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Freedom at a cost

October 20, 2008

Free pizza, for a cost

Eat if you want, but it will cost you. That was the message last week as once again the Pacific Lutheran University’s student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists created the “Republic of Parkland” in Red Square. In exchange for pizza and pop, about 150 students received a passport to the republic, and had to abide by the rules of the “country,” which encompassed six round tables in front of Eastvold Hall. To get free pizza, students had to sign a contract or passport giving up their First Amendment rights.

As the students ate, a dictatorial “queen” of the republic issued edicts and gave orders to “enforcers.” The university’s theater department dressed as the enforcers and queen, as well as some of the protestors. Students acted out the parts of contemporary political and religious figures such as Gandhi and Sen. John McCain. A street theater with a civics message, the event included students dressed as monks literally being thrown out over the tape marking the boundaries of the republic. Students hammed it up as spontaneous protesters. They were also tossed out of the country.

Enforcers would throw out students if too many sat together at a table, or they would force free-speech advocates to leave as well.

“The First Amendment is one of those issues that people don’t necessarily understand,” said Nate Hulings, president of the student SPJ chapter and also the student who portrayed McCain. “People don’t realize how powerful it is and how it’s an everyday thing that we take for granted in this country.”

Hulings stressed that many people in the world do not enjoy the rights taken for granted by United States citizens.

“One of the main reasons we want to do something like this is not just to inform everyone about the First Amendment, but it is something they should care about,” he said. “It’s a great exercise to show what a country would be like if you don’t have these rights.”

This is the second time SPJ has held First Amendment Free Food Festival. Look this year’s coverage of Tuesday’s event by The Tacoma News Tribune.