Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was escorted off Hofstra University’s campus just hours before the first presidential debate of the general election. The escort was part of the Commission on Presidential Debates’ exclusion of her campaign from the debate.
At a demonstration and press conference outside the university after she was removed, Stein returned and declared, “We have a right to know who we can vote for,” and condemned the debate that will air as a “spectacle” and a “disgrace.” She claimed it would “increase the appetite for the American voter for a true politics of integrity.”
An “Occupy The Debates” march and action including supporters took off shortly after.
Earlier in the afternoon, according to the Stein campaign, the presidential candidate was on her way to do an interview for MSNBC. Hofstra security and Nassau County police stopped her. Two police SUVs arrived. Officers asked MSNBC for their credentials, and in fact, the campaign said the network had credentials for Stein.
Stein did an impromptu press conference as the situation unfolded. The police then escorted her off campus, and she was instructed “not to do any more press.”
The presidential candidate was loaded into a van. It was stopped twice before the van made it off the university campus. At one point, the Nassau deputy police chief suggested Stein was “not public enemy number one.”
The Stein campaign announced it had worked out a plan with Twitter to help her participate in the debate in real time. Though she will still not be on the stage, she will livestream answers to questions through her Twitter account with Periscope and on Facebook Live.
“At a time when ownership of most major traditional media outlets has been consolidated into fewer and fewer hands — and presidential debates are controlled by a private corporation supported by the Democrats and Republicans — social media has become increasingly important as a vehicle to expand democracy through open dialogue,” her campaign declared in a press statement.
“These online initiatives on debate night will ensure that Jill Stein reaches the largest audience reached by a third-party candidate since Ross Perot was included in the debates in 1992.”
What happened to Stein before the debate is all owed to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which Theresa Amato described in her book, “Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny,” as a “private entity, controlled by the two major parties, funded by corporate interests,” and added, “It acts as the gatekeeper to the candidates for the millions of Americans, who view each presidential campaign.”
It was founded by Paul G. Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, two lobbyists for pharmaceutical and gaming interests. The private entity prides itself on being a bipartisan organization that represents the Democrats and Republicans to the detriment of independent candidates and candidates from other parties.
In 2012, Jill Stein and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested and charged with trespassing. The arrest was caught on video, and the arrest was part of the CPD’s conscious effort to prevent presidential candidates excluded from being anywhere near the venue.
Ralph Nader was threatened with arrest at the University of Massachusetts in 2000, when he was the Green Party presidential candidate. He had a ticket to watch the debate in the Lipke Auditorium that was setup as an overflow space.
CPD did not have control over this space but had control over the Clark Center where the debate would take place, according to Amato.
An independently contracted security agent named John Vezeris showed up and then informed a police sergeant. That sergeant showed up to threaten Nader with arrest if he did not leave. Part of the threat was intended to prevent him from interacting with press to overshadow the debate.
“This is a political exclusion,” Nader told the police sergeant. “I’m not a security risk. I’m not being disruptive. This is a political exclusion.”
“You should not be misused. The authority of the state of Massachusetts should not be misused for a political exclusion of a presidential candidate, who has a ticket to be in Lipke Auditorium to watch the debate on remote television and who has an official invitation from Fox News.”
The mere presence of excluded presidential candidates near the vicinity of the site of debates greatly bothers the CPD because they recognize an increasing number of people each election cycle oppose their authority over the debates and want presidential candidates on a majority of state ballots to be included.
Jill Stein is on the ballot in 45 states, and yet millions of Americans may not realize she is running tonight because the CPD excluded her campaign once again.
As a reminder of how the CPD acts against democracy, watch Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala’s arrest in 2012:
And when Nader was threatened with arrest in 2000: