IJ Sponsored Movie Is Big Hit in New London

May 1, 2001

May 2001

IJ Sponsored Movie Is Big Hit in New London

By Chip Mellor

At the heart of our litigation challenging eminent domain abuse lie two basic messages:  property rights are important for everyone, and you can fight City Hall.  So when we discovered those two messages wonderfully conveyed in the Australian movie comedy The Castle, [see accompanying review] we couldn’t wait to share the film with as many people as possible.  And what better way to begin than by screening it in New London, Connecticut, ground zero in the fight against eminent domain abuse.

We rented the historic Garde Arts Center complete with Moorish décor, balconies, opera boxes and an elegant curtained screen.  In the week preceding the show, we placed ads in the local paper inviting people to attend a free movie with the battle cry: “Hey, New London!  Don’t believe the NLDC—Every man’s home is still his castle!”  Next, we plastered the town with bright green posters promoting the show.  (Each day, as many of the posters mysteriously disappeared, we diligently replaced them.)

On the day of the show, Scott Bullock, Maureen Blum and I traveled to New London for our “opening night.”  As nearly 400 people streamed in, we knew we were going to be part of a very special evening.  When the crowd settled into their seats, Scott and I welcomed them and offered brief remarks about IJ, eminent domain abuse and the court case in New London.  Then it was showtime!

For the next 90 minutes, the theater was filled with laughter, cheers, hisses, boos and applause.  The film’s eccentrically noble hero epitomized the principled tenacity of our clients in New London.  When the lights came up, people rose for a standing ovation.

We then adjourned to the lobby for dessert and coffee.  Scott and I held a question and answer session while Maureen tirelessly worked the crowd, passing out materials.  As the evening came to an end, people left with a better understanding of the gravity of eminent domain abuse, but also with an appreciation of the importance of a little humor in the face of adversity.

A few days later, for the first time ever, the Mayor of New London personally went to the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to ask several of our clients to give him a dollar amount of how much it would take for them to sell their properties.  Since all our clients want is to stay in their homes and businesses, they responded in the immortal words of The Castle’s Darryl Kerrigan:  “Tell him he’s dreamin’.”

Chip Mellor is the Institute for Justice’s President and General Counsel.

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