Cuyahoga Falls -- Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein says she is providing a backup plan for Bernie Sanders supporters.
Nearly 300 people gathered Sept. 2 at the Natatorium to hear Stein's call to join her party's "movement for justice."
In August, Stein told MSNBC when Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton after he lost to her in the Democratic Primary, Stein's fundraising increased "about 1,000 percent. Our social media went through the roof and thousands of new people began pouring into our campaign / we are Plan B for Bernie Sanders."
Matt Courtman of North Canton, a volunteers coordinator for the Stark County Green Party, said he supported Sanders until he backed Clinton, and now he's behind Stein. Prior to the start of the rally at the Nat, Courtman said he was "curious to see how many people here are recovering Democrats. I'm guessing it's going to be 70 percent."
Courtman said Sanders proved "you can't have reform within the Democratic Party. That's why I'm enthusiastically Green."
At one point during the rally, a speaker asked for a show of hands of those who supported Sanders. The majority of the crowd raised their hands.
Sitting in the audience wearing a Democratic Socialists of America T-shirt was David Brinovec of Brook Park who said he came to the rally to recruit people to join him as he works to form a local DSA chapter.
Brinovec said he also came to hear what Dr. Stein had to say. A Sanders backer, Brinovec said he has not yet made up his mind if he is going to vote for Stein. He noted he became interested in the Socialist Party five years ago.
Stein told the crowd voters are being told they have to choose the "lesser of two evils." She called it a "race to the bottom" and predicted the next election will be worse.
"We'll have more of a racist, misogynist, homophobist, anti-Muslim-Islamaphobist," she said. "All these things are absolutely unacceptable. Unfortunately Hillary Clinton is not solving the problem. All of the terrible things [Republican presidential nominee] Donald Trump says, unfortunately, Hillary has a record for doing."
Stein said it's not acceptable for Trump to say Muslims are not welcome in this country. "But it's not OK to be dropping bombs on Muslims," she added. "One billion people in the country of Iraq alone have been killed in that war / for oil, essentially."
Stein decried the cost of war, stating 44 percent of American's income taxes fund the military budget, adding the Obama administration has committed $1 trillion to build more nuclear weapons. She said right now America has 2,000 nuclear weapons on "hair-trigger alert" when she believes America needs to be dismantling nuclear weapons, not adding more.
Stein said if elected she would cut the military budget in half. She said the fighting of American forces is causing the displacement of peoples around the world.
"Sixty-five million refugees are fleeing from America's wars," she said. "You want to fix the refugee problem? Let's stop causing it in the first place."
Stein also called for the decriminalization of marijuana and hemp and pardon anyone jailed for "using a substance less harmful than cigarettes or alcohol." She also wants to see inmates have the right to vote.
Planks in Stein's platform also include a $15 living wage, clean environmental and climate justice.
"Climate injustice is inseparable from racial injustice," she said, noting that people of color are the hardest hit and last to be helped. Stein said there are still 100,000 African-Americans who have not been able to return to their homes since they were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago.
Stein prefaced her speech with a song a supporter sang to her in Los Angeles, her last stop before coming to Ohio. "I refuse to fall in line -- to fall in line," Stein recited. "You can't have my vote because I'm voting for Jill Stein. No more fear-based voting for the lesser of two evils. I'm going Green to bring the power to the people."
Additional speakers included°14th District U.S. House write-in candidate Andrew Jarvi,°Khalid Samad, Imam Paul Hasan and°U.S. Senate candidate Joe DeMare.
"The Green Party can unite us all. I'm an outdoorsman," said Jarvi. "We need clean air and water. We have to work together ... to break through the apathy to see the real issues." Jarvi said he is a "devout Christian" and he is starting to see "a lot of young evangelicals who are questioning their parents' values / We need to work on breaking down the walls and barriers so the truth can be told."
Kevin Fay, volunteers coordinator for Summit County Greens, said Stein's stop in Cuyahoga Falls was programmed on short notice. "We checked a lot of Cleveland locations and a lot were filled," Fay said. "A lot were filled here [in Summit County], too, with it being Labor Day weekend."
Fay said he originally asked about the Pavilion, but it was already booked, so he reserved the conference room at the Natatorium and had a week to publicize it.
Fay said he is a relatively new recruit to the Green Party. "I'm definitely one of the Bernie converts," he said. "There's a lot of us flowing in. A lot."