Not a banner day for our beloved democracy when a legitimate candidate for President of the United States is arrested simply for practicing her right to free speech.
But so it goes...
Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the Green Party presidential and vice-presidential nominees, were just forcibly prevented from entering the grounds of tonight's presidential debate and arrested by local police.
You can watch the video here.
Stein and Honkala, who'll appear on 85 percent of ballots nationwide in the upcoming election, were detained by the cops when they tried to enter the grounds of Hofstra University where the debate is scheduled to take place in a couple of hours.
They're currently still in police custody.
Stein and Honkala walked toward the campus with supporters earlier today, then held an impromptu press conference in which Stein said, "We are here to bring the courage of those excluded from our politics to this mock debate, this mockery of democracy."
When they turned and began walking onto the debate grounds, police physically stopped them and pushed them back. The two women sat down and the police arrested them, saying that Stein and Honkala would be charged with "obstructing traffic," a charge Jill Stein for President staffer and lawyer Alex Howard calls "bogus."
There was no through-traffic visible at any time during the incident, he says.
In an interview this afternoon, Ben Manski, the Green Party ticket's campaign manager, told me he thinks the arrest is "outrageous. The reality is that Jill and Cheri pose a threat to no one except for the political establishment. The Commission on Presidential Debates (organizers of tonight's debate) is an illegitimate institution established to prevent the American people from having access to all a qualified candidates. It is intended to limit our politics to pre-selected options."
Manski adds that "the positive thing about this election is that the movement for more open and fair debates is gaining momentum, we're seeing a growing section of the population not only becoming more aware of this but speaking out against controlled debates, which do not serve the American people."
Several petitions calling for more open debates have also been posted on Change.org, which I wrote about recently for Newsweek/The Daily Beast.
And more than 14,000 people have signed a statement calling on the Commission on Presidential Debates to change its criteria.
The statement reads, "The debates must include every candidate who is on enough ballots to win the White House and who has demonstrated a minimal level of support -- meaning either 1% of the vote in a credible national poll, or qualification for federal matching funds, or both. In 2012, the Green and Libertarian party candidates both meet all of these criteria and are both contenders for the presidency. These debates belong to the people, not the politicians or Wall Street."
There've been protests all over the country about making these debates more inclusive. They've taken place in Boston, home of Mitt Romney's headquarters, and in Denver and Kentucky, the sites of the two recent presidential and vice presidential debates.
Assuming she gets out of jail, Stein will be participating in several upcoming debates, including the following:
Thursday, October 18 -- The Independent Voter Network debate between Stein and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party can be viewed live on October 18, 2012 beginning at 7:00 PM EST on http://ivn.us/, or on IVN.us' Google+ and YouTube page.
Monday, October 22 -- Time TBA: Democracy Now continues its "Expanding the Debate" series with a live broadcast during the third presidential debate with real-time responses from Stein and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson from the Justice Party.
Thursday, October 23 & Tuesday October 30 -- Free and Equal Election's Alternative Debate will be available live online, streaming from http://freeandequal.org/live on Oct. 23 and Oct 30 at 9:00 PM EST. This debate will include Stein, Johnson, Anderson, and Virgil Goode from the Constitution Party.