HEMPSTEAD, NY (PIX11)—The Green Party presidential candidate and her running mate were stopped and arrested Tuesday afternoon as they tried to enter the grounds of the presidential debate site in Hempstead, N.Y., in a protest over debate rules that barred them from taking part in the forum.
Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively, were both charged with disorderly conduct, a Nassau County Police Department spokesman said. As of 8 p.m. EDT, both were still in custody, said their campaign manager Ben Manski.
“Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala went to the debate site today to confront the Commission on Presidential Debates and also to gain access to the grounds so that they could speak with the media there and bear witness to the mockery that is the debate taking place tonight,” Mr. Manski said in an interview.
A video of the incident posted on the Green Party website showed uniformed police blocking the two women as they tried to enter the Hofstra University campus, where the debate is being held.
The video shows them sitting down with an American flag draped over their laps. A policeman warned that they were blocking traffic and told them to move. They did not comply, and police were seen leading them away.
The Green Party candidates do not meet at least one of the criteria to participate in the debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates requires that candidates average at least 15% in the five largest national polls, said Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the commission. A news release sent Tuesday by Ms. Stein’s campaign said the Green Party ticket had polled between 2% and 3% in four consecutive national surveys.
“Our attitude has always been since we started the debate commission that we don’t invite people to participate in the debates so that they can show that they’re competitive candidates,” Mr. Fahrenkopf said in an interview. “We only invite people to debate who’ve already shown that they’re competitive candidates.”
An aide to Ms. Honkala said he expected the two women to be released from custody as early as Tuesday night.
“This is clearly a red herring,” said Alex Howard. “They were not being disorderly. It was simply an attempt to exercise free speech and to participate in the debate.”