The First Amendment and a Tale of Two Protests

by Cassandra Solis, Digital Communications Intern

This past May, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) took to the streets to protest Governor Rauner’s delay in passing a budget for the 2016-2017 school year affecting the financial resources needed for Chicago Public schools (CPS) to start on time. Public officials may not be too happy about the demonstrations, but they have preserved the CTU’s right to protest; allowing them to assemble and organize a peaceful agenda.

Similarly, across the U.S./Mexico border — in the southernmost state of Oaxaca, Mexico — teachers took to the streets to protest the government’s education reforms. Sadly, the Oaxaca teachers experienced a very different outcome.

Here’s the breakdown…

In 2013, Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, proposed an education reform plan that included a provision that would have teacher evaluations dictate compensation and subsequently, terminate teachers who would not meet federal standards. In May of 2013, the CTNE issued a statement making the suggestion that testing occur with a ‘bottom-up’ approach and have the community and school administration work together to craft teacher evaluations.

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This June, Mexico’s federal government opened fire on CTNE teachers and union activists who were protesting the education reforms. The Mexican government attacked protesting teachers anywhere from publicly shaming them in the streets through nonconsensual head shavings in the public plazas to imprisoning union leaders among other human rights violations. The results of this are heinous; nine killed and brutally murdered, twenty imprisoned, and many injured.

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Mayor Rahm Emmanuel may not necessarily support the CTU strike, however, his opposition is not faced with immediate life threatening consequences like that of Mayor Adolfo Gomez Hernandez, Mayor of Oaxaca, who has openly stated his support of the teachers’ demonstrations. This, he believes prompted the delivery of a homemade bomb to his office. Karen Lewis can champion the CTU views and clearly use her First Amendment right to freedom of speech and assembly. Lewis does not have to fear imprisonment for disagreeing with the state and protesting like Ruben Nunez, who heads CTNE.

The disjuncture between the federal, state, and local government in Oaxaca is astonishing, but illustrates why our Founding Father created the Bill of Rights. Where would we be without it? One just has to look at Oaxaca, Mexico and the protest that happened there.


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