Developer right to sue protesters
Scott Tibbs, July 26, 2003
The Herald-Times reported on July 24 that Mercury Development Group LLC filed a lawsuit against two anti-I-69 activists who climbed a 15 story crane and attempted to unfurl a banner with an anti-interstate slogan on it. MDG's lawsuit asks for $5,000 in damages.
While this act may not have been as extreme as past actions by I-69 opponents, it was still a dangerous stunt and those involved need to be held accountable for it. (Last August, anti-Interstate activists behaved in such a manner that Indiana University official Kirk White had to be escorted out of a public meeting for his own safety. At the same meeting, IU Law professor Cathy Crosson went on a profanity-laced tirade against an official from the Indiana Department of Transportation, daring him to have her arrested. The Earth Liberation Front attempted to burn down Monroe County Republican headquarters in October of 2000 as a protest against I-69.)
The two protesters, Colette Eno and Liam T. Mulholland (24 and 21, respectively) are experienced rock climbers who have done this sort of thing before. Even with their skills, they put themselves and others in danger by performing such a daring stunt. Construction cranes (especially cranes as tall as the one on Seventh and College) are not meant to be free advertising space for a political movement, nor are they toys to be climbed upon.
They also caused a delay of over an hour for MDG, which was paying 60 workers overtime at rates between $38 and $54 an hour. Even if all of the workers were being paid the lowest rate, that is a loss of $2,280 for Mercury Development Group. This does not include other losses incurred by MDG during this delay. Even though these protesters are being tried for their crime through the judicial system, MDG has a right to seek compensation from them for the harm they caused.
Stuart Baggerly, who is representing Eno and Mulholland, said of the protesters: "They just seem like a couple of kids who had no malice in their hearts. They came down upon being asked. They were polite to the officers. They just didn't give anyone any problems."
There are acceptable and appropriate methods of protest. This is not one of those. Even though this one could be described as "non-violent", it still involved the use of another's property without their consent. Eno and Mulholland may not have had any specific malice for MDG, but they certainly did not allow the harm they would do to MDG prevent them from performing their illegal stunt. The welfare of MDG was secondary to the determination to use the company's crane for their own purposes. Furthermore, the notion that Eno and Mulholland "didn't give anyone any problems" is silly. Of course they caused problems, both for Mercury Development Group and local law enforcement with their publicity stunt.
Eno and Mulholland may not be able to pay for the damages they caused, but an important lesson needs to be taught here about appropriate behavior. Mercury Development Group should be commended for taking necessary steps to teach this lesson. Hopefully, this lawsuit will serve as a deterrent to other "activists" who are thinking of acting in an illegal manner.