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Government spying under microscope

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Flooding has pushed Peacestock out of Colvill Park next weekend, but the show will go on for the 12th annual gathering that combines discussions of peace and justice issues with music, poetry and camping.

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The event will be held instead Saturday July 12 at Hobgoblin Barn, located west of Red Wing on Highway 19. Keynote speaker Ben Wizner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and legal counsel to Edward Snowden, will talk about the future of domestic spying programs.

Wizner is part of a daylong lineup centered on the surveillance state in the U.S., said Bill Habedank, executive director of event co-sponsor Veterans for Peace Chapter 115 in Red Wing.

“After we picked our theme, I happened to see (Wizner) on the Internet and I thought, ‘Hey, that’s the guy we have to get,’” Habedank said. He called Wizner to extend an invitation to Peacestock and heard back a week later saying he’d do it.

Wizner is director of the Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, an initiative to protect First Amendment freedoms and privacy rights, according to the ACLU website.

“We were concerned about surveillance and a lot of us believe that it’s against our rights given to us by the Constitution,” said Habedank on the decision to focus this year on privacy concerns. With the U.S. in a state of “perpetual war,” he said it’s important for citizens to discuss when they have rights and when they don’t.

Legislators have taken up the issue of domestic surveillance, including the USA Freedom Act passed by the U.S. House in May to limit bulk collection and storage of Americans’ telephone and email data.

Still, Habedank said many citizens aren’t outraged by surveillance programs, partly because they don’t think it affects them.

“They don’t actually know what’s happening and what kind of information is being collected,” Habedank said. “And I tell people, if your neighbor was doing that to you, you’d be mad as heck. You’d put a stop to it.”

He added that he especially would like to see Red Wing residents join the discussion. Although Peacestock has gained national notoriety, he said local turnout to Peacestock is traditionally low.

“We try to put on a good program and we don’t get into big arguments,” he said, describing the event as nonpartisan and nonconfrontational.

Also on tap

Other speakers and guest artists include:

•Jeff Nygaard, Minneapolis activist and blogger

•Chante Wolf, Gulf War veteran

•Melissa Hill, peace activist and domestic spying critic

•Thomas R. Smith, Eau Claire, Wisconsin,-based poet

•Adam Coolong and Geno Carlson, members of Celtic rock band Wild Colonial Boys

Activities start 9 a.m. and go into the evening, when there is a music jam.

Cost is $30 in advance and $35 at the door for individuals; $50 in advance at $60 at the door for couples; and $10 for students. Admission includes free lunch and supper Saturday.

Free overnight camping also is available at Windbeam Farm in Hager City.

For more information, visit www.peacestockvfp.org or call 651-388-7733.

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Michael Brun
Michael Brun is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program. He has worked for the Republican Eagle since March 2013, covering county government, health and local events. 
(651) 301-7875
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