Artist Chris Drew is dead; his causes are not | Bleader

Artist Chris Drew is dead; his causes are not


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Chris Drew
  • Chris Drew
The Chicago Tribune published an editorial this morning urging Illinois lawmakers to get rid of the ridiculous state eavesdropping law that makes it a felony to audio record anyone—including on-duty police officers—without their consent. It was prompted by an edict Tuesday from the U.S. Court of Appeals that forbids enforcement of the law, pending the outcome of a suit filed by the ACLU.

But the editorial doesn't mention that the torchbearer for this issue, artist and activist Chris Drew, died Monday, at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, after a battle with lung cancer.

Drew found himself facing a felony charge and a possible multiyear prison sentence for recording Chicago police as they arrested him on December 2, 2009, for selling art on State Street. He had invited his own arrest that day, aiming for a court test of the city peddler laws that he'd campaigned against for years—laws that he said violated free speech rights while keeping the city streets devoid of art.

But he got more than he'd bargained for, spending what turned out to be the last few years of his life fighting the eavesdropping law, while the issue closest to his heart was sidelined. And he won: as the Trib editorial noted, Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks, presiding over Drew's case in March, had found the eavesdropping law unconstitutional; the Cook County State's Attorney was set to appeal.

Drew's lawyer on the peddling case, Mark Weinberg, says Drew made a deathbed request that Weinberg pursue the street-art lawsuit even after he's gone, and Weinberg pledged to do so.

Deborah Drew, Chris's widow, says there will be a memorial event this summer at the American Indian Center, where Chris presided over the Uptown Multicultural Art Center, conducting free screen-printing classes and trying to rally artists to fight for art on the streets of Chicago and their civil rights.

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