|Modesto Bee, California, 05.11.1978|
Cause celebre ...
U.S. singer Reed gets freedom fighter status
MOSCOW (AP) - American folk singer Dean Reed is a freedom fighter in the eyes of Soviet youth, a guitar-strumming balladeer whose songs are silenced by U.S. political repression.
Most Americans probably have never heard of the singer, yet not only is he a "cause celebre" in the Soviet Union, his albums are so popular it's difficult to keep supplies of them in Soviet music stores.
Reed, a 40-year-old Colorado native, was arrested last Sunday in central Minnesota at a demonstration protesting the construction of a power line. Along with 19 others he was charged with trespassing at a utility terminal station.
Reed's attorney, Kenneth Tilsen, said Reed has pleaded innocent and intends to stay in the Wright county Jail in Buffalo, Minn., about 25 miles nothwest of Minneapolis, until his trial, which is now scheduled for Wednesday.
Reed and 10 others have refused to pay the $300 bail, contending it is too high. They also have begun a hunger strike, taking only liquids.
The Soviet news agency Tass said in a dispatch from Washington that Reed's only offense was his "active struggle" in defending the rights of political prisoners in the United States.
The Soviet newspaper Trud, the official paper of the trade unions, commented last week, "It is possible to throw the singer into jail, but it is impossible to put handcuffs on his songs.
Numerous friends of Dean Reed believe that he will overcome his ordeal and come out of it even stronger, with new songs of struggle and solidarity."
Reed has joined a growing list of Americans, such as black activist Angela Davis and North Carolina's Wilmington 10, whom the Kremlin claims are being persecuted.
The Soviet campaign about alleged human rights violations in the United States has grown even shriller since U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young's controversial remark that there are probably "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of political prisoners in U.S. jails. Young later said his statement was misinterpreted.
Young Soviets have taken up Reed's case, and letters appeared Saturday in Soviet newspapers complaining about his confinement.
"We are indignant about the arrest of Dean Reed," a high school class from the Ural Mountain region of Chelyabinst wrote to Komsomolskaya Pravda, the young people's newspaper here. "We demand his liberation. Freedom to Dean Reed. Freedom to all political prisoners in the United States."
Reed began his career in the United States singing protest songs about Vietnam during the 1960s. He never made it big in the competitive U.S. music world and left to live in East Germany.
He has given frequent concerts in the Soviet Union and many of his performances are shown on Soviet television. He has reached such popularity here that his name has become almost a household word.
Earlier this year, Reed was awarded the "Peace Champion" medal from the Soviet Peace Committee. Tilsen said Reed told him he has received other such awards from Bulgaria, Hungary and East Germany.
Reed was in Minnesota to sing and show his film entitled "The Singer" about Chilean folksinger Victor Jara, imprisoned in 1973 by the military regime of Majo. Gen. Augusto Pinochet and not heard from since.
Reed joined farmers and their supporters in the power line demonstration because he believes it is a human rights issue, Tilsen said.
The controversy over the power line has gone on for more than two years, with the opposition contending that the line poses a health hazard and that it will interfere with automatic irrigation systems.
Court battles, demonstrations and arrests have marked the dispute and 68 indictments from demonstrations last winter are still pending.