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Chris Drew

A federal court ruled against the Illinois eavesdropping law that Chris Drew has spent two years fighting on Tuesday – a day after the activist artist died.

While fighting the eavesdropping law, Chris was also fighting cancer – conducting both fights with remarkable courage, grace, and generosity of spirit.

 

Photo by Nancy Bechtol

Today’s court ruling allows the ACLU to carry out a project monitoring police conduct during NATO protests later this month.  The felony eavesdropping charge pursued against Chris by State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was thrown out in March, the judge ruling that the statute criminalizes “wholly innocent behavior.”

That wasn’t the law Chris had set out to challenge.  He’d been arrested in December 2009 protesting Chicago’s prohibitive peddler’s license ordinance, which requires street artists to re-apply every month for a “free speech permit” and restricts them to ten corners in the Loop.

With its new cultural plan, the city should finally listen to Chris and open our streets to artists selling their work, as every other city in the world does.

Chris founded the Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center over 20 years ago and taught silkscreening to anyone interested, without charge, including a new generation of grafitti artists and taggers.

UMCAC’s annual “Art of the T Shirt” festival developed into a year-round Art Patch Project.  Chris and his colleagues would set up a silkscreen on the street and create and give away small patches carrying designs and messages – and he would talk to anyone interested about the importance of art and free speech.

Last month Occupy Rogers Park honored Chris by re-naming Morse Avenue “Chris Drew Way.” At the event, Chris called for artists to occupy the corner of Michigan and Randolph this spring to keep the pressure up for a sane policy on street artists.

“The most important thing to say is that Chris died as he lived, fighting all the way for the dispossessed and marginalized among us, for the right of artists to speak their mind and to survive,” commented Lew Rosenbaum, of the Chicago Labor & Arts Festival blog, in a Facebook post. “Chris devoted his life to providing the artistic means for people to discover their creativity and to participate in the transformation of society.”

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Category: arts, civil liberties

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One Response

  1. Thanks much Curtis, for this excellent view of Chris Drew, it was an honor to know him.


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