The far-right can’t seem to agree on how they should respond to a potential indictment of former president Donald Trump this week—and many fear getting caught up in a mass-arrest repeat of Jan. 6.
Trump wrote on TruthSocial over the weekend that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office was gearing up to indict him on charges linked to hush money paid out to adult film star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election. He’s trying to cast himself as a victim of political persecution, and repeatedly urged his followers to take to the streets on his behalf.
“THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH,” Trump wrote. “WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
On Patriots.win, a pro-Trump message board formerly known as “The Donald,” his supporters are rallying behind him. A screenshot of Trump’s Truth Social post is pinned to the top of the message board, and has over 2,000 comments.
“Trump said to protest, protest coming,” one user wrote.
On that platform, people have discussed a wide range of protest tactics, including gathering at the Manhattan courthouse downtown where Trump claims he’ll be processed on Tuesday (although his own spokesperson played down that specific date), driving trucks into Manhattan and jamming traffic, or participating in a nationwide strike. There have also been some explicit calls for violence, with users discussing surrounding Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida and shooting law enforcement, or calling for assassinations of anyone involved in efforts to prosecute the former president. “I want to see heads being cut off, quartering, blood eagle you name it,” remarked one person. (Moderators appear to be removing some of the particularly incendiary posts).
Law enforcement seem to be taking no chances on the possibility of Trump supporters gathering in Manhattan this week. On Friday, NBC reported that local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, were meeting to discuss a security plan. And on Monday, the NYPD was seen delivering truckloads of steel barricades to the area surrounding Manhattan’s criminal court.
But some of Trump’s supporters seem to be worried about the possibility of walking into a repeat of Jan. 6, which remains a very sore spot in MAGA-world. Many continue to believe the baseless “fedsurrection” conspiracy theory which claims that FBI agents orchestrated the riot with the goal of smearing Trump supporters. And some feel as though Trump abandoned his loyal flock when they needed him the most, and did little to intervene as more than 1,000 were arrested for their actions on Jan. 6.
Infowars contributor Paul Joseph Watson polled 1,850 Truth Social users with the question, “Is the potential protest against Trump being arrested a J6-style trap?” to which 85% of respondents voted “yes.”
“Should you decide to protest the arrest of President Trump, be mindful of our brothers and sisters who have become victims of instigators,” Gregg Phillips, leader of a right-wing election conspiracy group True the Vote who was jailed in November for contempt of court, wrote on Truth Social. “You will be arrested. They are already planning the assault on freedom of speech. Follow your own true north. If it seems odd, [it] probably is a set up.”
The Proud Boys, whose top lieutenants are currently on trial for seditious conspiracy in connection to Jan. 6, have been largely quiet on the matter of protesting—at least as far as their public-facing channels are concerned.
Some Proud Boy chapters on Telegram have just shared an article by the far-right conspiracy website Gateway Pundit stating that “peaceful prayer protests” are being called for Trump nationwide. Others have circulated an image of Ray Epps, an Arizona man who unwittingly became the central focus of the “fedsurrection” conspiracy. “If you see this man at a protest next week do not follow him anywhere,” North Carolina Proud Boy’s chapter wrote on Telegram. “Contact your local Proud Boy chapter and report his whereabouts.”
QAnon influencer “Ghost Ezra” (real name Robert Smart), who has nearly 200,000 subscribers on Telegram, also suggested that any protests over Trump’s this week would be teeming with federal agents.
Pastors for Trump, a Christian nationalist group, is organizing a “prayer call” on Monday evening. The founder of the group published the invitation in the Gateway Pundit, writing that “the war against Trump is a war against Christianity.”
Some top Republicans, like House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are urging Trump’s supporters to avoid protesting. Far-right congresswoman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene also weighed in, saying that Trump’s supporters don’t need to protest, because she believes a Trump indictment would almost certainly secure a Republican victory in the 2024 election.
Political strategist and Trump ally Roger Stone has also weighed in, urging anyone who opts to protest to “keep it peaceful, civil and legal.”
But even though there is a divide over whether protesting for Trump is a good idea, many of his supporters think his potential arrest is a harbinger of very bad things to come. “Looks like they are accelerating the civil war to this week,” one user on Patriots.win wrote. “Hold the fuckin line guys. Don’t be afraid to use your constitutional rights. Remember 2a [second amendment] is there in case 1a [first amendment] fails.”
“If Trump is arrested on Tuesday there will be a Spring Awakening in this country that will make J6 look like a childrens’ birthday party,” Trump-supporting actor Randy Quaid wrote on his Truth Social profile.
Trump’s legal woes will likely be a major theme in the coming months, with the pending matter in Manhattan being just the tip of the iceberg. The investigation into Trump’s alleged improper use of campaign funds in exchange for Daniel’s silence has been simmering for years, but was officially revived by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who brought evidence to a grand jury several weeks ago.
Trump is also facing potential charges in Georgia’s Fulton County. District Attorney Fani Willis is considering whether to charge the former president for trying to reverse his defeat in the 2020 election, and said in January that a decision in her case was “imminent.”
Additionally, Special Counsel Jack Smith is leading the DOJ’s investigation into whether Trump should face charges for his role in the Jan. 6 riot, as well as whether he broke the law by storing classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House.
With files from Greg Walters