Rally_1028_at, A very Green Party

By Gus Bode

Candidate for Rep. Rich Whitney spoke at a Green Party rally on Friday

Rich Whitney, Green Party candidate for state representative for the 115th district, spoke at a rally Friday evening at the Town Square Pavilion.

The brown shelter, which runs parallel along the train tracks, was filled with about 40 people who wanted to find out a little more about the Greens.


As people began to show up, jazz music played over large speakers, and cookies were set out on tables with uneven legs.

Sarah Heyer, a volunteer with the campaign since its beginning, began the rally with a brief speech. She wasn’t planning on saying anything, but when Paul Wellstone, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, died in a plane crash while campaigning, she felt compelled to mention him.

As Heyer spoke about Wellstone, two little girls were busy rolling across the wooden floor of the shelter, smiling and laughing. Whitney leaned against a railing, sipping hot apple cider from a pastel green coffee cup.

The second speaker, Lee Hartman, was delayed in his words because a train carrying coal came screaming through downtown. Hartman, a Shawnee Green Party member, spoke about the importance of the Green Party and its emphasis on the issues instead of personal attacks. He ended with a famous quote from Margaret Meade, saying it described the energy of the Greens well.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As the sun kept sinking and the air kept cooling, Eric Waitr, an SIUC student and campaign manager, said a few words of encouragement for the party.

“We don’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils. We can vote for someone we are proud of,” he said.


The crowd cheered and shivered, hugging their cups of hot cider for comfort against the gentle wind.

Richard Norman, a Saluki Express bus driver, had 30 minutes to spare, so he stopped by the shelter when he heard music.

“I don’t vote for the Green Party, but I’m looking into the candidates to see who I should vote for,” he said.

The praise and worship choir Conquerors for Christ performed two songs that got the crowd moving enough to keep warm and then it was time for Whitney to take the stage.

“Oh, he’s got a little green jacket – that’s so cute,” said a girl in the front row when Whitney took off his tan overcoat, revealing a green sport coat.

Everyone quieted down as Whitney began to speak about his platform and the opposing parties. Whitney stood at one end of the shelter, with no podium, and talked about universal health care and worker’s rights. He spoke about the need for better schools and better, more affordable education. He touched the words that some candidates stay away from:He spoke about gay, lesbian and transgendered rights, women’s rights and the rights of minorities, people with disabilities and freedom of religion.

The crowd went wild.

“A Green Party campaign is different,” Whitney said into the microphone, which only gave him a pacing distance of about five feet.

Joseph D. Johnson, a junior in creative writing, shares that sentiment.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to have someone who I share my political views with,” he said. “He listens to the younger voters – he doesn’t just shut them out.”

Whitney made sure to mention his supporters before he concluded his speech. He said the Green Party empowers the people.

“The Green Party is both a party and a people’s movement,” he said.

Samantha Baker, an undecided sophomore, said she came to the rally to let Whitney know that college-aged kids are supporting what he’s doing. She sat with her friend Tracy McEvilly, a sophomore in art and design.

“I came out to support the local effort,” she said. “It’s small groups like this where big movements start.”

After Whitney finished his speech, he set down the microphone and the jazz music took over again. He mingled with the crowd and talked to as many young people as he could to answer any questions they had about the campaign.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into this,” he said. “I’m just glad I can reach out to the people.”

Reporter Arin Thompson can be reached at [email protected]