A GOP congressman reported Friday that a painting stirring controversy on Capitol Hill will be taken down Tuesday after the agency responsible for maintaining the Capitol complex determined it violated rules for a student arts competition.
The painting depicts Ferguson, Missouri, with a pig in a police uniform aiming a gun at a protester. The painting was among hundreds completed by high school students that are featured in a tunnel leading to the Capitol.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Washington, complained the painting violated rules for the competition, which state that works depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or of a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed.
Speaker Paul Ryan informed Reichert on Friday that the architect of the Capitol has determined the painting violated the rules and will come down, his office reported.
Reichert said in a written statement that the painting was a ‘slap in the face to the countless men and women who put their lives on the line everyday on behalf of our safety and freedom’.
The painting by David Pulphus won an annual arts competition in Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay’s congressional district last year.
Clay and lawmakers supporting the painting’s display said it hung for more than six months without controversy.
They said things changed only after conservative media outlets began a campaign to have the artwork removed.
Then, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California took matters into his own hands and removed the painting without permission, returning it to Clay’s office last Friday.
‘It was an impulsive thing when I walked by,’ Hunter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of his choice to take the painting down.
‘It strikes a nerve. I’m not a cop, but I was in the Marine Corps.’
‘It kind of strikes the same nerve as when the guys came home from Vietnam, and they were called baby killers,’ Hunter added.
Duncan also told the newspaper that the move was ‘nothing personal’ toward Clay, a Missouri Democrat, whom the Republican says he considers a friend.
‘It’s offensive,’ Duncan told the Post-Dispatch. ‘You shouldn’t have something in the Capitol that depicts cops as pigs. It’s that simple.’
‘I think he was way out of bounds and he broke the law – it’s called theft,’ Clay told the Daily Caller.
‘I think don’t think anyone up here is qualified to be an art critic. I’m not and no other member is an art critic except one – Alma Adams of North Carolina.’
He told the news outlet: ‘There’s plenty of art work in this capitol that I find to be very offensive and we should remove it—like Jefferson Davis’ statue—like Robert E. Lee—two traitors who caused America 600,000 lives and they’re treasonous.
‘They should be out of here or Nathan Forrest—the founder of the KKK. His a** shouldn’t be hanging around here.’
The removed painting was the winner of Clay’s congressional art contest in May 2016 – an interpretation of the Ferguson protests created by Cardinal Ritter High School student David Pulphus. It hung among other art show winners.
Clay put it back up as members of the Congressional Black Caucus lent their support.
Thus began a tit-for-tat in which Republican lawmakers kept taking the painting down and Clay kept putting it back up.
Clay told The Daily Beast: ‘It’s really reduced to a childish game now, and now it calls into question the decorum and civility of this institution. And I think that’s the real tragedy at this point, because they’ve really turned it into a game.’
Clay told the website: ‘His winning entry is a provocative, symbolic representation of the great anger and pain, frustration and deep deficit in trust for local law enforcement that many young African Americans feel in their heart.
‘The pain also reflects generations of struggle, sacrifice, abuse of power and tenuous relationship between minorities and the system of justice.’
Clay said removing the painting would be a violation of his constituent’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression.
Clay’s office said the congressman was not available to comment on Reichert’s announcement that the painting will be taken down.
But just the day before he issued a statement saying Ryan and his Republican colleagues were attempting to suppress free speech ‘with their own brand of retroactive, vigilante censorship against my constituent’.
Clay has warned that the removal of the painting would most certainly result in litigation.
SOURCE: NIKKI SCHWAB and ZOE SZATHMARY, DAILYMAIL.COM