- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A painting that depicted police officers as animals and led to a spat among members of Congress has been taken down from a tunnel in the U.S. Capitol.

The Architect of the Capitol announced Friday the painting — which was inspired by the 2014 civil unrest following the shooting of a black teen by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri — would be taken down Tuesday because it violated the rules of the congressional art contest that barred “exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature” as “not allowed.”

The decision was heralded by House Republicans who argued the artwork was a slap in the face of police officers and should not be on display in the Capitol. Democrats, meanwhile, expressed disappointment, saying politics triumphed over common sense, and vowing to fight the decision.

“I support our police, but I also support the rights of those in the communities we represent to express frustrations with their day-to-day realities,” said Rep. Cedrick L. Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who supported Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay’s decision to include the painting among the 400-plus winners of the 2016 congressional art contest on display at the Capitol. “Unfortunately, politics has yet again trumped common sense. Rather than engage in a thoughtful dialogue about what would motivate an 18-year-[old] to express himself in this way, congressional leaders have chosen to exercise their power to suppress a child’s free expression,” Mr. Richmond said.

Former high school student David Pulphus made the painting, which showed people as animals — including a police officer who appeared to have a boar’s head.

Since the summer it has been on display on the wall of a tunnel connecting House legislative officers to the Capitol.

Tensions boiled over this month after Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, took matters into his own hands by pulling the painting down and returning it to the office of Mr. Clay, Missouri Democrat.

Backed by Mr. Richmond and other fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Mr. Clay rehung the painting, saying he was fighting for Mr. Pulphus’ free speech rights, and saying he was open to debating the issue as long as the challenges were carried out in the proper channels.

Later on in the day, Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado yanked down the painting, angering Mr. Richmond, who told Politico, “we might have to kick somebody’s ass” if the cycle continued.

That warning, though, went unheeded, and Mr. Lacy had to rehang it once again after Reps. Brian Babin of Texas and Dana Rohrabacher of California pulled it down and walked it back to his office.

Rep. Dave G. Reichert, the Washington Republican who led the GOP efforts to permanently remove the painting, said the Architect of the Capitol made the correct ruling, saying the painting had “hung in defiance to those rules and 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.”

Mr. Clay panned the decision, saying it has “sent a chilling message to young Americans that their voices are not respected, their views are not valued and their freedom of expression is no longer protected in the U.S. Capitol.”

Mr. Clay said he plans to fight the decision.


 


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