WASHINGTON — A GOP congressman reported Friday that a painting stirring controversy on Capitol Hill will be taken down Tuesday after the agency responsible for maintaining the Capitol complex determined it violated rules for a student arts competition.
The painting depicts Ferguson, Missouri, with a pig in a police uniform aiming a gun at a protester. The painting was among hundreds completed by high school students that are featured in a tunnel leading to the Capitol.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., complained the painting violated rules for the competition, which state that works depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or of a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed. Speaker Paul Ryan informed Reichert on Friday that the architect of the Capitol has determined the painting violated the rules and will come down, his office reported.
Reichert said in a written statement that the painting 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.”
The painting by David Pulphus won an annual arts competition in Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay’s congressional district last year. Clay and lawmakers supporting the painting’s display said it hung for more than six months without controversy. They said things changed only after conservative media outlets began a campaign to have the artwork removed.
Then, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California took matters into his own hands and removed the painting without permission, returning it to Clay’s office last Friday. Clay put it back up as members of the Congressional Black Caucus lent their support.
Thus began a tit-for-tat in which Republican lawmakers kept taking the painting down and Clay kept putting it back up. Clay said removing the painting would be a violation of his constituent’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression.
Clay’s office said the congressman was not available to comment on Reichert’s announcement that the painting will be taken down. But just the day before he issued a statement saying Ryan and his Republican colleagues were attempting to suppress free speech “with their own brand of retroactive, vigilante censorship against my constituent.”
Clay has warned that the removal of the painting would most certainly result in litigation.
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