By ESTER SALGUERO & IZZY BRIONES
Anticipation rose as University of Mary Washington students and residents of Fredericksburg filled the Chandler Ballroom, of the University Center Sunday night in anticipation for Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. With only a few rows of seats provided, many were left sitting on the floor.
Stein spoke after B. Sidney Smith, Glenn Kirk, Kimberly Lowe and the party’s Vice Presidential nominee, Ajamu Baraka each gave their spiel on why students should not vote for either of “the lesser evils,” Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
A small musical group called “A Fred Not” played the blues and a cover of the Counting Crows’ “Big Yellow Taxi” until B. Sidney Smith, the chair of the Green Party in Virginia, opened and introduced Glenn Kirk, the congressional candidate for district seven in Virginia.
Stein opened describing how, “people are saying ‘don’t you dare tell me that this isn’t my democracy, don’t you dare tell me that it’s not my future, don’t you dare tell me that I have to live with student debt…. we are saying no. We are saying that we can have an America and a world that works for all of us, that puts people, planet and peace over profit,” striking a large applause from the crowd.
This excerpt from her opening remarks paved the course that not only Stein’s speech took, but of those with her as well. Each member speaking along with Stein for the Green Party shared common themes on the American people, the power that they hold to change the system, the planet and the corruption in our political system.
“Our purpose here tonight is to change America and to change the world,” Smith said before introducing Kirk, a member of the Piedmont Green Party.
Kirk warmed the crowd up by referring to this year’s election process as the Apocalypse of 2016, expressing that the Green Party’s aim was to change the U.S. political agenda and that the increasing popularity with millennials he added went to show that this change was possible. The Green Party members were catering to Bernie supporters by using phrases like ‘we all burn green’ to encourage voters that they too would have supported Bernie Sanders. “If a riding candidate can win [then] so can a third party,” Kirk said.
Kimberly Lowe, congressional candidate for district five of Virginia, spoke after Kirk and began by speaking personally about herself, relating to the crowd and to the local Fredericksburg residents. “I am a mom, I’m a farmer, I’m a home schooler, I’m a Virginian,” Lowe said.
She went on to say that the root causes of the political and economic issues in our country stems from money and greed and that it is possible to rid ourselves of student debt. However, she did not follow up with a description of how this concern could be tackled.
She blamed the lack of attention to student debt on a misunderstanding of economics on the part of Congress and said that people she has personally encountered in Fredericksburg all agree that congress is corrupt.
“[We are] tired of the corruption and we need to switch out Congress,” Lowe said, adding that she will be on the ballot in 2018.
After Lowe, it was Smith who posed both Trump and Clinton as candidates who “have no clue.’’ “Neither candidate has a clue [about] what world we live in,” Smith said. He then went on to discuss how the DNC sabotaged Sander’s campaign and that he was explicitly not a supporter of Clinton. He talked about how Americans are now, “content to treat politics as something we consume,” like entertainment, instead of standing against unsupported candidates in protest. “We say no to the Standing Rock Sioux, [to bombing and to petrodollar hegemony],” Smith said. “We will say yes to peace,” striking an applause from the crowd.
Before Jill Stein went up on stage, world renowned human rights activist and Stein’s running mate Ajamu Baraka stood up on stage to talk about “providing an alternative direction and vision to take us forward.” He talked about the limits of the U.S. economy in giving each American a ‘dignified life’ and about the struggle that America will face if either of the two-party candidates win on Tuesday.
“We have the task [and] vision of winning more people [for] our side,” Baraka said. “Our task goes beyond just this election; our task is in fact to attempt to save humanity and that’s something really heavy to think about.”
He talked about a need to shift the power dynamics of the U.S. from the elite to the people. Then, he humorously said, “the polls aren’t really capturing what’s out there, they’re calling landlines.”
Baraka spoke about the intensity of war in Syria and how neither Trump or Clinton have supported the ‘no fly zone’ and that the Green Party was the only way to ‘build opposition’ against war.
In introducing Stein, Baraka said, “Not only would Dr. Stein have been competitive [if she were in the debates] but Dr. Stein would have ground them in the dirt.”
Finally, as Stein reached the stage a standing ovation came from the crowd. She started with, “You are what democracy looks like.”
Stein talked about the “fear campaign’’ as what has been dominating this year’s political process and that she has been hearing people say “shut up and vote democratic.’’
Stein said in response to her comment on voting democratic, “Don’t you dare tell me that I have to live with $30, $40 thousand worth of student debt.” She followed this statement noting, “the courage of [the] millennial generation” and how students have the power to “cancel student debt.”
She described Clinton as the “queen of corruption’’ and Trump as “the predator king.’’ She continued with comparisons like these and labeled Trump’s ideologies as neo-fascist while Clinton was referred to as an endless supporter of war.
Many of those who sat in the crowd were there specifically to support and hear what Stein had to say to the people. However, many went for the experience and to broaden the information they had available to take in for this election.
“I would say that I have been on the fence about my support throughout this election,” said Rebecca Melson, a senior creative writing major. “However, [Stein] and Baraka make the most sense, I agree with them on the issues of the environment, we are in a societal fast track to depletion and destruction and it is encouraging to think there is a rising party that truly wants to consider these issues.”
Christian Berardo, a junior geography major, attended the event but was not a supporter of Jill Stein. “I’m not a supporter myself, but i still feel that it’s good to come out and hear what candidates have to say to the community,” Berardo said. “You don’t get many opportunities like that.”
“As far as environmental concerns go, this rally was a bit of an eye-opener to me,” Berardo said. “I’m glad to see that someone is putting the topic on the map.”
For a full interview will Stein by The Blue & Gray Press, visit our social media pages or YouTube channel. Click here to watch the video on Youtube.