They Found Love in a Hopeless Place: Trump’s Arraignment
It’s Tuesday afternoon in Lower Manhattan and it’s 68 degrees and sunny. Outside the Office of the City Clerk, daffodils bloom and birds chirp as starry-eyed couples queue in the shade of some scaffolding, awaiting their turn to make one of the biggest commitments of their lives.
Tuesday is memorable for another reason, too. Directly across the street from the line for the Marriage Bureau, more than 100 people have taken over the corner, chanting, “No one is above the law” and “We demand justice now.” The demonstrators, along with the gaggle of television news crews on the opposite side are awaiting the imminent arrival of Donald Trump at New York County Criminal Court, just one block up the street, where the first U.S. president in history to face criminal charges will soon be fingerprinted, processed, and arraigned on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
Daniel Rivera, 50, and his fiancée Jessenia Saavedra, 48, have hitched a ride from Rivera’s step-brother, who is circling the neighborhood in his car since parking is scarce and too expensive. “I said I’ll call when we finish,” Rivera tells Rolling Stone, looking around at the melee. “He’ll pick me up here or… I don’t know.” His voice trails off.
Rivera met Saavedra — who is dressed in a simple white gown and holding a faux floral bouquet — when he was a regular at the restaurant where she worked. “I’d go to pick up the lunch and she’s looking at me like, ‘Hey,’” he says. “Every Friday I say, ‘Yo, give me your number, and she said, ‘Nah I’m not giving you my number.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, give me your number. I’m gonna call you!’” Last summer, she finally agreed.
As he reminisces about their meet-cute, a limo passes through the intersection, honking, and carrying a passenger in a Trump costume, who waves out the open window to the protesters on the corner, while other people on board whoop and shout. Rivera, originally from Puerto Rico, says he didn’t vote in previous elections, but contrary to the attitude on display by New Yorkers across the street, he says he likes Trump. “I have no problem with Donald Trump,” he says, then qualifies it. “My only problem is when he’s talking. The mouth. A little crazy.”
Right now, though, it’s their day, and the couple have more important things to think about. They are focused on making it to their appointment and then celebrating. The plan is dinner with family later in the evening, where they’ll feast on Chaulafan, a fried rice from Ecuador, Saavedra’s home country.
For Mads Clausen and Soumay Thomsen, the idea of getting married in New York started as a joke. Tourists from Copenhagen, Denmark, they’ve always loved New York City, and thought it would be cool to tie the knot on a family trip they’d been planning for 2023. Three months ago, they decided to do it for real. They arrived Thursday to their Airbnb in Harlem and then went to get their marriage license. “We saw the press on Friday and we asked, just kidding, ‘Is he coming?’” says Thomsen, 52. “And then they said, ‘Yes, on Tuesday.’ What [are] the odds?” Their appointment for 2:00 even lined up with Trump’s planned 2:15 arraignment. “What a crazy coincidence,” Clausen, 50, says, adding that the mobs of protests and police didn’t hamper their arrival. “We just took the subway and walked,” he says.
“It’s the kind of thing that we won’t forget now,” Thomsen adds. Neither is a fan of Trump. “People at home were calling us and saying, ‘Just stay away from the area,’ and we said, ‘Ha ha, we are…” — Clausen, already her partner of 13 years, finishes her sentence: “In the center of it.”
A helicopter buzzes overhead as Daniel Arzuaga and Christopher Crawford search for a last-minute witness for their ceremony. Arzuaga wears a polka-dotted blazer and Crawford is in gray with a window-pane plaid pattern. Both wear floral ties.They spot this Rolling Stone reporter, since I have been lingering by the courthouse steps, hoping to meet more couples. Their close friend Yannet Ramirez was going to be their witness, but she forgot her ID card and the three are in a tizzy to get the occasion back on track. We head inside to a common area with vaulted ceilings and wide, round hanging lamps — all pretty grand, in a municipal way. They sit down on a sage-colored upholstered bench that runs half the length of the space and wait for their number to be called.
Tuesday is the one-year anniversary of the day they first met in person. They’d chatted online, subtly vetting each other, for about two days before then. “It was love at first sight,” says Arzuaga, 60. Crawford, 31, had arrived in the U.S. from Chile only a month before meeting Arzuaga. He’d decided to move on a whim. “I wanted to live a new experience outside of my country,” he says. They fell in love over the following months over food and travel. Their first date was to Manolo Tapas, a Spanish restaurant in Washington Heights, and they took trips to Hudson, New York, for biking, hiking, and rock climbing. In September, they moved in together in Mott Haven in the Bronx.
The couple didn’t even realize the historic event they were joining when they stopped by Crawford’s workplace — a restaurant in SoHo — to pick up his shoes for the occasion and Crawford’s boss pointed out the overlap. Both men dislike Trump, but Arzuaga sees some symbolism in the gravity of the occasion. “No one is above the law,” he says. “Marriage is a legal thing, it’s a contract, something that you should honor and abide by. We made our promises to each other that we have to keep, so we intend on doing that.”
In a chapel, the couple promise to have and to hold each other as long as they both shall live. They exchange identical gold rings and a kiss in front of the officiant, Ramirez, and this witness. Arzuaga’s hands shake as he and Crawfold hold a bouquet of white roses, lilies, and hydrangeas between them. Afterward, they pose for pictures. “First time at 60,” he says. “Can you believe it?”