Crowd grows outside Fulton jail in anticipation of Trump’s Georgia surrender

By: , and - August 24, 2023 10:55 am

Critics as well as supporters of former President Donald Trump demonstrated Thursday morning outside the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia. (Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder)

Editor’s Note: This article was initially published by Georgia Recorder. Follow their live blog throughout the day for the latest on the surrender of former President Donald Trump.

A large crowd of reporters and demonstrators was amassing around the Fulton County Jail Thursday morning in anticipation of the arrival of former President Donald Trump, who is expected to turn himself in this afternoon.

Georgia Recorder reporter and photographer Ross Williams estimated there to be hundreds of journalists, demonstrators, and curiosity seekers outside the jail on Rice Street as the August heat intensified.

Some of them were supporters of the former president who gathered for a planned rally that was more of a show of support. When police erected additional security barricades Thursday morning, the crowd started chanting “build the wall.”

But Trump’s scheduled jailhouse appearance also attracted critics of the former GOP president who want to see him held accountable for his alleged actions in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump has been charged with 13 counts – including a racketeering and corruption offense – in what prosecutors say was a plot to overturn the election in Georgia and other key states. In Georgia, he lost by nearly 12,000 votes, making him the first Republican presidential candidate to lose here in three decades.

He posted on Truth Social Wednesday that he “will proudly be arrested” Thursday afternoon.

Trump supporters face off with prosecution backers

Former President Donald Trump stands accused in Georgia of being a ringleader in a multistate scheme to overturn his stinging 2020 election defeat.

But his most diehard supporters aren’t buying it, and some of them were willing to tough it out in the searing heat Thursday in a show of support to Trump when he is booked later today. Trump has agreed to a $200,000 bond.

Trump and 18 of his allies are all charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which is modeled after a federal law designed to target mafia leaders and those engaged in organized crime.

West Cobb County, Georgia, resident Jerry Ramsey shows his support for former President Donald Trump as he turns himself in at the Fulton County Jail. (Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder)

The former president is also charged with a dozen other crimes, including solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer and conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree, for an alleged scheme to convince lawmakers in key states like Georgia to substitute lawfully elected electors with GOP alternates.

“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.

Georgia’s election results were confirmed three times, including one recount that was done by hand. A state-led investigation and multiple lawsuits also failed to turn up the widespread fraud Trump has long falsely claimed thwarted his bid for a second term. Trump’s own Attorney General in 2020 told the former president that he’d lost Georgia’s election and there was no evidence of fraud.

And other legal experts take a much different view about RICO’s applicability to the fake elector strategy.

“This case is essentially a candidate of why the RICO statute was invented,” former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter told the Georgia Recorder in an earlier interview.

But Trump’s supporters argue his actions in the wake of the 2020 election amount to protected speech.

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, and two impeachment proceedings and a total of four indictments have only made Worth more skeptical.

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.

Dion Cini, who traveled from New York for Trump’s surrender, said he considers the Fulton County’s indictment to be more egregious than the federal charges accusing him of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“This is much worse than Jan. 6th,” he said while holding a banner emblazoned with “Trump or Death” around a rendering of Trump’s face. “When you look up the definition of insurrection, that’s what’s happening today.”

But it’s not 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.”

This article will be updated after Trump surrenders.

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.

Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap is a reporter for the Georgia Recorder. He has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.