Donald Trump calls for 'America-loving' protesters to gather outside court as hush money trial begins

22 April 2024, 16:26 | Updated: 22 April 2024, 16:28

Donald Trump has called for people to protest outside court
Donald Trump has called for people to protest outside court. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Donald Trump has called for "America-loving" protesters to gather outside court in New York as his hush money trial begins.

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Trump said his supporters had been "rudely and systematically shut down" while pro-Palestinian activists "basically do whatever they want".

It comes as opening statements in his trial began on Monday morning, setting the stage for weeks of testimony about the former president's personal life.

Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records as part of an alleged scheme to bury stories that he thought might hurt his presidential campaign in 2016.

Read more: 'Conspiracy theorist' who set himself on fire outside Donald Trump's hush money trial has died, police confirm

Read more: From a man who meditates every morning to a corporate lawyer: The 12 jurors who will decide Donald Trump's fate

Donald Trump awaiting the start of proceedings at Manhattan criminal court
Donald Trump awaiting the start of proceedings at Manhattan criminal court. Picture: Alamy

Writing on his Truth Social platform, Trump said: “America Loving Protesters should be allowed to protest at the front steps of Courthouses, all over the Country, just like it is allowed for those who are destroying our Country on the Radical Left.

"Free Speech and Assembly has been ‘CHILLED’ for USA SUPPORTERS. GO OUT AND PEACEFULLY PROTEST.

"RALLY BEHIND MAGA [MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN] . SAVE OUR COUNTRY! 'THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF'."

At the heart of the allegations against Trump is a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer, to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from surfacing in the final days of the race.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of such payments in internal business documents.

Trump has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue that the payments to Mr Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

He has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

It comes after a man set himself on fire outside the courthouse in protest last week.

Maxwell Azzarello, from St Augustine in Florida, could be seen kneeling with his hands behind his head as horrified onlookers screamed out on Friday.

He was standing in the designated protest area for Mr Trump's supporters when the incident occurred, the NYPD said.

He doused himself with a liquid at around 1.30pm local time before setting himself alight.

Azzarello was believed to have been burning for around three minutes as people rushed over to douse him with a fire extinguisher and bat away the flames.

Emergency responders took him away on a stretcher and he later died from his injuries.

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