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UW-Eau Claire news release

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First Amendment Free Food Festival set for May 2

April 26, 2012

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host the third annual First Amendment Free Food Festival from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. May 2 on the UW-Eau Claire Central Campus Mall. The event originally was scheduled for April 18 but was rescheduled due to rain.

The three-hour event aims to raise awareness of First Amendment rights by offering a free lunch in exchange for signing away individual rights to freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition.

Students and community members will be invited to visit the "Dictatorial Republic of Freelandia," a roped-off section of the campus mall. Before entering, participants must sign a form agreeing to give up their First Amendment rights in exchange for the free meal.

Volunteers from sponsoring organizations will interact with students through a variety of roles, from the police known as the "goon squad," to dictators making rules for those within Freelandia's boundaries, to protesters trying to gain freedom. Those who try to use a First Amendment right may be jailed for their defiance or face other punishments, said Breann Schossow, president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

"While the punishments are meant to be humorous, the event focuses on the denial of rights," Schossow said. "We're thrilled to offer another opportunity to showcase the importance of the First Amendment."

Schossow said she hopes the festival will start conversations and increase understanding of First Amendment rights.

"It's so easy to take for granted the protections put in place to ensure freedom," Schossow said. "Offering this interactive lesson to our community members and peers is a surefire way to start conversation and inspire appreciation. It will also drive home what it means to lose the rights protected by the First Amendment."

Last year, about 120 students and community members participated in the event. At least 20 students turned the lunch offer down, saying they wouldn't give up their First Amendment rights.

"That was an exciting moment for us," Schossow said. "We're looking forward to seeing what this year will bring."

Toppers, a sponsor for the event, is providing refreshments and 20 free pizzas. The UW-Eau Claire communication and journalism department, also a sponsor, is paying for the soda, provided by Sodexo.

Other event sponsors include the UW-Eau Claire Dean of Students Office, The Spectator, the Chippewa Valley branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, The Flip Side, University Activities Commission, Student Services Commission, Student Senate, Amnesty International, TV-10 and WUEC-FM.

For more information about the First Amendment Free Food Festival, contact Breann Schossow at schossbm@uwec.edu.

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