Trump trial turns ordinary task of jury selection into the extraordinary

<span>People protest outside court in New York on 15 April. </span><span>Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images</span>
People protest outside court in New York on 15 April. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Jury duty in America can often be a banal affair, a day spent in a courthouse filling out forms and telling lawyers when you scheduled your next vacation.

But for those New Yorkers summoned to the state courthouse on Monday it was a day when the ordinary had become extraordinary. They arrived to a frenetic scene of loud protest and high security in downtown Manhattan – a sure sign that Donald Trump is yet again in court.

Related: Fake snooze? Trump appears to doze off during first day of hush-money trial

Though the procedures that played out in the courtroom at 100 Centre St were banal, their significance was pure history: the first US president facing criminal charges at trial. And not only that, but at a time when Trump is all but guaranteed to be his party’s nominee for the 2024 presidential election.

Police closed off the block in front of the courthouse to pedestrians, requiring people to show press or court badges to get on to the street to the building. That didn’t stop passersby, including double-decker tour buses heading downtown, from stopping to ogle at the spectacle.

The scene inside the courtroom was much calmer than the crowds that gathered outside the building. Security getting into the building was tight. Trump briefly gave remarks to the small pool of reporters who were allowed to stay in the hallway outside the courtroom.

“This is political persecution, persecution like never before,” Trump said, standing in front of a police barricade, his lawyer Todd Blanche standing beside him. “It’s an assault on America. And that’s why I’m very proud to be here. This is an assault on our country, and it’s a country that’s failing.”

The morning was taken up by proceedings. Judge Juan Merchan declined Trump’s second request that he recuse himself from overseeing the trial. Trump on social media attacked Merchan’s daughter, who worked for a company that assisted the digital campaign of Democratic candidates, and has called the judge biased. The judge also ruled that prosecutors could use certain evidence in the case.

The atmosphere in the courtroom appeared calm, with Trump at times appearing to doze off during proceedings. Much of the courtroom was left empty to allow room for jurors.

Jury selection did not start until later in the afternoon, and if the activity outside the courthouse was any indication, it will take lawyers a few days to select an unbiased group of New Yorkers who will ultimately decide the outcome of the trial.

Outside of the courthouse, multiple news channels were doing wall-to-wall coverage of the trial.

A few people holding what appeared to be jury ID slips – which jurors are sent in the mail and told to bring with them the day they are summoned to court – were let into the line of people entering the building. Some, looking bewildered, stopped to take pictures of the scene before entering the courthouse.

Police shuffled the small groups of protestors, both for and against the former president, who arrived to commemorate the day into Collect Pond Park, a small, concrete park across the street from the courthouse.

“Fuck Joe Biden!” a lone voice chanted the pro-Trump crowd, which was flying a giant “Trump 2024”, shouted.

The conservative activists Laura Loomer and Andrew Giuliani stood among a small crowd of Trump supporters, standing under a Trump 2024 and a flag that read “Trump or Death”. Another person held a “Trump 2028” flag.

“Can you believe the president of the United States has a gag order on him?” Loomer, shouting into a bullhorn, asked the crowd.

“Fire Tish James! Fire Tish James,” Loomer started to chant, referencing the New York attorney general who prosecuted Trump’s fraud trial and is not involved in this hush money trial. “Fire Alvin Bragg! Fire Alvin Bragg! All of them have to go.”

In the scrabble of Trump supporters, a man playing the flute offered renditions of Yankee Doodle and The Star Spangled Banner. A truck embossed with Trump 2024 stickers and bearing four Trump flags circled the streets around the courthouse, appearing to play homemade hip-hop music focused on re-electing Trump.

Meanwhile, a small group of protestors chanting “Trump is not above the law” briefly blocked traffic while holding signs. The same group had also appeared on the first day of Trump’s fraud trial in October, which took place in a courthouse down the street.

Trump entered the courthouse through a side entrance, away from the news cameras and the crowd of supporters. While press would typically be gathered right outside the courthouse, construction scaffolding obscured much of the front of the building.

Though Trump could not greet his supporters when entering the building, he raised a fist to the cameras in the distance before going inside.