Washington, D.C. - Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay is demanding that another congressman be charged with theft. The painting, which is obviously disrespectful to law enforcement officers, and which became the focus of public outrage, was taken down on Friday, January 6, 2017, by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA.
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, said that his staff met with Capitol Police on Monday to press charges against Rep. Duncan Hunter. The painting was removed by Rep. Hunter and returned to Rep. Lacy's office after he had left a Republican conference meeting discussing the painting. It had been hung in an underground tunnel between the Capitol and the Cannon House Office Building.
Rep. Lacy said “He had no right to take that picture down, it was thievery." Rep. Hunter's Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper, dismissed threats of prosecution and said “Hunter has high regard from Congressman Clay, and this is nothing personal... But we’re less than zero percent worried about this whatsoever." He also said that Rep. Hunter was "trying to make a point that this was a form of expression, and rightfully so, but so is taking it down.”
The untitled artwork was part of a national congressional art competition and was chosen in Rep. Lacy's District. The artist's name is David Pulphus. It depicts a clash between police and protesters on the street, and shows white police officers as pigs, shows a black bird and a white bird in a fight, and also shows a black male crucified on a cross holding the scales of justice. The painting is supposed to reflect the civil unrest which followed the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, where a white police officer was acquitted by a grand jury and cleared in a federal investigation after the death of Michael Brown.
The painting was rehung this morning in a ceremony led by Rep. Clay, along with members of the Congressional Black Caucus members and other lawmakers. Capitol Police have not yet responded on whether there is an active investigation, Rep. Clay said that they were trying to figure out what to do. Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-LA, said that Rep. Hunter should be charged the same as if any private citizen were to go in and remove a picture.
D.C. Police sources tell us that they think that charges have extremely little chance of going through. The removal of the painting doesn't constitute a theft, because Rep. Duncan Hunter gave it to Rep. Lacy Clay. There is a "Taking Property Without Right" charge that could fit more than the theft, but it's a stretch to say that charge would fit when the painting was immediately given to Rep. Clay rather than taken away. Also, there's question if Rep. Clay has any more authority over the painting than Rep. Hunter, as the painting does not actually belong to Rep. Clay.
We have covered this story before and over 27,000 people expressed their outrage over the painting being displayed in a Capitol hallway. The painting is clearly offensive to law enforcement and is promoting division, hostility and animosity toward police officers. It is clearly not a positive message in today's war on police and should be removed immediately. We can only imagine the outrage if the situation were reversed, and a painting was placed in a visible location at the Capitol depicting the opposite.
Rep. Duncan Hunter reacted by saying that they are probably going to keep taking the painting down.
Rep. Duncan Hunter is a hero for standing up for American law enforcement.
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