From a man with a long white beard wearing half a dozen neckties and a boot on his head to a woman dressed in a polar bear costume railing about global warming, the 2012 Presidential Debate at Hofstra University injected much more into the national dialogue than just the issues tackled by President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney inside the school’s exhibition complex.
Throughout the campus, students participated in myriad events, activities and panels designed not only to continue those discussions, but introduce several other topics, ranging from critical policy issues and civil liberties to human rights, student debt and health care.
An “Issue Alley” presented a forum for students to learn and question together, thus informing impressionable minds while expanding their knowledge and imagination.
Outside along Hempstead Turnpike, hundreds of people took to the streets, carrying signs, shouting slogans, chanting messages and marching in support of a litany of charged topics, from hydrofracking and abortion to Israel, Wall Street and the perils of war.
Here are but a few snapshots from this historic Long Island showdown and the public’s response:
After crossing Hempstead Turnpike with about a half-dozen supporters and reporters in tow recording every step, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and vice presidential running mate Cheri Honkala stood at the western corner of the entrance to Hofstra University and unfurled an American flag. “Cheri and I are here on behalf of the American people,” said Stein. “We are here at the barred gates of American debates to say that we need to open up this debate and make it a full, fair and inclusive debate.” “It shouldn’t just be whether or not you have billions of dollars that determine whether or not the American people can hear about your platform,” said Honkala. “The Commission on Presidential Debates makes a mockery of democracy by conducting this fake and contrived debate,” continued Stein, describing the process as a “hijacking of our political system.” “Do you have credentials?” asked Karen O’Callaghan, director of Hofstra’s public safety team, as the women approached the school’s main entrance and attempted to walk past security. “This is a private university.” Wrapping the flag around themselves and locking arms, the two stood about halfway up the driveway, nudging themselves up against a wall of about a half-dozen Nassau County and state police. “We’re here to stand ground for the American people who have been systematically locked out of these debates for decades by the Commission on Presidential Debates,” said Stein. “Let us into the debates,” she told them before sitting down on the ground with Honkala. That prompted a Nassau County police officer to inform them they were impeding traffic and subject to arrest. They didn’t budge until police led them away, arrested for disorderly conduct, according to police. Including Stein and Honkala, there were only three arrests related to the debate, they said.
Sporting his gray handlebar beard-stache and signature gloves, failed NY gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan, founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, stood on the corner of California Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike amid a sea of demonstrators ranging from Occupy Wall Street supporters and anarchists, to socialists, Democrats and Republicans. Someone yells to him over the crowd: “The rent is too damn high!” McMillan responds: “I know, my brother, that’s why I’m going to McDonald’s in a few minutes.” “[Obama and Romney] haven’t said anything about the people so I came to represent the folk,” he told the Press, adding that despite his opposition to both major parties, he’s voting for Obama.