Published on Saturday, October 14, 2000 by the Associated Press
Nader Rocks The Garden
15,000 Pack New York City Super Rally
by Beth Gardiner
 
About 15,000 supporters packed a sold-out Madison Square Garden to voice their noisy enthusiasm for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, angrily criticizing his exclusion from the recent presidential debates and hailing him as a reinvigorating force for democracy.

Nader Rocks The Garden
Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader addresses a sold-out crowd at a rally at Madison Square Garden in New York, Friday, Oct. 13, 2000. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)
The mostly 20- and 30-something crowd paid $20 each for tickets to the Friday night rally, billed as "Nader Rocks the Garden." They whooped as celebrities including Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Michael Moore and Bill Murray heaped praise on Nader.

They grooved to musical performances by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco and Ben Harper, and raised the roof with a chorus of, "Let Ralph Debate."

"Welcome to the politics of joy and justice," Nader said. "We are building a historic, progressive, political movement in America; a movement for which Nov. 7th is just one stopping place."

In an hour-long speech that at times sounded like a left-leaning history lesson, Nader assailed big business for what he called "a corporate crime wave," and said the Democratic and Republican parties were controlled by corporations.

"Our country has been sold to the highest bidder," Nader said.

Concerning the environment, poverty, racism, workers' rights, defense spending and a slough of other issues, the lifelong consumer advocate accused politicians and business of failing the country.

"Corporations were designed to be our servants not our masters," he said. "We're going backwards, while the rich are becoming superrich."

It was a different kind of political fund-raiser from the swank events often hosted by Democratic and Republican candidates, with the atmosphere of a rock concert rather than a political rally.

"You're not seeing black ties," said Thomas King, 22, of White Plains. Although a Democrat, King promised to vote for Nader to send a message. "I'm not too pleased with the fact that Clinton and the new Democrats have moved so close to the center. ... This is a populist movement."

Cardboard boxes were passed through the crowd to collect donations.

Madison Square Garden
Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader raises his fists as he is introduced at a Nader 2000 rally at Madison Square Garden in New York, Friday, Oct. 13, 2000. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
Speakers assailed Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore as ideologically similar candidates in the pocket of corporate America. They said the two have similar views on trade, foreign policy and the war on drugs.

Filmmaker Moore urged the crowd not to worry that voting for Nader might help Bush by taking votes from Gore.

"The lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil," Moore said. "You don't make a decision because of fear: you make it on your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations. ... Follow your conscience. Do the right thing."

Nader, meanwhile, was inching his way toward his fund-raising goal of $5 million with small personal checks from supporters, volunteer-hosted "house parties," and rallies like the one at the Garden. He has raised $4.7 million so far.

"We're very frugal. We know how to get more out of a campaign dollar than Bush and Gore," Nader is fond of saying.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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