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FLASH ALERT: TRUMP CALLS FOR PROTESTS AHEAD OF HIS INDICTMENT, CHANCE OF VIOLENCE

Lydia Baccino, Ryan Leung, Giulia Provenza, Hae Lim Park, Jehanne Pocquet, Julia Tsarnas, NORTHCOM and Extremism

Evan Beachler, Salomon Montaguth, Editors; Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor

March 20, 2023


Former President Donald Trump[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to citizens, and the New York Police Department (NYPD) as former President Donald Trump calls for protests in his name if he is indicted by the State of New York. Trump posted calls for protests on his social media platform telling his followers to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” Several officials, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, have asked for people to remain calm and not protest. McCarthy stated that people misinterpreted the former President’s post; Trump is not calling for violence with, “take our nation back,” and therefore should not participate in such acts.[2] This demand to protest is a concern for law enforcement as it mirrors the violent rhetoric first iterated during the Capitol Hill riots of January 6, 2021, where five individuals died and 140 police officers were injured.[3]


CTG is on HIGH alert for the safety of US citizens and the unpredictable course of events that this threat could unfold. There is a HIGH LIKELIHOOD that Trump’s calls for protest against his possible indictment could lead to a violent round of anti-government demonstrations by his supporters. The possible locations for these protests are LIKELY the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Law enforcement officials involved in the investigation will LIKELY be targets of any protests or violent attacks. It is LIKELY that the NYPD will closely monitor online chat rooms and social media posts indicating potential protests, riots, and/or rallies. With the HIGH LIKELIHOOD of protests LIKELY turning violent, it is advised that citizens avoid these areas. The tensions that will arise have a HIGH LIKELIHOOD of escalating into social unrest, making it more LIKELY looting and general crime will occur.


Likely, authorities will indict Trump over hush money that he would have paid to a pornography actress named Stormy Daniels (legal name, Stephanie Clifford) in 2016. She supposedly received $130,000 before the 2016 polls in exchange for her silence concerning an affair with Trump a few years earlier. Trump denies involvement with her, and former Vice President Mike Pence sees this as a “politically charged prosecution.” Trump could face misdemeanor charges if he falsified his business records and the payment made to Daniels is unaccounted. A felony could follow if the payment covered up another crime, such as his campaign’s financing. If an indictment is filed, Trump would become the first US President charged with a criminal offense. While some believe this will damage his campaign for the 2024 presidential elections, others expect his potential arrest to agitate his supporters and strengthen his electoral base because this is a “witch hunt” (according to Trump).[4]

On March 18, former President Trump declared on his social media platform, Truth Social, that he expected to be arrested by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on Tuesday, March 21. He ended his post by asking his supporters to protest and “take the nation back.”[5] Trump is the subject of a New York Grand Jury investigation into hush money payments to women who have alleged sexual encounters with the former president.[6] On Tuesday, March 21, the grand jury announced that they would reconvene on Wednesday, March 22, to weigh charges against Trump.[7] On Sunday, House Speaker McCarthy pushed back against Trump’s calls for protests, demanding calm and advocating against any violence.[8] US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene offered another perspective, by praising the right to protest and assembly, clarifying that Trump referred to peaceful protests. Many Republican leaders claim Trump’s expected arrest is “politically motivated,” including Pence and Taylor Greene.[9] Law enforcement officials in New York reported that they are preparing security procedures for the possibility of the former president’s arrest and potentially violent protests from his supporters. Extremist groups backing Trump will likely organize the protests on social media platforms, internally sharing their tactics and targets.

This event is an echo of the messages that he shared online in the week leading up to the attack on the US Capitol. Right-wing extremist groups such as QAnon and Proud Boys organized the storming on social media platforms. Both groups have carried out several ideologically motivated crimes in the US, by using violence, weapons, misinformation, discrimination, anti-rights protests, and hate speech.[10] NYPD is preparing for potentially violent protests echoing a January 6 scenario. In the event of a rally and/or protest, the NYPD has “dropped off dozens of portable metal barricades,” indicating their preparation for potential crowds and violence.[11] There have been several new developments pointing to the New York Young Republicans Club staging a potential protest in Manhattan, and several Trump supporters have indicated a potential Mar-a-Lago demonstration.[12]


The US Intelligence community will likely continue investigating any development related to this event. Law enforcement will almost certainly monitor social media platforms and channels for extremism groups to track potential perpetrators of the protest and their modus operandi. Right-wing groups will very likely use private online group chats to plan these protests, making it harder for law enforcement to assess the number of protesters in advance. This event will likely affect US national security and disrupt regional stability by causing polarization and fueling social and political divisions. If Trump is indicted, he will very likely use the indictment to his advantage to strengthen his electoral base given the 2024 presidential elections.

