By Zack SmithAssistant City Editor
They came downtown in large numbers Saturday for a rally insupport of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Speaking on everythingfrom corporate greed taking over politics to the environment, SanDiego Green Party members generated a feeling of excitement aboutpolitics in front of Horton Plaza.
Students from San Diego State University’s Green Party plannedtheir part in the rally carefully. Three members dressed in black andcarried large, illustrated cutouts of three presidential candidates:Bush, Gore and Nader.
Art senior Matt Grady carried the Bush caricature during therally. He said this was his first political event and it empoweredhim to support the Green Party. This is a cause he said he willpursue well after Nov. 7.
Green Party activists wove signs and speakers discussed why a votefor Nader is not a vote for Bush in front of Horton Plaza. Othersheld colorful props displaying Green Party messages such as “humanrights,” “corporate politics is greed” and environmental slogans. Therally ended with a march around Gaslamp District as Nader supporterschanted, “Who do we want? We want Nader!”
The rally began with four Green Party members who acted aspallbearers and carried a makeshift coffin through the BroadwayStreet entrance to Horton Plaza. Inside the coffin is the death ofdemocracy, they said.
Dozens of pedestrians and motorists watched the event as theywalked by. Some shouted disapproval, but many honked and cheered forNader.
The Green Party movement has seen significant support locally andnationally. Those equally skeptical of a Bush or Gore presidency saidcorporate greed and apathy have become inbred in the U.S., promptingthe desire for another voice to be heard.
SDSU Green Party member and sociology graduate student AbraWoodbyrne said both Democrats and Republicans are looking moresimilar than different.
“Corporations control both parties,” she said. “They are both 90percent the same on their platforms.”
Since becoming a key contender in the presidential elections,Nader has managed to generate support from liberal Democrats andundecided voters. Although he currently has only three percent in thepolls, many of his supporters are firmly behind him and the GreenParty.
Nader’s campaign has been the subject of skepticism for Democratsrecently, as Vice President Al Gore’s campaign has remained in avirtual tie with Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s. Critics of the GreenParty argue that Nader is stealing potential votes from Gore and mayhelp Bush’s campaign.
But Green Party members — like Nader, himself–say they are notabout to back down to help Gore’s campaign. Woodbyrne said voting forGore would be a vote to maintain the status quo of corporateinfluence running the White House.
Students For Nader, a local organization with campus affiliationsat UC San Diego and San Diego City College was one of the Green Partygroups attending the downtown rally. Coordinator Shaun McCollum, aphilosophy student at UCSD, said he was at the rally to show peoplein downtown San Diego that Nader has a lot of support.
McCollum, like others, said he doesn’t agree with critics that “avote for Nader is a vote for Bush.”
“That line is a cop-out,” he said. “It is an excuse to not startfighting for change in ‘politics as usual.’”
San Diego City College Coordinator Robert Astromsky said Democratsare using scare tactics to coerce Green and undecided voters.
“(Democrats) are trying to capitalize on fear to continue with theold ways,” Astromsky said.
Woodbyrne also said people should vote for what they want, and notjust to maintain the status quo.
“We should vote for somebody we believe in,” she said. “We believein Ralph Nader.”
Also attending the event was candidate for Encinitas City CouncilRobert Nanninga. Speaking to Green supporters, he told the crowd thatdespite Democratic pressure to back them, the Greens are not going tochange their stance.
Quoting the late author/environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau,Nanninga told what he feels people are missing in politics–thetruth.
“It takes two people to speak the truth; one to say it, and one tohear it.”