Fort Trumbull Protester Like A Tree In The Forest
The Day | October 1, 2005
By ETHAN ROUEN
New London — It has been 13 days since Lauren Ann Canario was sent to prison for refusing to leave City Hall following a canceled City Council meeting about eminent domain, but Canario's sacrifice has been hardly noticed by many close to the issue.
“I don't think anyone's paying attention to it,” said Councilor Beth Sabilia.
That Canario does not have any ties to Fort Trumbull or New London makes it difficult to sympathize with her, Sabilia said.
Canario, 48, came to New London from Las Vegas with plans to help Fort Trumbull homeowners protect their houses from the city, which plans to take them by eminent domain. A former Army firefighter with a doctorate in art, she is a member of the Free State Project, a Libertarian group that wants to move 20,000 activists to New Hampshire. As part of her protest against eminent domain she was renting an apartment in one of the buildings slated for demolition.
She was arrested and charged Sept. 19 with first-degree trespass, refusal to be fingerprinted and interfering with police when she refused to leave City Hall. Since then, she has not spoken a word to officials, nor has she cooperated with an attorney.
Instead, she has sat silently at the Janet S. York Correctional Institution in Niantic. She will appear Tuesday in New London Superior Court.
On Sunday, Canario's supporters will hold a second rally for her in front of the East Street home of Susette Kelo, one of the property owners who lost their court case to keep their homes. Last week about 10 supporters rallied in front of York.
Members of the Coalition to Save Fort Trumbull will attend the rally, as will state Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-45th District.
“I'm going there because I believe there is injustice in New London, and I want to be there to challenge it,” he said. “I think this woman is standing up for the property rights of all the citizens of the state of Connecticut. I think she needs to be supported.”
Property owners in the Fort Trumbull area welcome any attention brought to their cause.
Matt Dery said he found Canario's sudden appearance in the neighborhood odd, but “it's nice to know that people you don't even know are concerned with your welfare.”
Bill Von Winkle, from whom she rented a Fort Trumbull apartment, said he still believes Canario will make a national splash.
Canario's husband, Jim Johnson, had asked people to send teddy bears and toy guns to Von Winkle's house to show their support, but Von Winkle said none have arrived.
Still, he said, “This girl is as serious as a heart attack, and the world's going to know it.”
Councilor Rob Pero, however, portrayed Canario as an opportunist who is more concerned with the issue of eminent domain than a city she arrived in only weeks before her arrest.
“The will of the council, at least my will, will not be determined by a person who lives in Las Vegas,” he said. “I think it's kind of a disgrace.”
As City Council elections approach and the discussion about eminent domain remains at the forefront, others have also treated Canario with indifference.
“Who?” said New London Development Corp. President Michael Joplin when asked about Canario. “She hasn't had any effect on NLDC. I didn't even know her name.”
Joplin said he suspects that Canario is involved with the Institute for Justice, a non-profit Libertarian law firm representing the homeowners, but a spokesman for the institute said it does not have a position on her because she is “not directly related to the case.”
Amanda Phillips, the president of the Free State Project, also distanced the group from Canario, saying her imprisonment has nothing to do with the goals of the organization, which does not take a position on eminent domain.
Johnson, Canario's husband, said she has been abandoned by many who promised to support her. Canario had promised to bring 6,700 people to Fort Trumbull.