Trump supporters, detractors face off outside jail as he’s booked on Georgia racketeering charges
Former President Donald Trump was booked and quickly released at the Fulton County Jail Thursday evening during a trip from New Jersey to Atlanta that played out on primetime TV and capped a drama-filled day outside the facility.
Trump’s sprawling motorcade arrived at the jail at about 7:30 p.m. And he was released after about 20 minutes on a $200,000 bond agreement that bars him from threatening or intimidating anyone involved in the case – including on social media where the former president is prolific.
He is accused of violating Georgia’s RICO Act and a litany of other charges tied to efforts to overturn the election in a state where he lost by nearly 12,000 votes.
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The Fulton County indictment represents Trump’s fourth this year and the first where his mugshot was taken. He faces 13 charges in Georgia, where he is accused of working with his allies to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Trump has dismissed the charges as politically motivated and claims he genuinely believed the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen. The former president, who is the front-runner in the GOP race to challenge President Joe Biden next year, called the indictments a form of “election interference.”
“We did nothing wrong at all, and we have every right – every single right – to challenge an election that we think is dishonest, and we think it’s very dishonest,” Trump said during brief remarks to some reporters outside the jail Thursday.
But he is accused of taking his challenge too far. The Fulton County indictment handed up by a grand jury last week alleges that Trump and 18 others were part of a “criminal organization” that tried to illegally overturn the 2020 election results through a fake elector plot.
Twelve of the 19 defendants have been booked this week, including the surrender of Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, earlier in the day Thursday. Trump’s former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, turned himself in Wednesday.
The remaining seven, including a state senator who served as an “alternate” elector, have until noon Friday to surrender.
Thursday also brought a flurry of legal filings about the venue for some of the defendants and the pace of the trial.
A Georgia state judge has scheduled an Oct. 23 racketeering trial for Kenneth Chesebro, who was an attorney for the Trump campaign. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked the judge, Scott McAfee, Thursday to schedule the trial for all 19 defendants on that date, an unexpectedly quick turnaround Willis proposed in response to Chesebro’s demand for a speedy trial.
McAfee ruled Thursday the trial date would only apply to Chesebro.
Chesebro is accused of violating Georgia’s RICO Act and committing other offenses as part of a scheme to appoint false electors. In Georgia he allegedly supplied the documents alternate GOP electors signed that said they appropriately cast the state’s 16 electoral ballots for Trump.
‘I have seen no real crime’
Outside the jail, Trump’s fans outnumbered his critics as his most ardent backers traveled from all over the country to line up along Rice Street in a show of support. A throng of reporters from all over the world gathered outside the county jail to observe the historic moment.
Many of Trump’s fans said the former president’s growing rap sheet – on top of two impeachment proceedings – is only making them more skeptical of the claims of his wrongdoing.
“Racketeering is about stealing money and stuff like that. That makes no sense,” said west Cobb County resident Jerry Ramsey, citing legal experts who have appeared on Fox News. “If you show me that some real crime was committed, then I might change my mind. But I have seen no real crime.”
Ramsey argues that Trump did what anyone else would do after coming up short in an election.
“Here in Georgia, he just called and said ‘Would y’all recount the vote?’ If I lost an election, I’d do the same thing,” he said.
Ray Worth, who lives in Carroll County, said he came out Thursday to “support freedom, the ability for us to speak freely.” He called Trump “an advocate for free speech.”
Worth said he doesn’t expect any evidence to come out that will convince him that Trump ran afoul of the law. He argues Trump was simply questioning the election results.
“You’re allowed to do that. This is a free country. It’s called freedom. You’re allowed to say what you feel is actually true. I believe what I feel is true, and he does too,” Worth said.
Trump’s brief jailhouse visit capped a long day filled with circus-like energy on an intensely hot August day. Some people were wearing costumes, including multiple “Uncle Sams” and some rats and a wolf that represented the anti-Trump crowd.
Several hours prior to the anticipated arrival of former President Trump, protesters were squaring off with dueling chants and shouting verbal jabs at one another. The sometimes-profane chants included calls to lock up Biden and Trump.
During the late afternoon, members of the Black Trump group were joined by self-proclaimed Mayor of Magaville rapper Forgiato Blow and others for an impromptu jam session featuring songs like Blow’s “Trump Saved the USA.”
Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene showed up at the jail as Trump’s plane was landing at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, fresh off her trip to Wisconsin to serve as a surrogate for Trump at the first GOP presidential debate that he snubbed.
Greene swapped out her profile on social media with a mock mugshot in a show of solidarity, she told Right Side Broadcasting Network, a conservative network. “I’m ashamed of Georgia,” Greene said in the friendly interview.
But it wasn’t all Trump supporters outside the county jail on Rice Street.
One anti-Trump group outside the jail on Thursday was the Republicans Against Trump, also known as RAT. Its members wore black and white striped prison jumpsuits and full rat costumes. Their leader, Domenic Santana, said they want to see Trump held accountable for attempting to disrupt Georgia’s election process.
Meanwhile, Nadine Seiler flew down this week from Maryland to witness the historic arrest of Trump.
One of the few anti-Trump demonstrators to show up Thursday led to testy verbal confrontations with Trump supporters as she carried a banner proclaiming “Finally, Trump Arrested.”
“He tried to steal the vote of Black and brown people,” Seiler said. “That’s why he’s here because he tried to disenfranchise Black and brown voters.”
Georgia Recorder Editor John McCosh contributed to this report.
This story was originally published by the Georgia Recorder, a sister publication of the Arizona Mirror and a member of the States Newsroom network of local news organizations.