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Friday, December 02, 2022

Students give up free speech for free food

<p>A sign reading "Right To Peaceably Assemble" with a cross through it is posted at the First Amendment Free Food Festival on the Plaza of the Americas Wednesday afternoon.</p>

A sign reading "Right To Peaceably Assemble" with a cross through it is posted at the First Amendment Free Food Festival on the Plaza of the Americas Wednesday afternoon.

"Give me liberty, or give me free food."

About 330 people opted to chow down in exchange for signing away their First Amendment rights Wednesday afternoon on the Plaza of the Americas.

The Society of Professional Journalists' fourth annual First Amendment Free Food Festival aimed to bring attention to the importance of the First Amendment rights.

With Theatre Strike Force's help, SPJ members acted as dictators in the makeshift country, Kingdom of the Socialist States of the People's Republic of the University of Florida.

The country lured people with heaps of food from Amelia's, The Fresh Market, The Bagel Bakery and Napolatano's.

Although the participants did not have to pay to eat, meals came at a hefty price.

To gain entry into the country, people had to sign a paper symbolically sacrificing their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble peacefully and freedom to petition to the government.

"You can either be on the inside and have your food, or you can be outside and have your rights," said Meg Wagner, vice president of SPJ.

Wagner, a 20-year-old journalism junior, said she thinks if people really understood what their rights were, they would not willingly sign them away for free food.

Some participants did not know what giving up their first amendment rights entailed.

One person said he did not quarter troops, so he had no problem signing away his First Amendment rights.

Another cited the right to bear arms as part of the First Amendment.

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"It makes me appreciate how we should respect our rights," said Erika Garcia, a 21-year-old psychology junior. "Most of us take it for granted."

Jalyssia Bell, a 21-year-old women's studies senior, refused to sign away her rights despite objections from her empty stomach.

Bell said the main reason she did not participate was because she did not want to give up her right to practice Christianity for even a minute.

"I'd rather be hungry," Bell said.

Vinnie Athey, despite his job as an intern at Reformed University Fellowship, a Christian organization in Gainesville, signed away his rights to satisfy his hunger.

He said he did not think of his choice to participate as a willingness to sacrifice the practice of his religious beliefs.

"I just wanted free food," Athey said.

A sign reading "Right To Peaceably Assemble" with a cross through it is posted at the First Amendment Free Food Festival on the Plaza of the Americas Wednesday afternoon.

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