There is a roughly even chance that Trump loyalists and right-wing extremists will gather to protest and rally in support of his message. Law enforcement officials will very likely be on high alert to stop the protests and rallies from escalating by implementing strong security measures in potential locations for gathering. Trump loyalists and right-wing extremists will likely attempt to gather in locations with high publicity to gain attention. Protesters will likely be from right-wing groups, although some individuals may not be part of these groups, likely leading to more chaotic and turbulent protests.

CTG recommends that citizens avoid traveling through New York City in the coming days in case of any unlawful gatherings. For those who have to travel, avoid crowded areas or potential gathering spaces, including parks, public squares, and areas with limited exits, such as the metro station. Citizens should also be concerned about potentially targeted buildings such as government institutions, the federal court, police stations, and the local administrative building. The Trump Tower could also be a rally potential for Trump supporters. Law enforcement should be on high alert for any potential protests and riots. The police have already set up metal barricades around the Manhattan courthouse complex, should also be around any government buildings, and potential targets to prevent any illegal intrusion.[13] There should be an increase in police presence around mentioned areas, and security details for senior government officials should also increase. Hospitals and fire departments should also be on high alert in preparation for any riots and confrontations that could result in casualties and damages to the city. To understand the potential scale and likelihood of a protest, law enforcement should monitor any activities in-related to protesting and Trump on social media. The CTG also recommends closely monitoring the activity of known right-wing groups, and supporters of the Capitol Hill riot. NORTHCOM and EXTREMISM teams will continue to monitor this event for any further developments and to help detect and deter any future violent extremists. CTG’s OSINT team will continue to gather and analyze more information on social media to track potential threats, mitigate the risks for any future events, monitor online chatter of potential meet-ups, and obtain a full understanding of the consequences.

CTG assesses the current threat climate is HIGH given the increasing threat of right-wing, violent protests in New York. The protests are likely to turn violent when police confront protestors. The protest will likely resemble the January 6 Capitol Hill riot in Washington DC. Protestors will likely gather near the courthouse or the Trump Tower, and with enough numbers, likely attempt to enter the courthouse or other government buildings. It will likely cause casualties among police and rioters, and damage to the targeted building. If the protest in New York turns violent, it is likely to see similar actions and gatherings in other states in solidarity with the rioters. Florida is a potential ground for protest, as isolated posts on social media have encouraged an armed confrontation with law enforcement at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.[14] Florida law enforcement should also be put on HIGH alert in case the protest in New York has ripple effects. Police are the most likely to be affected, as they will try to maintain order and disperse any illegal gatherings. Given in the Capitol Hill riot when some police officers were seen to sympathize with the intruders, the authority should ensure that enough law enforcement could be present to suppress any threats.[15]


Analysis indicates that there is a ROUGHLY EVEN CHANCE that protests will take place in support of Trump. Protests will LIKELY take place in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. The unpredictability of unlawful gatherings will LIKELY escalate into social unrest and violence.

 

[3] McCarthy tells Trump supporters not to protest if ex-president is indicted, The Washington Post, March 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/03/20/kevin-mccarthy-protesters-trump-indictment/

[4] US prepares for likely historic arrest of former president Trump, France24, March 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/americas/20230320-us-prepares-for-likely-historic-arrest-of-former-president-trump

[6] Trump says he expects to be arrested, calls for protest, AP News, March 2023, https://apnews.com/article/trump-arrested-indicted-hush-money-manhattan-prosecutor-a48428984cf99d23f46b4157b34160ae

[7] Trump live updates: Grand jury to reconvene on Wednesday, ABC News, March 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/US/live-updates/trump-charges/?id=97888515#98012498

[8] McCarthy pushes back against Trump’s calls for protests: ‘We want calmness out there’, Politico, March 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/03/19/mccarthy-trump-protests-calmness-00087795

[10] Hate groups descend on Wadsworth protesting ‘Rock-n-Roll Drag Queen Story Hour’, Spectrum News, March 2023, https://spectrumnews1.com/oh/columbus/news/2023/03/13/hate-groups-descend-on-wadsworth-protesting--rock-n-roll-drag-queen-story-hour-

[12] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] The U.S. Capitol Riots and the Double Standard of Protest Policing, US News, January 2021, https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2021-01-12/the-us-capitol-riots-and-the-double-standard-of-protest-policing

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