News / World

Outside Las Vegas debate arena, a buzz of bands, protests

LAS VEGAS — It was anything but quiet outside the college campus in Las Vegas that was the site for the final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Journalists, marching bands and supporters and protesters of all stripes assembled under sunny skies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where the school colours of scarlet and grey dominated, and the talk was of blue and red politics.

Media outlets went live on air, speculating on the candidates' debate strategy and decorum. Uniformed police from Las Vegas and surrounding cities bunched in groups of six and eight in the campus quad, chatting with each other. Most had riot-gear packs strapped to their thighs.

UNLV graduate student Sparkle Payne took the scene in stride as she crossed campus Wednesday after psychology class.

Payne didn't plan to attend the event but wanted "everyone to tune in" to see Trump's antics.

"This is the biggest, most controversial debate," Payne said. "It's huge."

Rives Grogan said he has been to all three presidential debate sites. He was one of about 20 gathered in a sunbaked parking lot designated a "public expression area."

The site was a long walk from the quad around fences and barricades, including sand-colored steel shipping crates stacked two stories tall, and it was watched by about 20 security guards who stood conspicuous in lime-green shirts. But it was at least within sight of the debate venue — if not earshot.

Grogan, 51, held a sign showing his opposition to abortion and shouted over another protester with a bullhorn talking about solar energy.

"I'm trying to encourage America to vote for Trump and reject Hillary Clinton," he said, describing himself as a minister to people who are homeless and addicted and as a part-time pizza delivery man. "God is going to judge this nation."

Perhaps the most visible protest of the day happened further away from campus.

Several taco trucks lined up outside the Trump Hotel, about three miles from UNLV and just off the Las Vegas Strip. The food trucks joined Grammy Award-winning band Los Tigres Del Norte, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, progressive groups and union members to rally against the GOP candidate and to protest a fight over organizing the hotel's workforce.

In September, Marco Gutierrez, founder of the group Latinos for Trump, said if something was not done about his own "very dominant" culture, "you're going to have taco trucks on every corner."

A day earlier, the trucks fanned out across the city to register voters.

Commercial jets roared overhead as Richard McCaslin pedaled a yellow, four-wheeled bike to join about eight people standing on a corner of a shut-down street between the McCarran International Airport and the Thomas & Mack Center, the debate site.

His vehicle was festooned with signs calling for an end to global tyranny and saying Republican and Democrat criminals won't save America. The 52-year-old resident of Pahrump, Nevada, wore a blue denim outfit decked out with red and white piping and the words "phantom patriot" stitched to the jacket.

"The entire system is corrupt, designed to conquer the American people. They fall for it every four years," McCaslin said. "Four people on the ballot, but only two on that stage."

McCaslin said he favoured Green Party candidate Jill Stein for president.

"She's the only sane choice of the four," he said.