Waving signs like “Don’t Condemn Our Homes” and “Memo to Jim Moran and Justice Breyer: This Land Is NOT Your Land,” about 10 protesters gathered outside U.S. Rep. James Moran’s (D-8) Reston office Friday on the corner of Reston Parkway and Bowman Towne Drive.
The small group of protesters — comprised of local Libertarians and Republicans from inside and outside the House member’s district — conducted a faux auction of Moran’s office in protest to Moran’s refusal to denounce the Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London verdict. In the decision, the court confirmed the right of a locality to use eminent domain to seize private property for commercial use.
After the decision, Congress passed a resolution that expressed a non-binding “grave disapproval” of the Kelo verdict. Moran was one of 33 House members not to vote for the resolution, which passed 365 to 33.
“I think this is a very scary decision the Supreme Court made, and it amazes me that the Congressman wouldn’t stand up against it,” said John Grigsby of Loudoun County, who is represented by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf.
MORAN SAID that he did not vote against the resolution in support of the Kelo decision, but rather in support of the Constitution’s separation of powers. "Beyond the merits of the Kelo case, I opposed the resolution passed by Congress because it encroaches on the Supreme Court's jurisdiction,” said Moran, explaining his decision. “Congress has no business telling the court how to rule. The resolution is a clear affront to the separation of powers as written in the Constitution."
For Tony Torres, the chair of the Libertarian Party of Fairfax County, Moran’s vote was a statement against property rights. “I think property rights are one of the most important rights we have and I think it’s ridiculous that our elected officials voted against protecting those rights after the ruling,” said Torres, who lives in Falls Church.
Robert Harford, who organized the protest, and other protesters hoped their rally would encourage Moran to sign a candidate pledge for private property rights sponsored by VirginiaPropertyRights.org.
The pledge reads, “I pledge to the citizens of my locality and all of Virginia that I will oppose efforts by my state government or municipalities within my state to use the government power of eminent domain for private development.”
For Moran, the pledge may soon be a decided issue in Virginia, where state legislators have said they’ll draft legislation outlawing private property takings like that in the Kelo verdict.
TORRES SAID HE’D LIKE to see a public apology from Moran and see him vote in the future to protect property rights. Grigsby had other hopes. “I’ve heard [Moran’s] a little bit feisty, so we were hoping he would come out today,” he said.
Libertarian candidate in the 37th district of Virginia, Scott McPherson, also participated in the protest. “I’m here to point out that Jim Moran is not for property rights, and as far as I’m concerned that’s as anti-American as ever.”
In the mock auction, Moran’s office fetched $42,000, going to the developer who offered kickbacks to the auctioneer. One protester suggested a casino for the sight. Another protester suggested a Pfizer research center, which was a reference to the Kelo case and New London, where land was seized to make room for a Pfizer research center among other things.