Eminent Domain Protester
Eminent Domain Protester 'believes Absolutely In What She's Doing'
Woman declines legal help after her arrest for refusing to leave NL City Hall
New London There haven't been too many would-be tenants clamoring for apartments in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood.
Lauren Ann Canario, however, is an exception.
A few weeks back, Canario, a resident of Las Vegas and member of a New Hampshire-based group committed to reducing the role of the government in society, contacted Bill Von Winkle, owner of a three-story building on Smith Street in Fort Trumbull.
"She asked if I owned a building there and, if so, did I have an apartment for rent," Von Winkle said. "I told her I did, and she said, 'I'll take it.' And she did. I was insistent that she be interested in nonviolent solutions."
Von Winkle was one of the plaintiffs in the Kelo v. New London case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to stop the taking of private property for redevelopment in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. Although the court ruled in favor of the city in June, some of the property owners, including Von Winkle, remain adamant about not relinquishing their land, buildings and houses.
Von Winkle said others from across the country have called and expressed willingness to occupy his property in defiance of eminent domain.
"Some wanted to come to town and bring high-powered sniper rifles," he said. "Obviously, I did not respond to them. But Lauren seemed to be level-headed. She's absolutely a smart and nice person."
Canario, a member of the nonprofit Free State Project, wants to build a community bulletin board in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood where people can post concerns, Von Winkle said.
"A lot of people stop by on a daily basis to express support and see what's going on," he said. "This would be her way of allowing that to happen where everyone could see it."
Canario, 48, was charged Monday night with first-degree trespass, refusal to be fingerprinted and interfering with police after refusing to leave a City Hall stairwell after a city council meeting had been canceled. The council had been scheduled to vote on a resolution declaring no confidence in the New London Development Corp., which has been the city's agent in the eminent domain project.
Canario's bail was originally set at $5,000.
Von Winkle hired New London attorney Renee Houle to represent Canario, but he said Tuesday afternoon that Houle had withdrawn representation.
"(Canario) refused to be fingerprinted and then refused to speak to the judge," Von Winkle said, "so he raised bail to $10,000. She doesn't want any help."
Houle could not be reached for comment.
Canario's husband, Jim Johnson, who lives in Las Vegas and is also a member of the Free State Project, plans to join his wife in New London. He said by phone Tuesday that he and his wife expect to eventually move to New Hampshire. He also said that he has been unable to contact his wife after her arrest and that he read about the incident in an online story in The Day.
"I called the duty sergeant (Monday) night," Johnson said, "and they wouldn't let me talk to her. But she believes absolutely in what she's doing."
According to Johnson and Von Winkle, one of the main tenets of the Free State Project is to fight eminent domain. As described in the group's Web site (www.freestateproject.org), they are attempting to draw "20,000 libertarians" to move to New Hampshire and "exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of life, liberty, and property."
The city council's plan to consider a vote of no-confidence in the NLDC had been brought on by the NLDC sending eviction notices last week to several Fort Trumbull property owners without informing state officials or the council of that plan.
Monday's council meeting was canceled after an overflow crowd was remanded to a stairwell and attempts to hold the meeting fell into chaos. In July, the fire department found a City Hall fire escape in disrepair and then set the crowd capacity for council chambers at 49 people until repairs were made.
Von Winkle said that Canario represents 6,700 people who will come to New London to prevent through nonviolence the seizure of Fort Trumbull property by the city.
"The (process servers) will have to get through all those people to get to me. It will be nonviolent, but Canario is very serious about this issue. I don't know, she'll burn the papers," Von Winkle said. "She represents the strong feelings of a lot of people who will be here to stop the government from seizing property. This woman is not afraid of the government."
Johnson, her husband, said, "Lauren knows the law. She took the civil fight as far as she could (Monday), and she was arrested. Our idea is to go to town meetings and speak, and you hope to persuade others. Which is why she was at the meeting and what she was prevented from doing."
When asked about Von Winkle's assessment that 6,700 people will be in New London if the government attempts to take the Fort Trumbull property, Johnson said, "I don't know the exact number, but I would think there are a lot of groups like ours that will be there."
About Canario's resistance to the arrest process, Von Winkle said, "Yeah, I'm still trying to digest why she's staying in jail. She's got to come out at some point. But I definitely thought she was capable of this sort of commitment. She told me that she will absolutely be one of the people who refuses to leave the property when they try to take it. She was adamant about that."
Ã¯Â¿Â½ The Day Publishing Co., 2005
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