Artist Chris Drew Arrested for Recording Video of His Own Arrest on a Public Street in Chicago

Interview with artist Chris Drew, who thinks the Illinois law that prohibits audio recordings of police arrests is a violation of the First Amendment. He believes that we have the right to record our public servants, our employees and bring evidence to the system that they are doing wrong.

Chicago artist Chris Drew used a video camera to record his own arrest by police in December 2009 and is now facing up to 15 years in prison. Under the Eavesdropping Act in Illinois, even videotaping yourself during an arrest is a Class 1 felony. Drew was protesting Chicago restrictions on where artists can sell their work, and had his video camera rolling when he was arrested. Prior to being charged, he said he was unaware of the Eavesdropping law. He explained the people must have the right to hold public servants and people in public office also accountable.

In a democracy you’re supposed to be able to oversee your public servants
— Chris Drew, Chicago artist

There is a gap in First Amendment case law. It is clear that we have a right to videotape police, but it is not legal to audio record the police under the eavesdropping law.

The word on the street is that the eavesdropping law was actually implemented to prevent audio recordings of corrupt politicians in Illinois.

The trial is scheduled for early April, 2011. Chris Drew is prepared to take the case to federal court if he loses in Illinois.