Protesters Decry Eminent Domain Ruling: Hundreds demonstrate: Shore Publishing (Madison CT), 7/15/05

By Stephen Chupaska

Just two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the city in Kelo v. New London, the protest against the taking of homes in Fort Trumbull came full circle.

Chanting "Let Them Stay" and flying the Revolutionary War era "Don't Tread on Me" flag, close to 500 protesters rallied at New London' s municipal building on July 5, where five years ago, the City Council voted to authorize the use of eminent domain to seize the homes of Susette Kelo and the six other property owners.

Some demonstrators who could not find room to stand on the sidewalk in front of city hall watched from outside the Crocker House — which is partly owned by New London Development Corporation President Michael Joplin.

The rally took place before a scheduled City Council meeting, which did not have anything related to the decision or future development on its agenda.

Organized by the Washington, D.C., libertarian lobby group, Institute for Justice, it drew supporters from all over the Northeast and as far away as Kentucky and Texas.

"There has not been a Supreme Court case that has had such universal condemnation," said Scott Bullock, the attorney who argued the case before the high court. "There has been outrage at a time America is so divided."

Jim Perry, of Peterborough, N.H, and member of the libertarian Free State Project, said he drove down for the rally because "private property means private property."

Some took exception to the court's interpretation of the Fifth Amendment, which sanctions the takings clause.

Nine-year city resident Allan Nicklaus said the court went above the "original intent of eminent domain."

Fort Trumbull resident Nield Oldham, who called the rally "very encouraging," reiterated that the property owners were never against the NLDC's plans for the peninsula.

"It could have been an attractive neighborhood," he said. "They got it so wrong; now it's time to do it right."

Also present was state House Minority Leader Bob Ward (R-Wallingford), who said he would work on laws designed to curb the use of eminent domain.

Scott Sawyer, the property owners' local counsel, said he would like to find a way to keep the property owners' homes in Fort Trumbull.

"The city of New London," he said, "can become the city of solutions."

Bullock addressed the City Council at its meeting, but the council did not respond to any of the public comment about the Fort Trumbull development.

"It wasn't on the agenda," Councilor Beth Sabilia said.

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