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Chris Drew Interview

August 24, 2011

It’s easy to work for a cause, it’s easier to say you stand for a cause; but it is a lot harder to support a cause when your head is on a chopping block over it.  On September 26, 2010, I had a second blog post about ongoing conflicts with artists and other people being arrested for violating regional wiretapping / eavesdropping laws when they video recorded police officers outdoors, in public.  This was a follow up to a Gizmodo article I reblogged which detailed various people arrested across the nation under similar statutes.  Local Chicago artist Chris Drew is still embroiled in a case against the city that questions the legality of his arrest and prosecution for “illegal eavesdropping” by recording police in public and also challenges the city wide ban against selling art in public.  The ban against selling art in public is being pursued as being in violation of the First Amendment.

Chicagoans know that someone can panhandle from people all day long, and the same people beg the same street corners year after year; but whoever tries to sell a drawing or painting on the streets will be hauled off in handcuffs.  It’s why you won’t see art vendors in the city and street musicians are few and far between.  Kids that do West African style drumming on buckets hoping tourists and museum visitors will throw them a dollar or two keep an eye out to cut and run if they need to.  There is no street art scene or street vending culture like NYC or Paris.  Beg all you want in Chi-town, but don’t you dare try to sell things or offer anything in return.

Art Patch Project silkscreen by Chris Drew

Chris Drew is fighting cancer and I was worried.  I had not seen him at any of his usual haunts.  I was worried that he had been too ill to get around town.  It’s hard enough to sit out long protests on the street in good health, let alone with cancer.  As it turns out, we had just missed each other.  He had settled in alongside the massive Merchandise Mart during Art Chicago / NEXT last May 2011.  I just had not found him, although I did look.  He was there, doing his usual protest of giving art away for free on the sidewalk.  During that time, a security guard and police officer tried to bully Chris Drew into leaving.  See the interview about the incident here:

Chris Drew did absolutely the right thing: he was calm and assertive.  He did not get aggressive and escalate the situation, and he did not give in.  This is very smart because people expect either aggression or submission; being assertive takes you out of the dynamic of that kind of power battle.  This is the essence of a seasoned protester.  His blog his here, he updates every few months.

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