Democratic lawmakers re-hung a controversial painting Tuesday on Capitol Hill depicting a confrontation between black protesters and police officers being portrayed as pigs after a Republican lawmaker personally removed it.
Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo) put the cops-as-pigs painting back on the wall in the Cannon Tunnel pic.twitter.com/hN7tiXX0ek
— Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) January 10, 2017
The painting is part of a student-art contest on display along a Capitol Hill corridor and remained largely unnoticed for about seven months, until officer groups began to complain. California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter on Friday personally removed the painting, saying he was angered by its depiction of police, Fox News reported.
He said Tuesday the piece also violates the art-contest rules.
But Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus from whose Missouri district the picture came, said Tuesday after helping re-hang the picture that Hunter’s action was “blatant censorship.”
“It was wrong and it was inappropriate,” he said. “It’s not about defending an art contest. It’s about defending the Constitution.”
Clay has said he wants the Capitol Hill police to file theft charges against Hunter, who after removing the painting returned it to Clay’s congressional office. Clay said Tuesday he has not heard from the police but does not intend to personally take legal action.
Fox News has learned the Capitol Police are not expected to take up the probe.
Clay also said “perhaps” the contests rules were violated but he wants to have that discussion with Speaker Paul Ryan.
Clay insisted he is not “anti-police” and said he “does not agree or disagree with the painting” — arguing his intent is to defend the First Amendment rights of the 18-year-old artist, David Pulphus.
He argued the artist’s world view has been shaped by the “animalistic” behavior of police officers, particularly the recent, high-profile cases in which unarmed black males died in confrontations with police.
Hunter said Tuesday before the painting was rehung: “It doesn’t belong in the U.S. Capitol. It’s that simple. It violates the rules of the art competition. You cannot have offensive things in the competition and this does.”
He said the rules do not allow paintings with “sensationalistic” subjects or those that depict “contemporary political controversy.”
The acrylic painting depicts a police officer as a pig in uniform aiming a gun at African-American protesters. Above the scene, two birds — one black, one white — fight, and beside them, an African-American protester holding a scale of justice is crucified.
Law enforcement groups had strongly objected to the painting’s display on the Capitol complex grounds, with one group calling it “reprehensible, repugnant and repulsive.”
Earlier Tuesday, Hunter said on the Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends”: “The Capitol Police aren’t going to arrest me for taking down a picture that portrays them as pigs.”
He plans to ask the Architect of the Capitol to have the painting removed.