Law enforcement officers encircled the Fulton County courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, amid closed roads and traffic barriers erected to increase security ahead of a probable indictment of former US President Donald Trump.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is closing up an investigation into his 2020 election defeat in Georgia’s politically competitive state. If he is indicted, he will be charged criminally for the fourth time since March.
Normally bustling streets outside the gray stone courthouse were largely empty, devoid of food trucks that normally serve breakfast and lunch to court workers, most of whom Willis had urged to work remotely as a grand jury decision loomed.
The front of the courthouse was lined with rows of orange plastic, water-filled Jersey barriers and steel crowd control barricades. Dozens of county sheriff’s deputies were stationed out front, and other deputies and Atlanta police drove marked cars in circles around the streets nearby.
“Our goal is to have all the services we normally have open and operational but at the same time create a safe environment for those that we actually service,” Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat told a press conference last week as security measures were being phased in.
“It is part of a protective plan,” he said.
Trump, 77, the front-runner for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, was indicted a third time last week.
He pleaded not guilty to federal charges in Washington that he conspired to defraud the U.S. by preventing Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory, depriving U.S. voters of their right to a fair election.
He has lashed out against the prosecutors who have brought action against him, accusing them of political bias.
“IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social site on Friday.
Trump faces a 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) Monday deadline to respond to the U.S. government’s proposed protective order aimed at protecting witnesses and evidence in the federal case.
Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying his defeat. Five people died during and in the immediate aftermath of the violence and dozens were injured.
Samaya Lockridge, 23, a Democrat, who just moved from Tampa to Atlanta, said she hoped Atlanta would not see a replay of that violence.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that but who knew it could happen there,” she said.