asked on the stream, adding, “Oh shoot, I forgot I was streaming, oops.”
Various factions of Trump fans scheduled courthouse protests over the course of the day. Loomer’s event was slated to start at noon. A convoy of four buses, organized by the Florida Republican Assembly, arrived at 2 p.m.
Toward the beginning of the rally, Loomer claimed that Trump’s team had called her on Tuesday morning to express their support for her event.
“President Trump, his staff called me this morning,” Loomer yelled. “President Trump is grateful for the rally. His staff personally called me and said they were with President Trump this morning, and he wants to thank everybody for coming out today. They are very happy that this rally is taking place. They want it peaceful.”
“President Trump is very grateful that we are out here today,” she added.
Trump spokesman Steven Cheung didn’t return The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Loomer’s claim.
Loomer had good reason to talk up Trump’s support for her efforts, as The Daily Beast reported Monday evening that Trump’s own advisers thought protests outside of the Miami courthouse were a bad idea.
“I would hope it’s not a protest,” one Trump adviser told The Daily Beast.
Even before the rally, Trump’s aides attempted to distance themselves from Loomer and the Roger Stone-promoted event.
“Anybody we’ve heard from at the campaign, it’s been somebody who just wants to come and be supportive of the president,” the Trump adviser added before attempting to make clear that the official Trump campaign wanted no part in any demonstrations.
But despite the worry from inside Trump’s inner circle, in the end, with low turnout numbers, Trump supporters found a familiar boogeyman.
“I think MAGA has to be beyond cautious and weary [sic] of Feds creating another trap like Jan 6,” Trump ally Jackson Lahmeyer told The Daily Beast.
While MAGA supporters were busy contemplating who among them might be federal agents, law enforcement tended to a much more serious concern.
The modest crowd was briefly asked to leave part of the courthouse grounds after law enforcement expressed concerns about an unattended package. The suspicious item was a TV with writing on it, apparently planted by Trump fans, Miami New Times reporter Naomi Feinstein tweeted. Police removed the TV and allowed demonstrators back onto the property.
Other eccentric characters also turned up early to the courthouse.
Osmany Estrada, 40, proudly donned an American and Cuban flag as he paraded around the courthouse with a pig’s head on a pike, posing for photos with anyone who asked, but mostly dodging TV crews that swarmed him.
Estrada, who says he came to Miami on a raft from Cuba in 1992, was one of the first on the scene Tuesday morning, sticking around as the crowd grew into the hundreds by 1 p.m.—a far cry from the thousands expected by Trump and Miami cops. Until noon, protesters were outnumbered by journalists and dozens of cops who carried assault rifles as they circled the area.
“I am not a Trump supporter and I will never be,” Estrada told The Daily Beast, adding that, he was “there to celebrate democracy and the rules of law.”
As for the pig’s head, he said, “It is symbolism for ‘Lord of the Flies.’”
Editor’s note: The story has been updated to make clear that Osmany Estrada is not a supporter of Donald Trump and that he says he went to the courthouse on Tuesday to celebrate the rule of law.