Politics and Protest: Scenes From the 2012 Hofstra Debate


Katie Fenton, an undecided voter who was one of the 10 audience members whose questions were chosen by CNN’s debate moderator Candy Crowley, tells the Press her experience was “absolutely surreal.” “We were a legitimate, integral part of the democratic process and as a young woman that felt very empowering and extraordinary,” she says, adding that she’s undecided no longer after witnessing the candidates in action. “I truly believe it was a close race, though I would have to concede that President Obama took it.”



Four years ago Dr. Sara Viessman stood on Hempstead Turnpike with her dad. This year she stood alone, holding his “Rednecks for Obama” banner, signed by both President Obama and Bill Clinton, in his memory. Originally from Missouri, she’d traveled from Pennsylvania, and her voice sounded a bit like Sarah Palin. “There are a lot of haters,” she told the Press. “My dad was half redneck, so I guess that makes me one-quarter redneck first removed!” As a pediatrician, she supports Obamacare, noting that nothing is perfect. Outside the debate, Viessman was supporting “equal pay for women” and helping make “rural people not afraid to vote for a black man.”


A middle-aged man wearing jeans and Converse sneakers stood at the corner of California Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike with two signs and yelled about abortion for hours on end. His first sign showed a bloody, dead fetus, while the second read “Jesus loves all babies” on one side and “Support Romney” on the other. Terri Scofield of Occupy Mastic-Shirley, carrying a “Prosecute the banksters” sign, walked straight up to him and demanded: “Show me your uterus!” “Just because you have a uterus, doesn’t mean you can kill a baby girl with a uterus,” he blasted. “Either you get a uterus or you go to hell!” she screamed in his face. “Repent your foul soul,” he responded. Another protester asked him: “What about when drones kill babies?” The man paused, stammered and finally stated: “But that’s an accident. Abortion is murder!” Later, a parade of about 150 Planned Parenthood supporters, carrying signs reading “Don’t Take Away My Breast Exams,” among others, marched past in pink shirts chanting, “Our bodies, our lives.” “What about the baby’s body?” the man yelled frantically, trying to dodge in between them. “It’s time to take women’s reproductive health out of the political arena and into the healthcare arena where it belongs,” Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York President M. Tracey Brooks said. “It is not a political football.” Planned Parenthood Nassau County Action Fund President and CEO JoAnn D. Smith stressed a woman’s access to contraception also had a significant impact on women’s economic situation, saying: “When women receive a full range of healthcare, they flourish, their family flourishes and their community flourishes.” The man continued his rants long after the women had gone, sometimes sparking shouting matches between him and a group of anti-drone strike protesters who were rallying on the same corner.

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