HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Protesters gathered outside Hofstra University Monday — and dozens were arrested — ahead of the first presidential debate ahead of the 2016 election.
As of 8 p.m., Nassau County police confirmed that 24 people had been arrested. No charges had been filed, but disorderly conduct charges were expected.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was not arrested, but she was escorted off the campus after a news conference when she was unable to provide proper credentials, police said.
Meanwhile, as CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the heart of Nassau county was basically on lockdown Monday. The entire perimeter was closed, roads were shut down, parking was banned, and protesters funneled in through the security checkpoints.
As early as 6 p.m., several hundred protesters were already on the scene, and police estimated that as many as 10,000 could be coming.
Hofstra and the Uniondale community have been through such things before, but never to this extent.
More than 1,000 uniformed officers were on the scene in police tactical gear and on horseback. Police helicopters and a high-tech security balloon were also be deployed, allowing for surveillance footage to be fed to security on the ground, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.
Monday marked the third time a presidential debate was held at Hofstra. But Nassau County police said the changing world demands unprecedented security and intelligence.
“We have had a number of leads, we’ve chased them all down, and as we said earlier, there are no credible threats directed toward the free speech area or the debate, as a whole” said Nassau County police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter.
Even so, officials urged attendees to be on alert.
“No tip is too small,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. “Please continue to provide that. ‘See something, say something’ really is very, very effective.”
Excitement about the debate was mixed with anxiety late Monday afternoon.
“Well it’s never been like this before,” Chris Vaccacio, manager of Coliseum Deli, said. “They’ve never shut down the streets, they told us to be out by 11 o’clock, won’t be able to get our cars out. They said there’s going to be around 10,000 protesters — so we’re going to be pulling down the gates and securing the building.”
One auto shop owner noticed public garbage pails in front of his business had not been cleared.
“I have my dumpster locked in back, but this is a little unsettling right here,” said auto shop owner John Motise.
By the late afternoon, the pails were gone. Steel fencing surrounded the campus, and large trucks and concrete barriers blocked all entry points. Busy Hempstead Turnpike has been turned into a free speech zone.
Police said they have a goal of keeping opposing groups from tangling with each other.
Protesters will be screened ahead of the event for items like ammunition and other weapons, back packs, drones, selfie sticks, pepper spray, laser pointers and other contraband. Pets are prohibited with the exception of service or guide dogs.
Krumpter said police will not tolerate any violations of law, but will do everything they can to protect people’s rights for free speech.
“Safety and security is the top priority and nothing will be compromised,” Krumpter said.
The protesters themselves said it is important to turn out.
“This is a really important election,” said Bruce Fealk of Detroit. “In our opinion, Donald Trump is in no way qualified to be president of the United States. I really feel like we could be provoked into World War III with a tweet.”
“My message is Hillary’s a disaster; that if we did what she did, we’d be in jail,” said Bob Kunst of Miami.
A large contingent of protesters who support Green Party candidate Jill Stein arrived well ahead of time, while Black Lives Matter protesters arrived on buses.
The high-stakes Monday night showdown is the first of three presidential debates. It comes as both candidates are viewed negatively by large numbers of Americans, with Democrat Clinton facing questions about her trustworthiness and Republican Trump struggling to convince many voters that he has the temperament and policy depth to be president.
The debate could be the most watched in history. Hofstra got the debate when Wright State University in Ohio pulled out.
The estimated cost of policing the event for the Nassau department is nearly $2 million.
Here is a full list of road closures and advisories, provided by Nassau County officials.
- Charles Lindberg Boulevard and Earle Ovington Boulevard will be closed from 5 a.m. until midnight Sept. 26.
- Beginning at 11:30 a.m., lane closures will take effect as follows:
- Hempstead Turnpike will be closed between Oak Street and Merrick Avenue by Eisenhower Park.
- Oak Street from Hempstead Turnpike, to Westbury Boulevard will be closed to traffic.
- Lawrence Street in Uniondale will run northboud only between Hempstead Turnpike and Westbury Boluevard.
- Courtenay Road in Hempstead will run southbound only between Hempstead Turnpike and Front Street.
- Manor Parkway, Marvin Avenue, Walton Avenue, Gilroy Avenue and Cunningham Avenue will run one way for one block southbound from Hempstead Turnpike.
- Drivers will not be allowed to access Hempstead Turnpike from Front Street.
- No street parking will be permitted on Lawrence Street and Courtenay Road.
Nassau County Police is asking all commuters to find alternate routes during this time.
Stay with CBSNewYork.com through the day for full debate coverage.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)