While Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were getting ready to take the stage at Hofstra University last night for the second presidential debate, the streets outside the campus were lined with anarchist banners, tricorn hats, “don’t tread on me” flags, and papier-mache Reaper drones.
“We’re here to voice displeasure with how this country is going,” said Roy Haines, a 54-year-old from Wantagh, who joined the motley debate protests with a group of fellow Tea Partiers. “We need to stop taking from people who are actually earning it and giving people who feel entitled to it.”
Asked if he felt Romney was a good champion of Tea Party ideals, Haines echoed Glen Beck: “I would vote for this shoe rather than Obama,” he said. “The media is going to try to paint tonight as an Obama victory no matter what, but all Romney has to do to be successful is show up and be a visible alternative to Obama policies.”
Even so, Haines didn’t have high hopes for the content of the debate. “They’re politicians,” he said, shrugging. “Everyone knows they’re lying because their lips are moving.”
On that point at least, Haines was in agreement with Bob Shainwald, a 65-year-old Southampton resident and a member of Occupy Long Island.
“It’s a phony debate, Shainwald said. “The candidates are falling all over each other to agree with each other, not addressing what’s really going on in this country. We now have a system that’s owned and operated by and for the rich.”
Shainwald and a few dozen other members of Occupy Long Island were joined by four busloads of protesters from New York City, including contingents from Occupy Wall Street, Act Up!, Queerocracy, and Housing Works. This group made up the bulk of the protest, which at its peak included several hundred people.
The Hofstra campus was locked down to those without press passes or student IDs, so most of the protesters massed at the police barricades along the Hempstead Turnpike, across from the college’s main entrance.
Virtually none of them made use of the designated free-speech area, a desolate fenced-in parking lot blocks away, where the handful of people milling about included a group of anti-Zionist orthodox Jews and some Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.
Perpetual protest fixtures Vermin Supreme and Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High party were in attendance, as were anti-drone activists, reproductive rights advocates, anti-Zionist orthodox Jews, and pro-Zionist reproductive-rights-mocking IDF veterans.
Also, some animals: PETA sent an elephant mascot to call attention to mistreatment of circus pachyderms, and a giant penguin that at first seemed to be calling attention to the nation’s $1 trillion in student debt turned out to be shilling for a company that hawks corporate-branded online games “so students can at least get some money for school.”