Over the weekend Donald Trump set off an international maelstrom of media attention when he announced he would be “arrested on Tuesday”.
Like so many of Trump’s certain proclamations, it proved to be throughly wrong, and the grand jury weighing whether to charge Trump over payments to an adult film star is now unlikely to deliver its verdict until next week.
Trump’s declaration, however, did succeed in creating a week-long spectacle outside the Manhattan criminal court, which is now protected by metal barriers and police amid a widespread tightening of security in New York.
On Monday a small group of Trump supporters – estimates place the number at between five and 20 – and much, much larger groups of journalists flooded to the court, in the south of the island of Manhattan.
Those on the right hailed the smattering of people holding pro-Trump signs as a bold show of support for the twice-impeached, legally besieged former US president.
But by that measure, support had evaporated on Thursday. There was not a single Trump supporter or protester – a small group of anti-Trumpers had also been present earlier in the week – outside the court. Only the journalists, from all the big TV stations and a lot of the smaller ones, remained, sitting looking glum in sheeting New York rain.
Outside the court, which has found itself the subject of so much global attention this week, loomed behind waist-high metal barricades.
The absence of Trump supporters was made to feel even more pronounced by the entirely empty protest pen that police had set up on Monday. The small circular area, which brought to mind a sort of animal petting area common to county fairs, was forlorn and redundant under the gray sky, a real-life rebuttal to the adage “if you build it they will come”.
The courthouse itself is a sprawling 15 floor concrete building, spanning an entire city block looking like a nod to Soviet-era architecture. Thoroughly outshone by the ornate New York county supreme court and the gold leaf-roofed Thurgood Marshall United States courthouse, planted next to each other a hundred yards south, dozens of cameras nonetheless remained trained on it on Thursday.
Trump has said he’d like to be handcuffed when, or if, he is arraigned and arrested at the court. The former television host, who inherited his father’s housing business, is being investigated for his role in paying $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who says the pair had sex. Trump says they did not.
The one-term president’s determination to turn his arraignment into a “spectacle”, however, is likely to be ruined by the scaffolding and green plywood that is in place across the entire span of the building, obscuring the main entrance. If he ever is indicted and taken to court, the camera crews outside – there are at least two dozen – will be lucky if they get an image of Trump at all.
There was a small assortment of NYPD equipment in front of the court, including a towable floodlight on each corner and, on the street behind the building, two big vans, but neither represented a striking visual.
With no interested parties present when the Guardian visited, there was certainly little worth filming. Five police officers were standing around not doing much at a gap in the barricades, while on a corner two more officers were discussing whether to have pizza or a sandwich for lunch.
They settled on pizza.
On Thursday it emerged that the grand jury hearing the case would only return to Trump’s case on Monday, pushing back any potential arrest. Until then the barricades, the bored police officers, and the bored journalists will remain in place.
A week that began with a bang, and with some of Trump’s supporters getting a day out in New York, appears to have thoroughly fizzled out.