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A demonstrator reacts to the guilty verdict announced against former President Donald Trump outside Manhattan Criminal Court.
Demonstrators cheered Donald Trump’s guilty verdict outside the Manhattan Court. Julia Nikhinson/AP

TikTokers, a Lincoln Project Hat and a Media Frenzy: The Surreal Courthouse Scene as Trump Was Convicted

It was basically quiet outside the court building when Trump was convicted. But many there hoped the conviction makes a big noise.

NEW YORK – The weather outside the Manhattan Criminal Court building Thursday afternoon was sunny with a chance of earth-shattering.

In one corner of Collect Pond Park, the closest gathering place the general public could get to the building where former President Donald Trump became the first person with that title to become a convicted felon, it was silent in the moments before the verdict was announced. The smattering of real people who came to witness history were mostly looking at their phones or waiting for someone to tell them what was happening across the throngs of TV live-shot sites set up on the sidewalk between the park and the court.

A correspondent from the syndicated tabloid show “Inside Edition” ended up being the reporter of record for this little crowd.

“Guilty,” she said, listening to an earpiece, and then began to talk about the “somber scene,” where “no one was cheering—”

“Fuck yeah!” bellowed Jeffrey Scola, who was standing right in front of her in workout clothes and, of all things, a Lincoln Project hat. “Send him away.”

Scola lives just a short walk from the courthouse. Or rather, he does some of the time.

“I’m a snowbird. I just actually got back from Miami last night,” Scola, one of the area’s numerous finance guys, said. “I’m like, ‘Oh I hope I get back before the verdict is reached.’”

There were more cheers from the crowd after Scola’s as it became clear Trump was convicted of all 34 charges he faced. And there were some Trump supporters who jeered. Camera crews rushed to catch it all. But there wasn’t much to catch.

Even the subjects of the media frenzy, who took the time out of their days to stand outside the courtroom on the off chance the jury reached its verdict, cared much more about hearing from people hundreds of miles away.

“What really matters is if you’re in Pennsylvania or Michigan or, you know, Wisconsin, what are you going to think?” Scola, who is an unaffiliated voter voting for Joe Biden in November, mused. The Lincoln Project hat showed off that he’s a donor to the PAC founded by Republicans who want to defeat Trump. “Could this push 20, 30,000 votes [toward Biden], which is all it would take to win a presidential election? Yes, I think it’s a very real possibility.”

The park felt like it was half reporters from many outlets and countries. Everyone not a reporter got interviewed. Scola did at least one live TV hit. Most of the energy came from those trying to get the verdict news out of the park and into the wider world, fast.

“Donald Trump has just been found guilty in lower Manhattan on felony charges, a historic day. Very big deal, guys,” Nina, streaming to her TikTok handle News2Tunes from her phone, said as she wandered around the park. Regularly she punctuated with, “Please like and subscribe, guys. It really helps me out.”

“I get about 300 to 400 [viewers] usually,” she told NOTUS as the stream was ongoing. And now? “Four hundred seventy.” She peered into the phone for a closer look, “Five hundred.”

Trump Verdict (Courthouse-Motorcade)
Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through hush money payments. Julia Nikhinson/AP

Outsiders who came to see what was going on were not impressed with the local audience. One prominent D.C. progressive activist, in New York to see a politically themed show on Broadway, had come to the park because who wouldn’t if they found themselves in town and got the news alert in time. But the show was not there. “I wish I was in D.C., where there will probably be people cheering in the streets,” she said.

Alexandra Pelosi, the famous documentarian, had left the scene after initial reports Thursday afternoon indicated the jury would reconvene Friday, only to hustle back on a bike when it became clear that the verdict was going to come in. But the timing of the verdict was not conducive to compelling documentary footage.

She stood with her camera at her side, not filming anything. Where were all the Trump supporters, she asked rhetorically. Where was anyone?

The people reporters are after most certainly weren’t going to make the trip. President Biden has struggled in polling against Trump, and a big worry among some anti-Trump strategists is that people who don’t love Trump and don’t love Biden have still not found a reason to dislike Trump enough to vote for Biden. At the Republican Voters Against Trump project, political director Gunner Ramer calls these people “double-doubters.” He thinks they could be the key to the election.

Reached by phone as the anticlimactic rally unfolded outside the courthouse, Ramer’s take was that the real drama of verdict day will come after all the fences are taken down in Collect Pond Park and there is no one there to interview (except the New Yorkers who are always there).

“If there is one thing we know, it’s that swing voters are absolutely repulsed by Donald Trump’s behavior, and this puts Trump at the forefront, which is a huge dynamic shift,” he said. Ramer makes ads out of real Trump voters explaining why they are now repulsed by him. “We’ll use our testimonials to remind voters that they have a choice between Joe Biden, who they may not love, and a convicted felon. I think that this is going to be incredibly persuasive with the type of double-doubter who hasn’t quite made up their mind yet.”


Evan McMorris-Santoro is a reporter at NOTUS.