Hofstra debate protesters: Focus on gun violence, incarceration

Young students rally outside Hofstra University the day Young students rally outside Hofstra University the day before the second presidential debate to take place on campus. (Oct. 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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About two dozen people carrying signs in front of a Hofstra University entrance Monday had a message for President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney: Gun violence and mass incarceration are among the most ignored issues of the 2012 election.

The group, which included several school children, is hoping to make the candidates, who are scheduled to debate at the university in Hempstead Tuesday, more aware, said the Rev. Johnny Youngblood, a Brooklyn minister.

"We want them to at least consider these as issues," said Youngblood, whose Mount Pisgah Baptist Church and United We Stand USA organized the protest.

"This is not what's talked about at all," he said. "Our communities are deteriorating from the inside."

Youngblood and other supporters said gun violence, like the 12 shooting deaths in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July -- which also injured 58 others -- and a growing prison population that incarcerates too many young black and Latino men and women for minor offenses need more discussion.

Maria Roach, a senior fellow with the New Organizing Institute, a Washington, D.C., group, and others walked with signs reading "Don't Incarcerate. Educate" and "Open a school. Close a Prison." They walked in front of the school's entrance across the street from California Avenue.

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Security for Tuesday's showdown at Hofstra will be even tighter than in 2008, the last time the school hosted a presidential debate, officials said.

Unlike in 2008, a sitting president will be on campus, and officials point out that the emergence of groups that didn't exist in 2008, from the left-leaning Occupy Wall Street to the right-wing tea party, could mean an increase in the number of political protests.

Just like last time, Nassau taxpayers will be on the hook for what's estimated to exceed $600,000 in county police overtime because no one reimburses local municipalities for security costs.

Detectives, patrolmen, emergency-services and special operations officers, and hazardous-materials experts will work in and around the debate site, Hofstra's David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex.

With Gary Dymski and Matthew Chayes

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