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Protests turn violent outside Hofstra

By Emily Ngo

emily.ngo@am-ny.com

The action at Wednesday's third and final presidential debate began long before the candidates took their places on the stage.

The scene outside Hofstra University was more reminiscent of a 1970s-era war protest than the peaceful rallies of late. What began as a group of 50 people made up of various pro-Barack Obama groups turned into a mass of more than 300 shouting at riot police. They first danced to drums and chanted "money for health and education, not war and occupation." The chant at the evening's end, however, was directed at police: "Shame, shame, shame."

Among the protesting groups were Planned Parenthood, Code Pink and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The war veterans organization announced via bullhorn it would "peacefully approach the police line" because questions it submitted to Obama and rival John McCain were unanswered. After they marched up to Hofstra's entrance, they were buffered by riot police on horseback. Six were arrested, according to Iraq Veterans Against the War.

"They were arrested for trying to bring grassroots democracy to America," said Jabar McGritter, a Black Hawk operator who was in Iraq for a 2005 tour. "I haven't seen violence like this since Iraq."

McGritter was referencing the eventual running over of some protesters by Hempstead police's horses. At least two victims were taken away by an ambulance.

"One guy went crazy with his horse," said Eric Allen, 24, a New York film student who caught much of the chaos on tape. "And the police [on foot] were just cracking people, cracking people with their batons."

The rallies outside the location where Obama and McCain traded barbs about the economy were not meant to escalate, said a Code PInk member.

"We're here to represent what America wants, and what America wants is peace," said Dana Bolicki, a 28-year-old East Village resident who works with Code Pink.

The Code Pink spokeswoman echoed Bolicki's sentiments. Jean Stevens said of the people speaking up against the war: "This is where we see democracy in action."

Tags: debates , emily ngo

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