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In Miami, the Only Violence From Trump Supporters Was Rhetorical

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Twice in recent months, allies of former President Donald J. Trump have used violent language to criticize the criminal charges brought against him, calling for vengeance and encouraging Mr. Trump’s supporters to respond to the indictments as though they were acts of war.

Both times — first in April in Manhattan and then on Tuesday in Miami — police and civic leaders raised concerns that the angry rhetoric could lead to violent protests when Mr. Trump appeared in court. Both times, in both cities, the crowds that actually showed up for Mr. Trump were relatively tame and fairly small.

But just because the aggressive words did not result in aggressive actions hardly meant they were not corrosive to the fabric or the practice of democracy, scholars of political violence said.

They did, however, note that after the cataclysmic events of Jan. 6, 2021, many Trump supporters have become more reluctant to act on statements by Mr. Trump’s allies suggesting that a second American Revolution might be coming or calling for civil war.

Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow in the Democracy, Conflict and Governance Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointed to several reasons for that — even in the face of language of the sort used last week by Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona. In a Twitter post on Friday, referring to Mr. Trump’s indictment on charges of obstruction and mishandling classified documents, Mr. Biggs wrote bluntly, “Eye for an eye.”

One reason for the absence of conflict in Miami, Ms. Kleinfeld wrote in an email, was that the prosecutions of Jan. 6 protesters — which now amount to more than 1,000 criminal cases — have had “a real deterrent effect” on those who might have once considered violence. She also said that many people remain “angry at Trump for failing to provide monetary support for those jailed on his behalf after Jan. 6.”

Other people, Ms. Kleinfeld went on, seemed to have stayed away from pro-Trump protests, including those this week, fearing that they might become entrapped in what they believe to be “false flag operations” by the F.B.I.

There was certainly no shortage of belligerent language in the days leading up to Mr. Trump’s arraignment in Miami.

On Instagram, his eldest son’s fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle, posted a photo of the former president with the words, “Retribution is coming,” all in capital letters.

In Georgia, at the Republican state convention, Kari Lake, who refused to concede the Arizona election for governor in 2022 and who is an ardent defender of Mr. Trump, emphasized that many of Mr. Trump’s supporters owned guns.

Roger J. Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s longtime political adviser, called for protests — though he cautioned that they should be peaceful. A Miami chapter of the Proud Boys long associated with Mr. Stone echoed the invitation, posting a flier on its Telegram page last week advertising an event at the federal courthouse on Tuesday morning.

But in the end, like many others, the Proud Boys did not show up, suggesting that Mr. Trump’s grip on the organization may have loosened.

After the violence at the Capitol, some high-ranking Proud Boys disavowed Mr. Trump altogether, expressing bitterness at him for having left them standing on a limb. After all, scores of Proud Boys were ultimately charged or questioned in the Justice Department’s vast investigation of the Capitol attack. And just last month, four of the group’s top leaders — including its former chairman, Enrique Tarrio — were convicted of seditious conspiracy.

While it is possible the Proud Boys, who love to troll the media, never intended to take part in a protest in Miami, it is also possible the group has simply had enough of supporting Mr. Trump and suffering the consequences.

Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago who specializes in political violence, offered another reason that the Miami protests seemed to fizzle: Mr. Trump’s own actions before his arraignment were far less incendiary than those he took before Jan. 6.

While Mr. Trump posted the date and location of his court appearance on Tuesday on social media, he did not explicitly summon his supporters to a “wild” protest in Washington as he did before Jan. 6. Nor did he appear before his arraignment in Miami and urge his followers to “fight like hell” or undertake anything resembling the march on the Capitol he called for just before the building was attacked.

Moreover, the efforts to organize the protest in Miami essentially took place over the course of a weekend — between Mr. Trump’s indictment on Thursday and his initial court appearance five days later.

In the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, by contrast, teams of professional organizers staged two pro-Trump rallies in Washington that brought tens of thousands of people into the streets over the span of two months, creating momentum for what followed. Among those who attended the events — one in November 2020 and the second in December — were large contingents from the Proud Boys and another far-right group, the Oath Keepers militia.

“What happened before Jan. 6 as opposed to what happened last week,” Mr. Pape said, “was so much more worrisome.”

Indeed, Ms. Kleinfeld said that elected officials or figures in the media who use violent language should be called out for their statements, but that a sense of balance was needed so critics were not crying wolf about events that did not present a genuine peril.

“Americans won’t believe real threats,” she said, “if false ones are treated as serious.”

Alan Feuer covers extremism and political violence. He joined The Times in 1999. @alanfeuer

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