In an exclusive interview on Jan. 10, U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) told the AFRO he will file a complaint with the Capitol Hill police against one of his Republican colleagues. The controversy involves U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) removing a painting of one of Clay’s constituents, recently.
The painting by David Pulphus, a high-school student in Ferguson, Mo., is at the center of a first amendment fight in the U.S. Capitol. (Courtesy photo)
“On Dec. 29, 2016, a blogger wrote that there was a painting hanging in the U.S. Capitol that depicts police officers as pigs,” Clay said. “That painting was done by one of my constituents, David Pulphus, as a part of the annual Congressional Art Competition. The blogger said that the painting was offensive to police officers and a Fox News reporter initiated a campaign to have the painting removed.”
Pulphus is Black.
On Jan. 6, Hunter removed the painting from the Cannon tunnel of the Capitol and caused a firestorm of controversy. Clay said any actions that take place in the U.S. Capitol and its grounds on matters like this are the jurisdiction of the Architect of the Capitol, not a member of Congress. “It is the Architect of the Capitol that supervised the art competition and determines where paintings are located,” Clay said. “This art form is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Clay returned the painting to its original position on Jan. 10.
Clay refuted some of the aspects of the painting that have been depicted. He noted that one police officer was shown as a wild boar and the other one had a horse head. Clay pointed out that the wild boar police officer was confronting a Black man that was shown as a Black wolf.
“The young man was portraying a street scene in St. Louis,” the representative said. Clay represents St. Louis and much of St. Louis County. “This kid has a right to his feelings,” the congressman continued.
The representative said that Pulphus was reflecting what he saw during his life including the murder of Trayvon Martin in which his killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted, and in nearby Ferguson where Officer Darren Wilson took the life of Michael Brown, as well as the New York City case of Eric Gardner where officers choked him to death. “These acts by officers exhibited animalistic behavior,” Clay said. “This young man was expressing free thought and expression.”
The AFRO visited Hunter’s office in the Rayburn House Office building and made two calls for comment, but received no responses on the controversy or Clay’s talk of filing a complaint.