Image Credit: Independent Journal Review
After a controversial painting depicting police officers as pigs was forcefully removed from the Capitol, the congressman representing the artist's district has hung the painting back up, citing the artist's “freedom of speech.”
Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay rehung the painting alongside members of the Congressional Black Caucus Tuesday morning.
Independent Journal Review first wrote about the student's artwork which was hung to represent Clay's congressional district. The scene depicts anti-police violence demonstrators marching down a street and being accosted by police, who are depicted as boars or pigs.
Following the story, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) pulled down the painting himself and returned it to Congressman Clay's office.
Hunter, who was passing by just as the painting was being rehung, said of the removal:
“Something had to be done, so I just did it.”
The California congressman cited rules for the Congressional Art Contest as to why the painting should not be there.
According to the rules:
Artwork must adhere to the policy of the House Office Building Commission. In accordance with this policy, exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed.
But Clay and the CBC contend that since the work was reviewed and approved by the commission behind the contest, the art should not be removed, and that removal of the artwork is suppression of freedom of speech.
Four days after Hunter tore down the painting, Rep. Clay and CBC r-ehung the painting in a public display. He said in a set of prepared remarks:
“It is just pathetic that some Republican members and alt-right media types who constantly refer to themselves as constitutional conservatives, don't think that that same document protects the fundamental free speech rights of my 18-year-old constituent.”
“Why does this young man feel this way?” Clay asked. “And what can we do as leaders of a compassionate and just nation to remedy that?” While the congressman said he himself did not have an antagonistic relationship with the police, he suggested certain ones, such as Darren Wilson, displayed “animalistic” behavior.
Clay also contended that Hunter “illegally removed" the painting, suggesting it was theft. The congressman also blamed "alt-right" publications such as "Independent Journalism Review" [sic] for ”manufacturing controversy," saying:
“Recently an alt-right blog calling itself Independent Journalism Review [sic], which is clearly not an example of either independence or journalism alleged that this painting which has been viewed peacefully by thousands of Capitol Hill visitors and staff for months, was offensive to police officers.”
On Monday Politico reported that Clay tried to file a complaint of theft with the Capitol police, but they rejected it. And when Independent Journal Review inquired about concrete legal ramifications, Clay balked at the idea of potential legal action:
“I have no plans of litigating against Duncan Hunter. I'm going to file a complaint.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) suggested that Hunter, a Marine, wasn't doing justice to the Constitution with his actions:
“[A]s a Marine, he doesn't know what he's fighting for. What he's fighting for is Americans' freedom of speech.”
Before departing, Congressman Clay offered a word about the responsibility conservative members of Congress have to alter unruly behavior.
“You can't have the culture warriors walking around here like they're in charge or something,” he said.