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Fighting back: Institute for Justice joins CPRC to challenge defamation suit

Clarksville activists sued for protesting eminent domain abuse join with national law firm to fight back.

The Institute for Justice will stand with the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition on Monday, June 30, at 11 a.m. on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse at Millenium Plaza [corner of 2nd and Commerce Streets], to announce their legal plan to fight back against what they see as a “frivolous” defamation lawsuit filed by Clarksville City Councilmember Richard Swift and Wayne Wilkinson, a member of Clarksville’s Downtown Development Partnership. ”

Making the announcement will be Bert Gall, Senior Attorney for the Institute for Justice, and CPRC members Debbie Hunt, a homeowner, Joyce Vanderbilt, owner of Kelly’s Big Burger, and Dr. Rebecca Slayden-McMahan.

IJ is a non-profit, public interest law firm that has a long and successful history of defending property rights and First Amendment freedoms nationwide.

The CPRC, a grassroots group, was formed in November, 2007, to fight the abuse of eminent domain after a controversial redevelopment and urban renewal plan was passed by the Clarksville City Council. The plan designated two square miles of downtown property as “blighted.”

CPRC member Joyce Vanderbilt, owners of Kelly’s Big Burger, with the controversial ad that is the subject of a pending lawsuit

CPRC members joined together to fight the plan, which threatens their city with eminent domain for private gain. To better inform the public about the plan and its dangers, they ran an ad in the local newspaper criticizing elected officials and developers, including Swift and Wilkinson, for abusing eminent domain.

The ad, noting that both Swift and Wilkinson are developers, said, “This Redevelopment Plan is of the developers, by the developers, and for the developers.” Six days after the ad appeared, Swift and Wilkinson sued the group and its members and demanded $500,000.

But all citizens have a First Amendment right to speak out against government abuse—without getting sued for their speech by the very people whose actions they are protesting. To ensure that right, the Institute for Justice is stepping in to defend the members of the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition from Swift and Wilkinson’s heavy-handed attempt to silence and intimidate their critics.

For more information on the redevelopment plan, the CPRC, and the lawsuit, click the “black box” on the right hand column of this page. All Clarksville Online stories, photos and videotape on this issue are archived there.

For more information on this breaking story, call Lisa Knepper, Director of Communications, at (703) 682-9320.


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