From Hardship to Victory

By Christina Walsh

Michael and Anna Cristofaro from New London, Conn., with Christina Walsh.

A panel of journalists shares tips on how to work with different kinds of media. From left to right: Radley Balko (TheAgitator.com and Reason), Harry Boomer (WOIO-TV 19, Cleveland), Steven Greenhut (Orange County Register), Lynne Tuohy (Hartford Courant), and IJ Vice President for Communications John Kramer, who hosted the panel.

Steven Anderson, right, presents Scott Mahan of the Save Ardmore Coalition with the Castle Coalition’s “David Award,” which recognizes grassroots activists who have fought eminent domain abuse.

Mindy Fullilove, M.D., explains the importance of the home and community.

Scott Bullock introduces Michael and Anna Cristofaro from New London, Conn.

In June, the Castle Coalition held its sixth annual national eminent domain activist conference.  A centerpiece of our grassroots efforts, the conference brought together 42 threatened property owners and activists from 16 states for a weekend of training by Institute for Justice staff and guest speakers.

Participants gathered in Alexandria, Va., and were thrilled to hear from Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Chris Norby, who gave a rousing speech affirming that redevelopment can occur without eminent domain.  We were pleased to present Norby with our Cornerstone Award for his strong stand against the abuse of eminent domain.

Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D., the author of Eminent Domain & African Americans:  What is the Price of the Commons? discussed the importance of the home and why there is no “just compensation” for lost memories and community.

IJ Vice President for Communications John Kramer moderated a panel of journalists who shared tips on how to effectively work with the media, and a panel of activists shared their inspirational tales from the eminent domain front lines.  The Save Ardmore Coalition received our David Award for their courage and devotion in defeating the abuse of eminent domain by the Goliaths of government and private interests in Ardmore, Pa.

Former IJ clients Michael and Anna Cristofaro closed Saturday’s session with a moving speech about what kept them motivated throughout their six-year-long battle in New London, Conn.  On Sunday, Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab.org in Brooklyn, N.Y., taught attendees how to build a website and effectively use the Internet to fight eminent domain for private gain.  This was followed by an intensive, hands-on workshop during which IJ staff gave personalized attention to each participant’s plan for activism.

We are already seeing results:  Threatened property owners from across New York City who met at the conference have since joined together as “New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse” and launched a statewide campaign to end eminent domain abuse in the Empire State.

No doubt each of the attendees returned home motivated and equipped to fight the Goliaths in their own backyards.

Christina Walsh is the Castle Coalition coordinator.

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