A piece of art depicting police officers as pigs with guns terrorizing a black neighborhood is currently displayed proudly inside our nation's Capitol.
The untitled artwork, which supposedly symbolizes the unrest that followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, was selected as part of the annual Congressional Art Competition. It currently hangs in a tunnel between the U.S. Capitol building and Longworth House Office Building.
The St. Louis American describes what’s seen in the painting:
His winning work is an acrylic painting featuring a downtown street scene with the Gateway Arch displayed in the background and three police officers with animal heads, two with guns in hand, and a large group of marchers moving toward the police.
The lead marcher carries a sign that says the word “history.” Pulphus’ painting includes several signs, one of which says “Racism Kills,” and another “Stop Killing.” On the right you can see a man being crucified wearing a graduation cap holding the scales of justice in his hands.
The painting is an interpretation of the months of unrest that took place in the region in response to the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown Jr. by then-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014.
The painting was selected on behalf of Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO). While it's unclear whether Clay personally selected “Untitled #1” as the winner, he offered heavy praise for the controversial painting in a press release:
In his remarks to the overflow crowd of young artists, parents and teachers who gathered at Webster University’s new downtown St. Louis campus in the historic Arcade Building, Congressman Clay said, “Tonight, we are celebrating our sixteenth year of recognizing outstanding young artistic talent. As you can see from the artwork on display here, the level of talent is truly impressive. Your work is inspiring, and I encourage all of you to continue to develop your creative abilities.”
The artist, David Pulphus, was previously scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C. to unveil his painting, which “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,” according to Rep. Clay's press release.
Clay also reportedly called the piece of art the “most creative expression that I’ve witnessed over the last 16 years” during remarks on the House floor.
Multiple calls made to Clay's Washington, D.C., office on Thursday were unanswered.
Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), a former law enforcement officer, told Independent Journal Review in a statement that he was disappointed to see the painting in the hallway of our nation's Capitol:
“It is disheartening to see this depiction of law enforcement hanging in the hallway of our nation's Capitol where officers work everyday to protect our safety and freedoms. Unfortunately, many people of influence have taken part in promoting offensive and inaccurate caricatures of the very people who do the most to protect our families. While I understand in some neighborhoods trust between police and communities has all but deteriorated, we must work on rebuilding these relationships and focus on our shared goals of peace and civility.”
A senior Republican congressional aide also blasted the artwork in a scathing statement provided to IJR:
“That a sitting member of Congress thought it was a good idea to honor the depiction of police officers as pigs — in the U.S. Capitol of all places — is reprehensible. I feel incredibly sad that the officers working nearby have to see this on the wall. These officers protect this congressman, his staff, and his office every day, never knowing if it may be their last. Meanwhile, he's encouraging teenagers in his district to treat police officers as animals. It's disgusting, and he should be ashamed. This hate masquerading as art needs to be taken down now.”
The aide first noticed the painting after witnessing two officers huddled around it. They looked at it and then walked back to where they came from.
“It's just sad,” the aide told IJR.
The aide said that just about 25 yards away from the painting, Capitol Hill police officers are hard at work screening people through metal detectors. There, they stand ready to put themselves in harm's way to protect everyone inside the U.S. Capitol, including the Democratic lawmaker who honored the painting with a spot on the wall.