January 24, 2011
Chris Drew was finally ready to get arrested. An artist and activist, Drew had spent years protesting a Chicago ordinance that puts tight restrictions on where and how people can sell their art on the street. He was downtown, on State Street, selling silk-screened patches for $1 and defying the city to stop him.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
He’d tried his act of civil disobedience three times before — a First Amendment lawyer on hand to argue his case, a team of videographers ready to film the arrest — but the police simply let it slide. When, on December 2, 2009, he finally succeeded in getting booked, Drew was ready for a few hours in lock-up on a misdemeanor, and a lengthy court battle. He was in no way prepared for what he would actually face.
The state charged Drew with a Class 1 felony, not for selling art on the street, but for violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Act by recording his own arrest. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
“Illinois has the worst eavesdropping law in the country,” Drew said in a phone interview. If not the single most punitive, it’s certainly in the top three.