The ongoing drama between House Republicans and members of the Congressional Black Caucus over a painting -that literally depicts police as trigger-happy pigs who target black citizens- has taken an aggressive turn, with the CBC chairman threatening to “kick somebody’s ass“ over the painting’s repeated removal.
Painted by a high school student from the Ferguson, MO, area who entered the US Congressional Art Competition, the piece of art depicts black Americans protesting in the street while anthropomorphic boars in police uniforms aim their service pistols at civilians- including one being crucified on the Scales of Justice.
Rehung on the walls of the Capitol building Tuesday after being removed by California Representative and Iraq veteran Duncan Hunter last week. In an op-ed, Hunter explained his actions.
“As an American citizen and a former Marine who supports law enforcement, I took matters into my own hands,” he wrote. “I unscrewed the painting from the wall and returned it to the Democratic Congressman who represents the award winner.
Hanging in an individual Congressional office, there’s no real room for complaint. Hanging in a museum or on display in a gallery, that’s fine. But a painting of that kind-projecting the message it does- does not belong in the U.S. Capitol.
My intent was to make a statement- just as the artist and his or her endorsers did. Call it my own form of expression.”
After the painting was returned to its controversial display area, it quickly found its way back into the office of Representative Lacy Clay of Missouri- courtesy of Colorado Representative Doug Lamborn.
While the painting was again re-mounted by the CBC in a ceremony on Tuesday, Democratic defenders of the incendiary art work have threatened to take drastic measures to defend what they think is an expression of free speech.
“We may just have to kick somebody’s ass and stop them,” said Louisiana Representative and CBC chairman Cedric Richmond.
Lamborn unapologetically explained himself in a statement, claiming the artwork is in poor taste.
“Just yesterday, we honored Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. I could not, in good conscience, continue to walk by a painting that so flagrantly disrespected the brave police officers that protect us here in the Capitol and in our communities across the country,” he said on Tuesday. “I decided to continue the protest started by my colleague Congressman Hunter and I hope that permanent action is taken to remove this brazen attack on the brave men and women who make up the thin blue line.”
Richmond told Politico that any escalation of the issue would be a mistake on behalf of those who oppose the painting.
“I’m looking at some paintings that people could probably find some offense to,” he said. “So you just open up Pandora’s Box to, I think, anarchy when it comes to the art around this building. I think it would be a bad move. I think politically it would be an awful move to do that.”
Interestingly, Hunter and his cohorts have the edge- an examination of the art competition’s rules actually disqualifies the painting.
“We looked up the rules for the art competition: You’re not allowed to have paintings that are sensationally divisive,” Hunter said. “Basically the rules don’t allow for things like this.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan is addressing the conflict, personally assuring GOP members that the painting is on its way out. However, his office has declined to say just how the issue will be addressed.
“There’s general consensus that the painting needs to be addressed, and there will be formal mechanisms by which it will be addressed,” said Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong.
Even though Congressman Clay tried to file a police report against Hunter for theft on the day of the painting’s initial removal, the US Capitol Police refused to file the complaint and thanked Hunter for his actions.
Despite the friction over the issue, Hunter and Clay took a photo of themselves shaking hands at the end of the business day.
“Even though we disagree,” Hunter wrote, “We’re still friends.”
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