Last May property rights activists in Clarksville, Tennessee, ran an ad in a local paper urging their neighbors to oppose a redevelopment project that involves the use of eminent domain. The ad, sponsored by the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition, noted that Mayor Johnny Piper, City Councilman Richard Swift, and Downtown District Partnership member Wayne Wilkinson "are all developers" and declared:
This redevelopment plan is about private development. Our city government is controlled by developers….This redevelopment plan is of the developers, by the developers, and for the developers.
Not only did the plan win the city council's approval, but now Swift and Wilkinson are suing the coalition for defamation, seeking $500,000 in damages. Bert Gall, the Institute for Justice attorney who is defending the activists, says:
Swift and Wilkinson are thin-skinned bullies trying to silence and intimidate their critics with frivolous litigation. 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.
Careful there, Bert. Swift and Wilkinson might sue you too.
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