Outside the Trump Trial: Sock Puppets, Sex Pills and Smutty Balloons

The trial of former President Donald J. Trump has drawn the eyes of the world to the dim hallways and dingy courtrooms inside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. Outside is New York at its most colorful.

Gawkers, demonstrators, politicians and hustlers gather in Collect Pond Park, a square plot of cement and trees across Centre Street from the courthouse’s front doors.

Although the crowds have been smaller than the police prepared for, each day has featured someone creating a spectacle. There have been arrests and a shocking self-immolation. Republican officials have recently used the park to praise the defendant at news conferences.

Here are voices of some characters who have traveled from near and far to see and be seen.

As an antidote to the intensity inside the courtroom, amateur puppeteers turned up with doppelgängers of the defendant early on the morning of May 9.

As she stood in line waiting to attend the court proceedings, Rose Brennan, 63, of Bernardsville, N.J., had her left hand inside Donald J. Puppet, an orange athletic sock with button eyes and yellow yarn hair.

Ms. Brennan, who is retired after working in the software industry, made her creation say: “You’re the puppet!

“He wanted to come and support his brother puppet,” Ms. Brennan said.

A few feet away sat Guy Jacobson, 60, a former lawyer from Manhattan. With him was a fuzzy stuffed pig with a red tie and the same color palette as Donald J. Puppet.

Unlike the former president, Mr. Jacobson said, “This one is cuter, less fat, more intelligent and doesn’t talk so much.”

David Webber, the self-proclaimed most successful sex-capsule salesman in Idaho, Utah and Nevada, hoped in vain to have a moment with the defendant.

“I drove all the way here to meet Trump,” shouted Mr. Webber, 68, who had traveled from his home in Las Vegas via Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.

He said on April 25 that he believed Mr. Trump would invite him to speak at rallies. Mr. Webber, who said he was a former pool shark, cocaine dealer and professional skier, thinks he is a better campaigner than the former president.

“He rambles,” Mr. Webber said. “He tells the same old jokes to the same old people. It’s getting boring.” (He added quickly that he was still Mr. Trump’s “biggest fan.”)

Mr. Webber was looking for exposure to promote his self-published memoir, and to help him sell his sex capsules, like Kinky Kong, which he said had the same ingredients as Viagra without the impurities.

“I take a couple sex capsules every week,” he said, adding that he had altered his diet accordingly.

“If you eat a lot of onions, you don’t have a heart attack,” he said. “So I eat a lot of onions every day.”

The most swaggering attendee of Mr. Trump’s trial during its second week was Greg Gold, a lawyer from Denver who was on a cross-country sightseeing tour.

“I came from Key West to here,” Mr. Gold said, handing out a gold-colored metal business card.

Mr. Gold, 54, wore a fringed leather jacket decorated with beads, a straw cowboy hat with a leather band and scuffed Western boots. Tying the outfit together were distressed jeans and a long scarf of blue and yellow, for Ukraine.

He said the trial was the biggest spectacle in town.

“This is better entertainment than ‘Les Misérables,’” he said. “And cheaper, too.”

Shortly after noon on Thursday, a U-Haul box truck stopped in front of the courthouse, and a man in a Make America Great Again hat flung out dozens of pink, phallus-shaped Mylar balloons. Many were stamped with a photograph of Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney.

The man was Dion Cini, 55, of Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood, a trial fixture who waves giant flags that say “Trump or Death.” A social media biography identifies him as a “professional provocateur.”

One of the balloons flew into Collect Pond Park, where Nadine Seiler had a different take. A house cleaner from Waldorf, Md., who has ridden buses all night once a week to demonstrate outside the trial, Ms. Seiler, 59, always wears a portrait of Mr. Bragg.

As she held one of the balloons, she said it resembled Mr. Trump. She fastened the deflating balloon to her handmade overhead sign that read “Convict Trump Already.”

That afternoon, the former president’s S.U.V. rolled by and his face passed feet from the flapping end of the cartoonishly pornographic balloon attached to Ms. Seiler’s sign. Mr. Trump grimaced, and the S.U.V. accelerated.

Those attending the trial on the morning of May 6 were greeted by the unsettling sight of two young women in porcelain masks standing motionless with a young man between them, his head apparently sewn into a burlap sack. With them were three young men in Make America Great Again hats.

When approached and questioned, one of the women would say only: “We’re the strangers.”

It turned out to be a promotion for the coming horror movie “The Strangers: Chapter 1.”

The movie’s synopsis: “After their car breaks down in an eerie small town, a young couple (Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez) are forced to spend the night in a remote cabin.”

After standing around menacingly in one of the most densely populated parts of America, the six people left together.

Shuping Lu belongs to the most dedicated group of demonstrators: Chinese expatriates, mostly women, who support Mr. Trump and have maintained their vigil every day the trial is in session.

“We found each other,” Ms. Lu, 60, said. “It feels good, because it otherwise feels very isolated.”

Ms. Lu, who moved to New York from Beijing in the early 1990s, said that she and the roughly dozen other expatriates detect an echo of communism behind Mr. Trump’s prosecution. She said she felt compassion for the former president, whom she sees as someone trying to entertain and be liked who is spurned by millions.

“When he was president and they were laughing at him I thought: Why do you have to be so hard on him? He’s trying to please you, like a little kid,” said Ms. Lu, who first voted for Mr. Trump in 2020. “He wants to be affirmed.”

She and the others stand in Collect Pond Park, sharing chocolates and hard-boiled eggs. They wave flags that say “Trump Won” and wear pink hats that say “Women for Trump.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the group’s members gathered along Worth Street to cheer for Mr. Trump’s departing motorcade from behind a new large sign they had held a fund-raiser to buy. It read, “Chinese Americans Fight for Trump.”

Dressed stylishly and standing with her mouth closed, Sylvia Achee let her handbag-shaped portable speaker communicate her message.

From it pulsed the song “Liars Must Go,” by D-Achee, her husband. He was so upset about Mr. Trump’s election in 2016 that he wrote the song, a mid-tempo track with a chorus that rhymes “45th POTUS” and “bogus.”

“Hopefully it’ll embed in people’s souls,” explained Ms. Achee, who works in advertising. “Music can creep up on you. We want this to grow.”

Standing near her one morning in late April was Joe Reilly, 56, a disabled former construction worker who lives in Manhattan. Mr. Reilly, who was there with his dog, Leroy, wore a Make America Great Again hat and waved a large “Trump or Death” flag.

Perhaps without knowing it, he waved it in time to Ms. Achee’s music.

Kaja Andric contributed reporting.

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