After Weeks-Long Scuffle, Cop Painting to Be Removed from Capitol Complex Next Week


After a week-long tug of war between Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and House Republicans, a controversial painting depicting police officers as animals displayed in the Capitol complex is coming down for good.

The painting had been displayed in a tunnel connecting the Capitol and two House office buildings as part of an annual high school student art competition. But conservative media outlets only took notice in the last month, leading individual GOP lawmakers to personally remove it from the wall three times over the past week.

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), a former sheriff, asked the Architect of the Capitol on Wednesday to review whether the painting violated rules of the student art competition that prohibit “subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature.” The competition guidelines adhere to the policy of the House Office Building Commission, which is currently controlled by GOP leaders.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office informed Reichert on Friday that the Architect of the Capitol concluded the artwork did indeed violate the rules. The painting will be removed on Tuesday.

The artist, David Pulphus, is Clay’s constituent. The congressman represents the town of Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager in 2014, sparking nationwide protests.

Clay’s office didn’t immediately have a response Friday night.

Throughout the past week, Clay has defended the artwork as freedom of expression and challenged those offended by the painting to consider why his constituent feels that some police officers behave in an “animalistic” way toward the black community.

The painting has turned into a racially charged proxy fight over attitudes toward law enforcement and freedom of speech.

Tensions escalated over the last week to the point that Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said “we might just have to kick somebody’s ass” if another lawmaker tried to remove the painting.

Pulphus’s artwork features a confrontation between two police officers closely resembling feral pigs drawing their guns at a protester depicted as a black panther. Adding to the furor is that the location in the tunnel is near a Capitol Police security checkpoint.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), an Iraq War veteran, was the first lawmaker to unilaterally remove the painting last Friday and return it to Clay’s office.

Clay then held a ceremony to re-hang the painting on Tuesday surrounded by fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Within hours, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) took it down for a second time, and Clay promptly restored it again.

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Source: The Hill | Cristina Marcos