This week we’re announcing and exploring our NWA’s new theme, “When I am Free: Community Visions of Liberation.” Today I want to share two extremely relevant news items:

1) Proposed dramatic changes to Chicago protest laws

From a press release by Stand Up! Chicago:

The new restrictions place onerous limits on the First Amendment right to free speech and assembly, including burdensome permit requirements for even small sidewalk protests, the threat of steep new fines and other provisions that are practically impossible to comply with. The upshot is that almost any organization or group of individuals that wishes to express dissent can quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the law and subject to arrest and fines.

Though Emanuel initially claimed that the provisions were solely aimed at planned protests of the upcoming NATO/G8 summit in May, he later admitted that they would indeed be permanent, giving police sweeping new powers to crack down on protests of all sorts.

This is especially worrisome at a time when groups of all sorts—labor unions, community organizations, schoolteachers and health-care providers—are faced with the need to mobilize to defend public education and city services from the mayor’s budget axe. And it sets up a situation that will give police sweeping powers to crack down on the First Amendment rights of the thousands of people expected to protest the NATO/G8 summit that will take place in Chicago, May 19-21.

“Human rights earned by years of struggle and hope must not be vanquished in a moment of fear,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson in a statement of solidarity to Chicago activists. “And so we march to preserve that which is intrinsic to the integrity of our nation and our self-worth. I appeal to the mayor to honor time-honored principles of our democracy. The right to fight for our rights is what democracy looks like. So long as our fight is nonviolent and transparent, our rights must be honored.”

Though just a few minutes ago Mayor Emanuel said they would not raise fines, there are many proposed restrictions left that threaten first amendment rights. Call your aldermen and share your voice. Read Stand Up!’s full letter here.

2) The Tucscon, Arizona school district has banned books by Chicano and Native American authors. “Administrators told Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any class units where ‘race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes.’” (via the narcosphere – read more here and below)

The reading list includes world acclaimed Chicano and Latino authors, along with Native American authors. The list includes books by Corky Gonzales, along with Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street;” Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “Black Mesa Poems,“ and L.A. Urreas’ “The Devil’s Highway.“ The authors include Henry David Thoreau and the popular book “Like Water for Chocolate.”

On the reading list are Native American author Sherman Alexie’s books, “Ten Little Indians,“ and “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven.“ O’odham poet and professor Ofelia Zepeda’s “Ocean Power, Poems from the Desert” is also on the list.”

Other banned books include “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by famed Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuña, two books often singled out by Arizona state superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal, who campaigned in 2010 on the promise to “stop la raza.”