Nader rips away at corporate giants
By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA -- "People Have the Power Rally" stated the signs Saturday night outside the University of South Florida's Sun Dome.
What's the power?
"Numbers, cohesion and the will," said Danny Buckley, a 57-year-old from Dunedin.
"Our power is to feed people, not to create more weapons," said Russell Shurtz, a senior, as he gestured to a sign for the group "Food Not Bombs" behind him. In front of him, a plate of peanut butter carob chip cookies waited to nourish hungry activists.
The definitive answer came from Ralph Nader, the Green Party's 2000 presidential candidate and the rally's cult hero.
"The power is organizing an existing, cohesive group of the American people that will form a movement to achieve social change," Nader said.
Some 5,000 activists and 120 local civic groups on Saturday night heard Nader repeat his message from the 2000 campaign: Big corporations and big money have corrupted America.
"(People) don't want to see a dollar sign on every door," said Nader at a news conference. "They don't want to see corporations so dominant that everything is for sale."
Author and film producer Michael Moore and 1970s rocker Patti Smith joined Nader for the eighth of the so-called "super rallies," which have been held around the country by Nader's newest organization, Democracy Rising.
The groups that set up information booths and handed out fliers included the Sierra Club, Voices of Compassion for Animal Life and the Tampa Bay Naturists, who are on a quest to promote "clothing-optional" beaches.
"This is a chance to see other people who aren't afraid to be liberal, environmental or socially conscious," said James Johnson, 55, who builds houses in Boca Grande for "absurdly rich people who don't need them."
In classic Nader rhetoric, the son of Lebanese immigrants and graduate of Harvard Law School blasted both Democrats and Republicans.
Florida Democrats are holding their annual convention in Orlando this weekend. Nader called it a "veritable bazaar of political ditto-heads," percolating in "an ambience where corporate lobbyists are swarming all over the place."
Gov. Jeb Bush also was the target of some of Nader's jabs.
"Gov. Jeb Bush is one of those governors who thinks they can subtly undermine the public school system by implementing a fraudulent testing system," said Nader in a reference to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
It was hard to mistake the rally for a corporate barbecue. Body piercings and hemp clothing were among the fashion statements.
Jack Kinney, sporting a blue and yellow Polo shirt, khaki shorts, and a cell phone clipped to his belt, stood watching.
"I stick out like a sore thumb, don't I?" he asked.
A Republican in high school, an independent in his 20s, Kinney said he's now "trying to figure out where I want to land." Nader and the rally intrigued the 32-year-old Palm Harbor resident.
"Most of my friends aren't liberals," he said, "or they don't have an open enough mind to come to an event like this."
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