Democratic lawmakers put back on display on Capitol Hill a controversial painting that angered police with its depiction of officers as pigs — after Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter personally took down the picture last week.
The move Tuesday by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., whose office for months had sponsored the display of the student artwork, could revive tensions with the law enforcement community.
But Clay told the Washington Post he wants the Capitol Police to press theft charges against Hunter for removing the artwork Friday.
“He had no right to take that picture down,” Clay told the Post. “It’s thievery.”
“The rehanging of this painting for public view represents more than just protecting the rights of a student artist, it is a proud statement in defense of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression to every American,” the CBC said in a news release.
Responding Tuesday on “Fox & Friends,” Hunter said: “The Capitol Police aren’t going to arrest me for taking down a picture that portrays them as pigs.”
He appealed to House Speaker Paul Ryan to intervene.
Hunter, a California lawmaker, personally unscrewed and removed the painting last week, saying he was angered by its depiction of law enforcement officers. He then delivered the painting to Clay’s office.
“Lacy can put it back up, I guess, if he wants to,” Hunter told FoxNews.com at the time, “but I’m allowed to take it down.”
The painting, hanging since June, was done by high school student David Pulphus, who had won Clay’s annual Congressional Art competition.
The acrylic painting depicts a police officer as a pig in uniform aiming a gun at African-American protesters. Above the scene, two birds — one black, one white — fight, and beside them, an African-American protester holding a scale of justice is crucified.
Law enforcement groups had strongly objected to the painting’s display on the Capitol complex grounds, with one group calling it “reprehensible, repugnant and repulsive.”
“These are his impressions. Those are his feelings. That’s how he formed his opinion, and he expressed it in his art. So what’s wrong with that?” Clay added.
But Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., warned that rehanging the painting “could result in the [death] of another police officer.”
Joe Kasper, a top aide for Hunter, also said he wasn’t worried about Clay’s threats of charges.
“We’re less than zero percent concerned with this,” he said in a statement. “Returning the painting to Lacy Clay for safekeeping — so it doesn’t continue to offend law enforcement across the country — is by no means theft. It’s absolutely laughable to pretend it is. I’m not sure Clay realizes how much he’s hurting his reputation — assuming he even cares — with law enforcement. But that’s his right.”