Since last June, a painting depicting police as pigs has been hanging on Capitol Hill. The artwork was created by a high school student by the name of David Pulphus, winner of Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay’s annual Congressional Art competition. Reportedly, every member of Congress is allowed to choose a constituent’s painting to be bung in Cannon tunnel, and the acrylic painting depicting police officers as pigs was chosen from Clay’s Missouri district in May of 2016.
As CNN reports, members don’t approve or disapprove of painting content, nor do they choose the artists that compete in the competition to have a painting hung at Capitol Hill, at least in Representative Clay’s district. Rather, the art submissions are judged by a panel of art pros. Those art pros, described as “independent,” chose the controversial work of art, which included police officers depicted as pigs, to represent them and their district.
“The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society.”
While the painting has been hung at Capitol Hill for roughly half of a year, it hasn’t been without controversy. As Fox News reports, the painting depicting police as pigs had been publicly condemned by multiple law enforcement groups for some time, particularly given its Capitol Hill location and polarizing subject matter. At least one police group referred to the painting as “reprehensible, repugnant and repulsive.”
“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.”
On January 6, one congressman reportedly decided to take the matter of the disputed painting into his own hands. Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California simply and personally took the painting down himself last Friday, unscrewing it from its Capitol Hill perch and delivering it to the office of Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay. For his actions, the California Republican was wholly unapologetic.
“Lacy can put it back up, I guess, if he wants to, but I’m allowed to take it down.”
Representative Hunter’s office noted that, despite his bravado, the public removal of the Capitol Hill painting featuring pigs as police officers could be easily undone, and that it probably would be.
“There’s nothing appropriate about a painting that depicts police officers at pigs. Representative Hunter removed the painting and returned it, but as easy as it came down — it can go back up.”
@NoAytch Your point seems to have gone over the heads of a lot of people. I appreciate the effort, either way.— KennyGoo (@KennyGoo) January 7, 2017
And it does appear that the controversial painting will be returning to its spot on the walls of Capitol Hill’s Cannon tunnel. While the removal of the painting was decidedly unceremonious, its rehanging will be anything but. As Fox News reports, Rep. Lacy Clay and the Congressional Black Caucus sent out a press release on Monday indicating that they will jointly and very ceremoniously rehang the painting depicting police as pigs at a Capitol Hill event Tuesday morning, claiming that the artwork had been “removed without permission or proper authority.”
According to the CBC and Rep. Lacy Clay, the displaying the painting on Capitol Hill, while offensive to some, boils down to what’s protected by the First Amendment.
“The rehanging of this painting for public view represents more than just protecting the rights of a student artist, it is a proud statement in defense of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression to every American.”
What’s more, and perhaps ironically to some familiar with the content of the painting, Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay is also reportedly planning on filing a police report over the unauthorized removal of the painting. A spokesman for the Missouri Democrat says that the police report will be filed against Rep. Duncan Hunter himself. Reportedly, Capitol Hill police thanked Hunter for the removal of the painting.
“At a time of our country facing rising crime and a shortage of those willing to work the streets as police officers and deputy sheriffs, we need to make it clear that depictions of law enforcement officers as pigs in our Nation’s Capital is not acceptable.”
Not surprisingly, given the collective opinions of many American police organizations involving the painting, at least one is thrilled that the art was taken down, even if it looks like the removal of the piece is only going to be temporary. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs claims to be “very pleased.”
There is no word on what, if any, consequences Rep. Hunter may face for removing the Capitol Hill painting depicting police as pigs.
[Featured Image by Orhan Cam/Shutterstock]