GOP Congressman Personally Removes Controversial Painting From Capitol

The prizewinning student work depicts the police as pigs.

The US Capitol, where the controversial painting was on display. Photo Daniel Mennerich, via Flickr.

California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter marked the opening of the 115th Congress by removing a controversial painting by a high school student from a display in the US Capitol. Representing a protest against police violence, it shows a policeman in the guise of a pig aiming a gun at a protester, among other images.

“I was angry,” Hunter told Fox News in explaining his actions. The president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, Andy Maybo, had called the painting “both offensive and disgusting.”

The artwork won an annual competition organized by Missouri Congressman William Lacy Clay, in which the winning piece goes on display as part of the Congressional Art Competition, which has taken place annually since 1982. The artist is David Pulphus, who was a senior at Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School when he won the competition. Maybo had called Clay’s support of the painting “reprehensible.”

In a statement on his website, Clay said, “The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society.”

Also in the foreground of the work, a black man hangs on a crucifix that takes the form of the scales of justice. Protesters carry signs reading “racism kills,” “justice now,” and “history,” as well as one bearing a peace symbol. In the distance looms the Gateway Arch, a St. Louis icon; next to it, a black face gazes out from behind prison bars.

Protests rocked Missouri after the 2014 police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Clay represents Missouri’s First District, which includes St. Louis. The police officer is not the only one who is rendered as an animal; one of the protesters, carrying a partially obscured sign that appears to read “stop killing us,” is depicted as a wolf.

Clay is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and, in a September statement, called on the Department of Justice “to require transparency, accountability and real transformation of local law enforcement agencies to stop the epidemic of killings of young African Americans at the hands of local police.”

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, told ABC News that Hunter “will soon realize that he’s fallen down more than one rabbit hole,” in reference to Hunter’s confession that he had flown the family’s pet rabbit with the family on his campaign’s tab. Hunter ultimately reimbursed his campaign $49,000 for personal expenses, including PEZ Candy and Rice Krispies Treats and a Thanksgiving trip to Europe, reports the San Diego Tribune.

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