The painting had been hanging in a Capitol hallway for six months, attracting no public complaints.
Then, shortly before the new year, a conservative website published this headline: “Painting of Cops as Pigs Hung Proudly in US Capitol.” The story was picked up by
Now it’s the subject of a tug of war between House
The painting depicts a clash between police and protesters on a street. In it, gun-wielding officers have heads that resemble pigs, while one protester appears to be a panther or wolf, and people on the street hold signs that read "History," "Justice Now" and "Racism Kills." A black man hangs from a crucifix, the scales of justice in his hands.
The painting was a winner of an annual high school art competition and is among hundreds that line a block-long tunnel used by visitors and members of Congress to travel between the House office buildings and the Capitol.
Frustrated that the painting remained on the wall, Rep.
"The U.S. Capitol, especially in this corridor ... is not a modern art museum," Hunter's chief of staff, Joe Kasper, said Tuesday. "It's not the right place to have anything that calls attention to police officers as swine."
Clay gathered with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and a handful of other members to hang the painting back up Tuesday morning.
"I do not agree or disagree with the painting, but I will fight to protect this young man's right to express himself," Clay, whose district includes Ferguson, Mo., told reporters afterward.
"It's not the road we should be going down, and of all the things we should be dealing with, this is ..." Lowenthal said, trailing off. "For them to decide that they now are the censor of the Congress … is totally inappropriate."
Clay said he tried to seek theft charges against Hunter for removing the painting, but Capitol Police wouldn't take the report.
Kasper dismissed threats of theft charges as "grandstanding."
"That's a punk move," he said.
Hours later, the painting was pulled down twice more, once by a Colorado representative, and a short time later by Reps.
"We support freedom of speech, but you don't put something attacking policemen, treating them like pigs, here in the Capitol," Rohrabacher told Roll Call.
While the Missouri painting is being criticized for depicting police as pigs, it's not the only one in the tunnel dealing with race and police. A student painting from Georgia titled "The Rules" depicts two white officers tearing a black man from his seat at a checkers table and cites a 1930s Alabama law that prohibited black and white people from playing board games together.
As the day wore on, members of the Congressional Black Caucus became frustrated: “We may just have to kick somebody's ass and stop them,” caucus Chairman
Former sheriff and Rep.
Hunter, who says he remains friends with Clay, will not personally pull the painting down again, Kasper said. Clay said he's asked Hunter for an apology.
"Sometimes you have to do things like that to draw attention of people and get it taken down," Kasper said. "Mission accomplished."
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Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at latimes.com/politics