Earlier this year, IJ sued the city of Charlestown, Indiana, because the residents of the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood have spent the last three years on the chopping block. Their mayor, Bob Hall, has made it his personal mission to bulldoze this entire working-class neighborhood—full of modest but much-loved and well-kept homes—so a private developer can build an upscale subdivision. But these courageous residents are not going anywhere. While our attorneys argue their case in court, IJ’s activism team has been busy working with residents to ensure the public sees why Pleasant Ridge is worth fighting for. To that end, we teamed up with our clients to host a carnival in the neighborhood in June. Residents from Charlestown and the surrounding region met the friendly folks of Pleasant Ridge and heard their stories and enjoyed some food and fun.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, residents and over 150 guests enjoyed live music, games and prizes, face painting, food and drinks, and three inflatable bounce houses. We also had a photo booth with the neighborhood’s motto “#PRidgeStrong” on the backdrop, and #PRidgeStrong temporary tattoos that both young and old wore proudly.
While our attorneys argue their case in court, IJ’s activism team has been busy working with residents to ensure the public sees why Pleasant Ridge is worth fighting for.
A key feature of the event was a scavenger hunt, in which guests visited 15 different homes in Pleasant Ridge, where they would find the homeowner’s story on a board in their front yard and have to answer questions. The participants were able to see firsthand some of the lovely homes that Mayor Hall wants to bulldoze. As they walked through the neighborhood, our clients’ nice homes were marked with Pleasant Ridge signs to distinguish them from the dilapidated developer-owned properties. By directly engaging with the stories of neighborhood residents, carnival guests were better able to understand what Mayor Hall’s land grab really means to the people who stand to lose their homes.
One of the many ways that Pleasant Ridge residents have supported one another is by helping the elderly and disabled to maintain and repair their homes. The effort paid off. By the day of the carnival, the homeowners’ houses were fit for a real estate brochure photo shoot, making a total mockery of the city’s claim that all of the houses in Pleasant Ridge are “substandard.”
As a result of the community outreach, the people of Pleasant Ridge have renewed their determination to hang onto their homes and their neighborhood. Jan Carter, the daughter of longtime resident Arretta Griffin, says that her mother has “got the fight back in her,” and that they are now planning to remodel her back porch using red cedar Jan’s father—who passed away two years ago—left in the garage. This will allow Arretta to “be with him in her new sanctuary on the back porch.” Clearly, Arretta has no plans to leave the house she has owned and built memories in for 48 years.
Our clients had a great time and ended the day with a trip down our inflatable slide. They shared their stories with the broader community, built more support for Pleasant Ridge and sent Mayor Hall a very loud message: We love our homes, and we are not going anywhere, because we are #PRidgeStrong.