Miami police prepare for protests, Proud Boys’ rallies ahead of Trump’s court appearance

June 13, 2023 in International

Top Miami officials said the city is prepared for anywhere from 5,000 to upward of 50,000 protesters ahead of the arraignment of former President Donald Trump, who faces a 37-count federal indictment over classified documents he allegedly stored at his Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, after leaving the White House.

Trump is expected to report to the federal courthouse in Miami around 3 p.m. amid protests planned by both his supporters and detractors. Mayor Francis Suarez and Police Chief Manuel Morales addressed security concerns but provided few specifics, in a joint press conference held Monday afternoon.

Security will be a coordinated effort by local, state and federal law enforcement, according to Morales. He did not go into specifics about what security measures will be taken. Suarez repeatedly pointed to the city’s handling of the protests after the killing of George Floyd in 2020 as proof of its preparation for dealing with unruly crowds and charged political gatherings.

“I’m not here to talk about politics,” Suarez said. “I’m here in my role as mayor of the city of Miami projecting confidence to our residents and to the residents of the country that we’re going to be ready for tomorrow.”

Suarez said commuters can expect a “disruption” Tuesday but declined to state which specific streets could be affected. Police said much of their decisions would be dependent on crowd size.

As of Monday, Miami police had not received any formal requests for demonstration permits, according communications director Kenia Fallat.

Nonetheless, pro-Trump rallies are planned for outside the courthouse Tuesday, including at least one promoted on Twitter by members of the extremist group the Proud Boys. Leaders of the Proud Boys were convicted of seditious conspiracy for planning to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, including Miami-resident Enrique Tarrio, who is currently serving time in federal prison.

Far-right politician and media personality Kari Lake tweeted that she will be joining protesters Tuesday. Earlier, in a speech denouncing the indictment, Lake mentioned weapons and hinted at a physical intervention in the legal process.

“We will not let you lay a finger on President Trump,” she said. “Frankly now is the time to cling to our guns and our religion.”

Lake did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Unlike New York or Washington D.C., where Trump previously called on crowds to protest on his behalf, Florida has notoriously loose gun laws. Although Suarez called for peaceful demonstrations, neither the mayor nor the police chief addressed what safety measures were in place should protesters come armed.

Morales declined to say whether the city plans to erect metal barricades or make efforts to “harden” the courthouse amid concerns that protesters might be planning to enter the building and disrupt legal proceedings. But he insisted that law enforcement would be prepared for anything.

“We know there’s a potential of things taking a turn for the worst, but that’s not the Miami way,” Morales said.

At least one anti-Trump protest has also been called by a local antifa anarchist group, leading to concerns over the possibility of clashes between the left-wing protesters and those gathering outside the courthouse to support the former president.

Morales said there will not be a designated perimeter around the courthouse, and that protesters will be able to move freely around the building. But, he said, authorities would be ready to address the situation.

“If we begin to see that there’s opposing parties we’ll, at that time, make sure that they are separated and there’s plenty of officers on the scene,” Morales said.

A source familiar with the matter said the Secret Service had begun planning for the arraignment within hours of learning that Trump had been indicted, coordinating with local law enforcement on securing a perimeter around the federal courthouse.

While the courthouse in Miami is an easier site to secure than the Manhattan criminal court was in April, when the former president was arraigned on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in New York state, federal law enforcement have also noticed more online traffic from Trump supporters discussing plans to protest than they had before, according to one Department of Homeland Security official.

The U.S. Marshals will lead on federal assistance to secure the courthouse.

“The U.S. Marshals are responsible for the protection of the federal judicial process, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” said Drew Wade, chief of public affairs at the U.S. Marshals Service. Ensuring that judges can rule independently and free from harm or intimidation is paramount to the rule of law, and a fundamental mission of the USMS.”

“While we do not discuss our specific security measures, we continuously review the measures in place and take appropriate steps to ensure the integrity of the federal judicial process,” Wade said.

The FBI declined to comment.

County police have not received a request from federal authorities for security support but are coordinating closely with city police, according to a statement by County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

“However, we are prepared to provide any assistance, support, or resources requested by our partners at the city of Miami Police Department, which has jurisdiction over downtown Miami and the Wilkie D. Ferguson Courthouse,” the county mayor said in the statement. “As always, MDPD will continue to ensure safety of all county residents, buildings and transit stations.”

Although he declined to answer what he called “political” questions at Monday’s press conference, Suarez has gone on national television and echoed Trump’s claims that the indictment is part of a politically motivated campaign to attack the former president.

Suarez’s comments land at an inflection point in his mayoral career. He is expected on Thursday to announce his 2024 presidential bid near Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the mayor’s business dealings with South Florida develop Rishi Kapoor, who gave Suarez $10,000 a month as a paid consultant for his development firm.

Suarez said he has not communicated with Trump ahead of tomorrow.

“I have not spoken to him,” the mayor said. “I don’t have his phone number.”