Skip to content

I went to Day 1 of Trump’s criminal trial and realized something: Not enough people care

New York’s Collect Pond Park was awash in Trump shirts and Make America Great Again hats on Monday. There was a giant flag waving in the breeze emblazoned with the words “TRUMP 2024: SAVE AMERICA” and one with Donald Trump’s mugshot.

A lifted truck drove around the block blasting pro-Trump parody songs while flying a Thin Blue Line flag, a Trump flag and two American flags.

A few blocks away, a separate set of protesters, wearing black shirts with phrases like “Trump lies all the time” on them, expressed their disdain for the legal woes of the former president. There was a banner nearby that read “NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.”

The first day of Trump’s New York criminal trial had all the signs of a 2024 elections event that was also part of a historical event happening in a Manhattan courthouse.

For most of the country, this trial is perhaps the last time they’ll see Trump in court ahead of the general election. The outcome of this trial could have an impact on the election and how voters perceive Trump, even if Monday’s crowd had long since made up their minds.

So I decided to talk to people in attendance about why they were there. All of them were from New York.

Trump fans aren’t going to change their mind

Steve Merczynski, of New York, shows off his scarf at a pro-Trump protest in New York City on April 15, 2024, the first day of the former president’s hush money trial.

“It’s an illegitimate case,” said Steve Merczynski. “President Trump has done so much for New York City. I’m a New Yorker, and he has our back with so many things.”

Merczynski wore a knit scarf that said “MAGA AGAIN,” and “TRUMP 2024.” He told me it’s made by his company, MAGA Hammocks.

Trump is a hero: Thank you, Donald Trump, for fighting for my right to be embroiled in a hush money scandal

It’s not common to see Trump supporters out and about in New York, where I live, but the ones who showed up Monday said they wanted to voice their support.

“They are scared, because he’s going to win,” Bijaya Acsalia said of Trump haters. “That’s the reason there’s all these lawsuits.”

Trump haters will never see him differently

A block away, an anti-Trump group called Rise and Resist held a news conference.

“This is symbolic of what Trump does all the time,” said Jackie Rudin, one of the anti-Trump protesters. “He uses laws for his own good. What we’re finding out is that our judicial system – everything that guides and creates our bylaws – is not sufficient to deal with somebody like Donald Trump.”

"No one is above the law." Trump protesters stand outside of Manhattan criminal court on April 15, 2024.

“No one is above the law.” Trump protesters stand outside of Manhattan criminal court on April 15, 2024.

Another woman told me that several of the protesters with Rise and Resist were involved in AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, a grassroots organization known for its direct action at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Similar to ACT UP, the Rise and Resist crowd is focused on nonviolent action.

“Even though this isn’t a major case, this is important because this was when he was running,” said Debra O’Brien. “This was the beginning of his first lie.”

O’Brien held a sign that said, “This isn’t about sex (that’s Melania’s problem). It’s about fraud.”

Trump’s trial is upon us. What will it take to convince Republicans he’s unfit for office?

How much does all this matter to the rest of us?

The dueling scenes played out without much fanfare, outside of the occasional counterprotester trying to agitate either side.

It’s the kind of scene that has flooded the country’s political discourse for going on a decade – the Trump supporters and the Trump haters set up near each other, yell about what they believe, then go home or log off social media.

Opinion alerts: Get columns from your favorite columnists + expert analysis on top issues, delivered straight to your device through the USA TODAY app. Don’t have the app? Download it for free from your app store.

The crowds outside the courthouse Monday were relatively small. Only the most dedicated from either side were out in New York to express their feelings on Trump. For everyone else, life in New York continued as normal.

For much of America, Trump’s legal battle is just another harbinger of a hectic election year. So I have to wonder if the rest of the country is paying attention to this trial, and to whatever comes next, the same way that the people I met on Monday are paying attention. Probably not.

Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Sara Pequeño on X, formerly Twitter, @sara__pequeno and Facebook

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump’s hush money trial is underway. MAGA doesn’t care. Does anyone?