Protests at Hofstra remain civil during a heated debate
Reported by Lauren Padree and Emily Kilheeney
With the severe polarization of the 2016 presidential election, resistance to either candidate had the potential to threaten security– however, demonstrations remained relatively peaceful, calm, and undisturbed among the Hempstead community. On Monday September 26th, Hofstra University hosted the first presidential debate of the 2016 election, accepting the role just nine weeks beforehand.
Wright State University was originally set to host the debate, but dropped out due to rising security concerns.
“This is a very difficult decision, but there has been a growing crescendo of concern about what it would take to guarantee the safety and security of the campus and the community. The expense would be daunting.” University President David R. Hopkins said in a statement.
Despite concerns at Wright State, student relations at Hofstra University the day of the debate remained placid. Although students and community members alike did gather in protest of one or both of the candidates, the relationship between demonstrators and police officials remained peaceful, and, by some accounts, even friendly.
“When my group was marching near the Mcdonalds on the turnpike, we were completely surrounded by police.” Kat Smith, a sophomore at Hofstra said. “We weren’t sure what to expect from them, but they were all actually very nice. A few of them told me to enjoy my day, and one even told me that he thought what I was doing was awesome and to ‘stay politically active’.” Smith protested the day of the debate with her local Planned Parenthood affiliate, joined by nearly 200 students and community members.
“I was surprised by the amount of respect shown by others on campus,” Naledi Ushe, a Hofstra junior said. “People proudly held their posters and protesters moved freely throughout campus. It genuinely felt like a safe space.”
The largest student demonstration was organized by Peace Action Matters, an on campus group, and a community group called the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. Throughout the day, approximately 50 students at a time gathered with posters, art displays, and various forms of demonstration to advocate for issues such as reproductive freedom, immigration, climate change, and police brutality.
In regards to her interactions with public safety when organizing this protest, Natasha Rappazzo, a junior political science major, said that she had an overall pleasant experience. “Public Safety made sure we had our space clear… they were actually very helpful and very respectful. We did need permission to use the space and have our megaphones, but public safety helped us with the logistics and kept us safe and out of trouble.” Although she did comment on the hassle of going through security on her march, she said her overall experience was very respectful.
Various groups such as Planned Parenthood, Fight for 15, and third party groups were allocated different spaces around campus to protest, encouraging the groups to interact as little as possible. Protesters appeared respectful of their assigned time slots and locations, while spectators were polite and observant. The police were present but not interjecting due to the orderly manner of all participants.
It was not until the debate was about to start when 24 Jill Stein supporters were arrested due to “disorderly conduct”.
“Currently, right now, you’re blocking traffic allowing people to come in and out of the parking lot.” A police officer is reported to have told the protesters, according to Democracynow.com. The protesters refused to move, leading to their arrest.