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Judge Clears Way For New Orleans "Land Grab"
by Greg Szymanski    The Arctic Beacon
Entered into the database on Wednesday, January 18th, 2006 @ 14:27:16 MST


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Hearing cancelled to hear 9th Ward residents complaints to stop the bulldozing of 44.000 homes. Judge says all the city needs to do is "notify owners."

A New Orleans federal judge last Friday quashed all hopes for 9th Ward residents "to get their day in court," as he indiscriminately cancelled a January 17 hearing to hear evidence why the city has no right to demolish homes under eminent domain laws.

Two weeks ago activists and some local residents filed suit to stop what they say is the "needless bulldozing" of 44,000 homes in the 9 th Ward, getting a temporary restraining order until further evidence could be presented at this week's hearing.

But Brandon Darby, one of the activists instrumental in fighting the city's redevelopment plans, said the judge Friday cancelled the hearing after forcing lawyers on both sides to accept his arbitrary settlement terms.

Darby said Tuesday the judge called lawyers into his chambers late Friday, before the long three day Martin Luther King holiday weekend, saying he was suspending the upcoming hearing on the eminent domain issue and ordering that the "demolition could continue as planned" as long as the city gave adequate notice to all residents.

"I couldn't believe what I heard," said Darby of regarding the judge's ruling. "He basically said all the city has to do was notify each homeowner by telephone or mail, but it didn't matter whether they objected or not.

"This is just ridiculous. Our attorneys are checking exactly what the notice requirements are, but I am pretty sure it doesn't matter whether home owners object or not."

Darby said this doesn't end the fight, though, as he will continue along with activists of a citizen group formed to help save property, called Common Ground Relief, to try and stop the city's land grab of mainly low income housing in the 9 th Ward and the east side.

"If I have to go to jail that's what will happen as I will not let them take these people's property unfairly," said Darby. "We are going to continue putting our bodies in between the wrecking ball and the homes until justice is served."

Darby also wanted to emphasize that a majority of the homes scheduled for demolition are structurally sound, saying many of the owners have been purposely kept out of state by FEMA and hoodwinked into believing their property is worthless setting the stage for the one of the biggest government land grabs in the history of the United States.

"What has our country come to when eminent domain laws and fascist government intimidation is used to steal property away from thousands of Americans," said Darby.

"In the background and behind the political scenes, everybody has to know that from Mayor Nagin right on up to the White House, they are all supporting the rich developers.

"They are also planning a multi-billion dollar redevelopment plan to build expensive hotels, casinos and high rise housing and the bulldozers now being seen in the 9 th ward are the first step to achieving their rotten goals."

Besides the 14,000 homes in the 9th Ward scheduled for demolition, 88,000 are expected be next in line for bulldozing in the city's poorer east side, hard hit when the levies exploded, possibly on purpose.