Pics & Quips: Hofstra Debate Protests Short On Guidos, Full of LaRouchebags, Obama Fluffers & Hippie Evangelicals


I wasn't supposed to cover the Hofstra debate, or even the protests outside. But a family emergency recently summoned me back to my native Long Island, so I broke away for about five hours yesterday to sample the madness. It felt good to be home; despite all of the warranted abuse that the Gold Coast gets for harboring guidos, the place really is a magical bourgeois paradise, and a phenomenal place to people watch.

As was clear in the national coverage that obsessed over the wealth in Nassau County, outsiders don't really get Long Island. It's not exclusively for billionaires and Buttafuccos; rather the stretch also claims blue collar cats like Billy Joel, and hood legends like Prodigy from Mobb Deep, the latter of whom was raised in the same town where last night's debate took place. Next to the glitz, Nassau has some of the poorest communities in New York state.

Because of those disparate groups, the same Long Island that's best known for deplorable, self-involved shoppers actually produced an impressive show of demonstrators. Hours before the debate, in excess of 200 heads showed up across Hempstead Turnpike from Hofstra, and that was before Occupy the East End and Occupy Long Island arrived flanked by their Wall Street allies. But first . . .

I was on the ground for less than five minutes when two Nassau cops stopped and frisked a young man with a dark complexion. He was about 50 yards outside of the designated protest zone – not far from where America's first black president was about to debate – and bothering no one. Officers let him go after their search yielded nothing – and after representatives from the NYCLU walked up.

Other than that assault on civil liberties, the most offensive sight last night was probably a Romney guy's pic of a dead fetus, followed by the army of brain-dead partisans. Having chased protest movements so fervently in recent years, I often forget that some people – most people – still stand with murderous big party pols who pocket money from the bloody banks. But there they were, cheesy inoffensive signs and all.

The scene at Hofstra was hardly a radical picnic. For one, in order to gain access to the allotted picket pen, people had to have their bags searched. So while the pink-clad Planned Parenthood parade and other Obama cheerleaders happily entered the cage, most people who came to hoot and holler did so about two blocks away – and eight traffic lanes across – from the main Hofstra entrance.

Disappointingly, I couldn't find any Long Islanders who hold grudges about Obama's so-called tanning tax, which was famously maligned by Snooki some time ago. Still the pandemonium was action-packed, with such magnificent annoyances as Catholics, Tea Partiers, and the Torah Jews against Zionism in attendance. The LaRouche band was also rolling thick, their front man resembling a Young Republican on thorazine.

In a highlight moment, at around 5pm, some former employees of Bain Capital-backed companies – Dunkin' Donuts, Outback, you name it – gave impassioned speeches that got Obama fans wet in the pants. But while their effort was indeed noble, they should stop calling their caravan the “Bain Bus.” I know that Romney's former enterprise screwed tons of people, but if they're not aiming for an inappropriate “Bang Bus” pun, then the two simply sound too much alike.

In the mess of agenda items on display, the most off-the-wall fascinating came from a group called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. They're not a comedy troupe – I checked – but rather an anomalous sect of college students who fear both Jesus and global warming. YECA activist Curtis Witek says that unlike older Evangelicals who think we're all going to burn, he believes that god is restoring the world. Sounds good to me.

The Tea Partiers weren't as kind. After berating a group of Sudanese peace crusaders who were speaking in the designated zone, about two dozen patriots walked their flags down Hempstead Turnpike to scold passing cars. For about an hour, they were the loudest show in town – overpowering thrice as many Obama boosters on the same corner – until more than 100 Occupiers showed up to urinate in their kettle.

Of course, the aforementioned spectacles were all secondary to yesterday's big protest moment – the arrest of Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate, anti-poverty activist Cheri Honkala. In news that's now beginning to echo past the far-left side of the internet, they were jailed for trying to enter the arena, and subsequently handcuffed in isolation for hours. In America, that's how we treat third-party candidates who seek a level debating field.

Afterwards, I was actually surprised that most local news outlets didn't run the Stein story – probably because I'd just met more progressives in a few hours than I ever did in my entire 18 years on Long Island. But they largely and lazily ignored it, leading me to believe that the national media has every right to say what it does about where I'm from – blanket overstatements and all. The place really is an enclave for rich assholes. Judging by last night, its poor people are invisible.

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