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Iraq War Protesters Gather Near Hofstra On Debate Day

Patrick Whittle

Anti-war protesters and police, including officers on horseback, clash last night outside Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, where Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain were staging the third and final debate of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. Several protesters were arrested and some were injured, Agence France-Presse reported. (Photograph: Don Emmert, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images)

HEMPSTEAD, New York - A series of Iraq war protests throughout the day
culminated with the arrest of 15 people on disorderly conduct charges at the gates of Hofstra University.

The largest crowd, about 350 people, carrying signs and shouting
slogans, gathered outside the gates at 5:30 p.m. and remained for
hours. Smaller groups gathered earlier on campus, in downtown Hempstead
and at the Hempstead train station.

About 7:30 p.m. a scrum
broke out between protesters and mounted police outside the gates when
police refused to allow anti-war veterans into the debate. Mounted
police pushed a group of about 200 people away from the gates, inciting
some protesters to hurl obscenities at the police.

At least two
people were hurt in the commotion when a police horse stepped on them,
witnesses said. Ambulances responded and left with at least one person,
whose identity and condition were not available.

Nassau Police spokesman Det. Lt. Kevin Smith
said, "They were turned away from trying to enter the Hofstra north
gate. When they insisted on coming through they were placed under
arrest ... there might have been one injury. I don't believe that it
was serious and he was taken to an area hospital."

Most of those arrested were expected to be released on court appearance tickets for Nov. 10, police said.

Earlier in the day, Jean Stevens of Manhattan,
a spokeswoman for peace group Code Pink, said the anti-war protesters
were "here to bring our message to both candidates and both parties to
stop the war."

But Moe Fletcher of Island Park, whose son Jacob
died in Iraq in 2003, said he came to Hofstra to "support the troops
... and the country." Fletcher and a dozen pro-troops demonstrators got
into a few shouting matches with the peace protesters, but police said
their intervention was never needed.

The peace protesters were
members of a patchwork of anti-war groups. Geoff Millard of Washington,
D.C., a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said he favors an
"immediate withdrawal" and "full benefits for returning servicemen."

At a 3 p.m. rally on Washington Street, several speakers fired up the
crowd of 150 with impassioned speeches against the war. Some
demonstrators held signs that said "Drive Out the Bush Regime" and
"Bail Out People - Not the Banks." Some speakers were vaguely pro-Barack Obama, and almost all were vehemently anti-John McCain.

One speaker, Vietnam veteran Hugh Bruce of Brooklyn, said: "Both
political candidates are giving us the pabulum that we should be
winding down in Iraq, only to increase our involvement in Afghanistan."

Bruce added: "We better hope Barack Obama is another Franklin Delano Roosevelt, because we're gonna need one."

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