Nader's New Haven Visit a Grassroots Success

by Tony Santini
May 18, 2000

May 17th, 2000 turned out to be an incredibly triumphant day for the New Haven Greens. Presidential candidate Ralph Nader made a very successful campaign stop in New Haven. It was well covered in the local media and well attended by supporters and the curious alike.

First, he meet with a group of local business owners who will likely be squeezed out of their livelihoods by Mayor DeStefano's proposed corporate handout - the Long Wharf Galleria mall. These are people who would usually vote Republican, but welcome Ralph’s stand against corporate welfare. These family business people went out of their way to make Ralph feel very welcome.

Next a walk down Chapel Street with the business people, local media in tow, as he was greeted by even more supportive local merchants. There was even a spontaneous greeting by a passerby who yelled out "Hey, Ralph Nader!". His procession made its way to the main event at the Yale Co-op bookstore. The usually funky/academic Co-op took on the air of a real festival, bedecked in red, white, and blue (by me) and green balloons attached to the book stacks. Adding to the atmosphere, were activists from many local progressive groups, who were drawn to the event in order to pass out their own literature and petitions. Our three tables inside and outside of the Co-op were overflowing with bumper stickers, pins, leaflets, t-shirts, lawn signs, and volunteers who had been out all day passing out leaflets around town (I drove the Snack mobile around town bringing juice, iced tea, energy bars, junk food, and more leaflets to our people in the streets). Matt, the guitarist from local band Hubinger St., played his guitar.

As Nader entered the Co-op with his entourage, they were greeted by over 300 enthusiastic supporters, waving signs and giving him a standing ovation. The emcee kept the crowd's energy up and brought on 2 local speakers (a handicapped-rights advocate and an anti-mall activist). Next CT campaign chairman, Aaron Tabackman, whipped the crowed up as he introduced "true American hero", Ralph Nader. Nader delivered another inspirational, informative, and entertaining speech. We were lucky enough for a short Q&A afterwards (most impressive were several "If you were president, what would you do about...?" sorts of questions - showing people take him seriously as a candidate and as a potential president). Then some more handshaking and he had to rush off to a fundraiser at the Manhattan apartment of celebrity supporter Paul Newman (I hear he's a real good cook). Later some of us went off to BAR on Crown Street for some excellent pizza and to toast our success with brewery's excellent beer (in copious quantities)

Many thanks must go to the CT Cities Association for lending us their leader, John Isaacs (owner of downtown shoe store Barrie, Ltd. - in his family for three generations) and Christel Manning, to help in planning and promoting the New Haven event (John is actually a registered Republican, but both the CTCA and CTGreens oppose the mayor's proposed mega-mall). Pete Ellner from the Green Party made a virtual second job of planning and organizing the event. And of course, thanks to the many Green Party volunteers who were out as early as 7am setting up the stage and sound system, decorating, leafleting, postering, manning the tables, and generally showing what a bunch of populists on a shoestring budget are capable of!

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