By Christina Walsh
Liberty in Action, IJ’s activism program, inspires property owners, entrepreneurs and activists across the country to stand up to the government to reclaim their constitutional rights. We have saved more than 16,000 homes, trained 2,000 local activists, formed 50 local organizations and have been involved in 150 communities. Recently, we’ve improved vending laws in 13 cities. We are equipping potential victims of government power with the tools they need to successfully fight landgrabs and burdensome regulations at the grassroots.
This summer, we traveled to Miami, where laws make it nearly impossible for hard-working traditional street vendors to earn a living. Some have even received $500 tickets for small infractions like—gasp—standing still. At our meetings, which were held in both English and Spanish, we explained to the vendors they have the right to economic liberty. They were wide-eyed. They know that these laws are wrong, but they did not know that they have rights that protect them from burdensome regulations. We formed the United Vendors of South Florida, and they are currently meeting with city commissioners.
We are also working with hair braiders in Louisville, Ky., who are required to take 1,800 hours of irrelevant coursework just to braid hair, a harmless practice taught to many of them by their mothers. The women we met, all recent immigrants, do not have the resources to obtain licenses, so they operate illegally out of their homes. All they want to do is open up shops and employ more people. Once we helped them understand their rights, they were eager to fight to change the law. We formed the Kentucky Hairbraiders Association, and we are currently reaching out to a potential bill sponsor.
Most recently we were in Charlestown, Ind., where the city wants to demolish an entire neighborhood of 354 homes to build newer homes and retail shopping. This neighborhood is home to many low- and moderate-income residents, retirees, veterans and the disabled. The homes have been proudly well-kept over the decades. To raise awareness about this unconstitutional landgrab and build community support, we hosted a “Blighted Block Party,” where residents enjoyed games and food and heard about the threat to their neighborhood.
This fall, we released our “Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide.” This one-of-a-kind guide serves as a comprehensive roadmap for waging grassroot fights for economic liberty. It discusses organizing, working with the media, developing a legislative strategy, building a coalition, raising awareness and making noise through public demonstrations. We will soon release the guide in Spanish.
Our new Correspondents Program will increase our ability to identify activism opportunities. We are hand-picking student volunteers in target states and will train them to monitor local and state-level activity so they can alert us to abuses of power as they occur.
And we will soon launch our Know Your Rights project, which is dedicated to educating immigrant communities about the rights IJ fights to protect and the tools people need to prevent government abuse.
Liberty in Action will continue to equip activists nationwide with the knowledge and tools they need to stand up for themselves against the government. And we will be standing right next to them—with a bullhorn.
Christina Walsh is IJ’s director of activism and coalitions.