What to Know
- More than 100 million people are expected to watch the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at 9 p.m. Monday
- The debate, which is at Hofstra University on Long Island, is expected to draw some 10,000 protesters
- There will be unprecedented security for the event, including thousands of police officers and many road closures and detours
Police on Long Island say about 2,000 protesters have gathered outside the scene of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Nassau County police say 24 people have been arrested on mostly disorderly conduct charges. Police gave no other details on the arrests.
Interest in the presidential race has been intense, and the campaigns are expecting a record-breaking audience to watch the 90-minute televised debate.
A Super Bowl-sized audience will be watching at home: more than 100 million people may haved watched the 9 p.m. debate at Hofstra University, organizers said. If so, it’d be the largest debate viewership since the Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter debate drew 80 million viewers back in 1980.
With just 43 days left until Election Day, Clinton and Trump are hoping to come out strong and win voters early on. Many Hofstra students said they’re still undecided and that the debate will be a key factor in their decision.
[NATL] Highlights From the 2016 Campaign Trail
At one of the four university debate watch parties on campus Monday night, about 100 students gathered and waited excitedly as they waited for the candidates, chanting "USA" and Hofstra." At another watch party hosted by Sirius XM, one freshman, said she was "terrified about this debate."
Meanwhile, other groups of students were out voicing their opinions Monday morning as police set up barricades. Some went to the student center as early as 3:30 a.m. to express support for Trump or Clinton. Other students outside the center had their hands raised. They said the issue of black men being shot by police isn’t getting the attention it deserves and that they hope to raise awareness.
“I think about how black lives are not on the agenda for the debate. We’re talking about immigration, we’re talking about problems overseas, but there’s a problem right here in America with our people and I just want this to be talked about,” one student said.
"I don't want to hear about what is going on [from Trump or Clinton]," said protester Misitura Yussuf. "I want to know what they are going to do to bring about peace and equality."
Yussuf and Jacinda Wadhwani were holding a sign saying, "Protesting is patriotic." Wadhwani said her concerns as part of the Black Lives Matter movement would "probably not" be addressed during the debate.
Some of the other diverse groups protesting included Hardhats for Hillary, socialists and activists calling for a living wage and financial revolution. The protesters were confined to an area several blocks long.
Protesters also flocked to Hofstra's designated free speech zone, an area police set up across a six-lane roadway from the actual debate site. Police say the goal is to keep opposing groups from tangling with each other. Anyone who enters the free speech zone must go through a metal detector.
"We'll segregate the groups in order not to pour gasoline on a fire," said Thomas Krumpter, the acting Nassau County police commissioner. He said police will not tolerate "any violations of law, but we will do everything we can to protect people's rights for free speech."
Despite the arrests, it was nowhere near what police were estimating: Nassau County Police said they were expecting more than 10,000 protesters and that they added extra officers to the event. It is one of the biggest security details the agency has had to deal with in recent years, with thousands of police officers set to patrol.
Susan Gottehrer, director of the Nassau County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said her organization would have about 10 people monitoring the activities of police and demonstrators.
Many officers were at their posts Monday morning and rows of barricades were set up along Hempstead Turnpike and nearby roads. Traffic was rerouted and many road closures were in effect by 5 a.m. Some of those closures will last until midnight.
"We're not looking to inconvenience anyone," Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said at a news briefing Monday. "We ask for patience from residents, motorists. Some media is reporting that 74 percent of the country is going to tune in."
Police briefly cordoned off a part of campus just before 6 p.m. to investigate a report of a suspicious package at the library. They cleared it shortly afterward.
The stakes could not be higher for the candidates, with a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showing the race in a virtual dead heat ahead of the debate. In the poll, Clinton has 46 percent of the vote and Trump has 44 percent. A Bloomberg poll has the two candidates locked at 46 percent each in a head-to-head.
Among likely voters in New York, Clinton holds a 24-point lead over Trump in a two-person race, according to a NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll released Monday. Clinton gets the support of more than 90 percent of Democrats as well as 10 percent of Republicans in the poll. She also holds a five-point lead among independent voters.
While there may be more than 100 million watching on television, some 7,500 Hofstra students entered a lottery to try to see the debate live in person. Only a lucky 350 of them were picked for what has become the hottest ticket in town.
Alyssa Salati, one of the students who got the winning email, said her ticket also came with a warning.
"It says if you make a disruption you'll be thrown out, so I don't think people will go crazy," she said.
"It's just exciting to be part of campus and to be there making history," she added.
The showdown between Clinton and Trump - the first of three presidential debates - 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.
Interest in the presidential race has been intense, and the campaigns are expecting a record-breaking audience to watch the 90-minute televised debate at Hofstra.
Student Sophia Papadopoulous said the Hofstra campus has been like a circus. She said she and members of the university's debate team planned to watch the showdown at a viewing party Monday night.
"I'm looking forward to hearing them talk about policy instead of attacking one another," Papadopoulous said.
Junior Robin Pereira, a journalism major and Clinton supporter, said regardless of the debate's outcome, she felt the buzz had turned the campus into a politically active place. She said she has friends who want to vote because of it.
For Clinton, victory in November largely hinges on rallying the same young and diverse coalition that elected Barack Obama but has yet to fully embrace her.
"Hillary has recognized that she has a lot of work to do to earn people's trust," said Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager. "We think this debate is a fantastic opportunity for her to present not just what she is going to do to make a difference in people's lives, but she actually has a long history of getting this done."
Top Tri-State News Photos
Trump has tapped into deep anxieties among some Americans, particularly white, working-class voters who feel left behind in a changing economy and diversifying nation. While the real estate mogul lacks the experience Americans have traditionally sought in a commander in chief, he's banking on frustration with career politicians and disdain for Clinton to push him over the top.
[NATL] Top News Photos: Pope Visits Japan, and More
Trump was often a commanding presence in the Republican primary debates, launching biting personal attacks on his rivals. But at times, he appeared to fade into the background, especially during more technical policy discussions - something he'll be unable to do with just two candidates on stage.
Clinton has debated more than 30 times at the presidential level, including several one-on-one contests against Obama in 2008 and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016. But Monday's contest is her first presidential debate against a candidate from the opposing party.