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First Amendment festival moved to May 4 due to weather advisory

RELEASED: April 19, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host the second annual First Amendment Free Food Festival from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. May 4 on the campus mall.

The event, originally scheduled for April 20, was rescheduled due to a winter weather advisory.

The event aims to raise awareness of First Amendment rights by offering students and community members a free lunch in exchange for a willingness to sign away their 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 rights in exchange for their free meal. In case of rain, the event will be held in Schofield Auditorium.

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.

"The focus of the event is the denial of rights more than the possible punishments," said SPJ vice president of print Kim Acheson, Eau Claire. "Students who try to exercise their First Amendment rights can have our goon squad take away their food, be taken to our re-education camp or even be tossed out of our country, as we did to one student last year."

Sodexo, UW-Eau Claire's food service provider, is a sponsor for the event, providing refreshments and a discount on pizza.

Acheson hopes that that the festival will start conversation and increase understanding of First Amendment rights.

"The easiest way to lose your rights is to not understand them in the first place," he said. "If you think about it, these are the things our Founding Fathers wanted to protect right away. They saw them as being critical to making our country work."

Last year, about 170 students and community members participated in the event and organizers predict a larger turnout this year. Other sponsors include the UW-Eau Claire Dean of Students office, The Spectator, the Chippewa Valley affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, The Flip Side, UW-Eau Claire's University Activities Commission, Studio 105 and the UW-Eau Claire department of communication and journalism.

For more information, contact Breann Schossow at schossbm@uwec.edu or Kim Acheson at achesokp@uwec.edu.

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BS/RD/DW

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