Student Takes Down ‘Hate Art’ After Coming Under Fire From Denver Police Department

A provocative image regarded as “hate art” by Denver police has been taken down from where it was hoisted on a government building, ABC News is reporting.

The picture shows a police officer wearing a KKK hood and pointing a gun at a black child with his hands up in the air. In the background is the American flag ripped open revealing the Confederate banner.

The National Latino Peace Officers Association denounced the painting, saying it insulted over 2,400 officers who risked their lives every day for people to be safe.

The Denver school district’s communication chief, Nancy Mitchell, said the high school girl who painted the image asked to have the painting brought down. “She is passionate about her art, but didn’t want to make any trouble,” Mitchell said.

The 10th grader was in a closed door meeting with the school superintendent, police chief, and Denver’s mayor Michael Hancock. Her father and mother were in attendance and was provided with a Spanish language interpreter. The outcome of the meeting was that the girl had not been pressured to withdraw her painting and that she did not want to speak publicly about it. “We just had a conversation with a mature, steady, confident, beautiful, articulate young lady,” Mayor Hancock said.

But artist Michael D’Antuono, based in New York City, believes the girl was bullied. “She should have been praised and encouraged for sparking critical thought,” he said. D’Antuono painted A Tale of Two Hoodies” to protest the racist shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. He said he continues to receive criticism and death threats for his work.

Lawyer, Frank LoMonte, who manages the Washington-based Student Press Law Center, said there is no call for censorship if the student withdrew her painting willingly. But he fears that young people in Denver will become less willing to voice their opinions about the police. “However well-founded or not that fear may be, it’s real, it exists and it’s something the community should be discussing,” LoMonte explained.

According to a joint statement from the city and school district, the student’s assignment was to draw inspiration from historic works and connect them with contemporary issues. The student picked the Spanish genius Francisco de Goya’s The Third of May 1808, which hinged on a strong statement about tyranny and shows a firing squad executing a group of rebels. The girl’s interpretive image then shows the young boy offering Skittles candy to the gun-toting officer, a clear reference to Trayvon Martin. The Two Hoodies image was singled out and said to promote dissension and hate between citizens and the police.

Police Chief Robert White and Mayor Michael Hancock, who are both black, said there was no intention to stifle the young girl’s creativity and freedom of expression about racism, violence, and the role of law enforcement. The mayor went on to say that the student wanted to also throw light on the KKK’s history in Colorado and Denver. Researchers documented the prominence of the Klan in the Denver police department in the 1920’s.

The chief of police opined that the student had expressed concerns over contemporary issues that touched her, including the shooting and killing of Jessica Hernandez, 17, who was driving a stolen car towards a group of policemen. The shooting sparked protests in Denver which was similar to demonstrations over the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson.

“There is still work that needs to be done to change the perception of the public about police officers and it can only be done through conversations,” Police Chief Robert White said. Ken Paulson, president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center said, “it is encouraging that a young person could incorporate topicality and headlines into their art. That is what art does. Art reflects real lives and real concerns.”

Do you believe the “Hate Art” painting is offensive and needed to be taken down?

[Image via Shutterstock/BladeTucker]