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Trump immunity protesters see ‘make-or-break moment for our republic’

Opponents of the former president outweigh supporters outside Supreme Court during arguments

People demonstrate against former President Donald Trump on Thursday while the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on his claim of immunity from prosecution.
People demonstrate against former President Donald Trump on Thursday while the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on his claim of immunity from prosecution. (Allison Bailey/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images)

The sidewalk outside the Supreme Court was dotted with more reporters than protesters Thursday morning as oral arguments in the Donald Trump immunity case played out inside. 

Dozens of demonstrators banged drums, blared music and at times hurled insults at one another. But it was a relatively subdued gathering as the morning wore on, with supporters of the former president in the minority. 

The larger contingent was composed of those supportive of Department of Justice special counsel John L. “Jack” Smith’s charges that Trump attempted to subvert the 2020 election. They hoped the Supreme Court would reject Trump’s claim of presidential immunity, even if many thought it was too late.

“This is a big decision. And I realize he may not go to trial. But we need justice,” said Fort Collins, Colo., resident Dana Doonan. “I’d be in jail already if it were me. He gets a pass. And he shouldn’t have a pass.” 

“It’s a make-or-break moment for our republic,” said Demitri Morgan, standing beside her and carrying a sign that read “Absolute Immunity = Absolute Tyranny.”

“Unchecked power is a recipe for tyranny, for dictatorship. The head of state is only above the law in the worst forms of despotism,” continued Morgan, who said he used up all his vacation days to travel to D.C. from Montana.

The court’s conservative justices on Thursday appeared open to narrowing the scope of the case against Trump, potentially sending it back to a lower court and further delaying a trial that was originally slated to begin in March. 

The justices declined a December request from Smith to rule quickly on whether Trump could be prosecuted in the election interference case. Smith asked the court again in February to let a lower court ruling stand and let the case proceed. But the court again declined, instead opting to take up the immunity question on its regular schedule. 

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has become corrupted. We have MAGA, billionaire-backed justices on the court who are helping Trump and his team to delay justice in this case,” said Amanda Chavez-Barnes, senior director of programs for the activist organization Women’s March.

Behind her, demonstrators in robes and kangaroo masks held cut-out gavels and signs that said “Feminists vs. Fascists. Trump is Not Immune!”

The few Trump supporters who were in attendance were largely drowned out by the larger group.

“I say I was sent here by the founders to bring peace,” said Matthew Atwood, sporting a Whitmanesque beard and dressed in Revolutionary garb. He carried large signs decrying abortion and “Today’s Democidal Maniacs,” which included headshots of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and billionaires George Soros and Bill Gates. 

Atwood said the myriad cases against the former president felt to him like a conspiracy. For much of the morning he stood on a homemade stage that he’d wheeled to the court, playing a guitar and singing as anti-Trump protesters tried to overpower him with music of their own.

Nadine Seiler, a D.C. resident, played “FDT,” the expletive-laden 2016 anti-Trump protest song by rappers YG and Nipsey Hussle, and “F–k You” by Lily Allen on repeat as she danced at the foot of Atwood’s stage. 

“We are frenemies,” said Seiler, who, along with Atwood, is a regular at Trump-related protests. “He doesn’t know my name. I don’t know his name. But he knows who I am.”

Even as much of the crowd dispersed a little after noon, Seiler and Atwood remained, singing and dancing and shouting at each other.

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