Missouri congressman to file police report against colleague over controversial painting removal

WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay plans to file a police report against his colleague Rep. Duncan Hunter for removing a controversial painting from its spot in the Capitol, according to a spokesman.

Lawmakers are facing off over the artwork that some Republicans criticized as anti-police. Meanwhile members of the Congressional Black Caucus will hold an event on Tuesday morning to re-hang the painting that Hunter took down last week, setting off a potential political game of musical chairs.

The controversy came up at a closed door House Republican conference meeting Friday, according to GOP sources in the meeting.

Each member of Congress can select a painting by a constituent to hang in the Cannon tunnel. Hunter and other House Republicans took issue with the one from Clay’s district that had some police depicted as pigs.

The painting, by high school student David Pulphus, won Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay’s congressional art competition in May 2016. Members do not select the artists, do not approve or disapprove the content, and have no role in judging the artwork, Clay’s spokesman said. In Clay’s district submissions are judged by an independent panel of art professionals, he 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,” Clay’s office wrote in a news release at the time.

But the law enforcement community and several members of Congress took issue with the artwork after its existence was reported by Independent Journal Review.

Hunter personally unscrewed the painting from its spot in the Cannon tunnel and delivered it to Clay’s office Friday, but his office acknowledged at the time that it may not stay there.

“There’s nothing appropriate about a painting that depicts police officers at pigs. Representative Hunter removed the painting and returned it, but as easy as it came down — it can go back up,” the congressman’s chief of staff Joe Kasper wrote in an email Friday, noting an overwhelmingly positive reaction for its removal from law enforcement, including Capitol Hill police officers.