GOP lawmaker asks Architect of the Capitol to review cop painting

GOP lawmaker asks Architect of the Capitol to review cop painting
© Greg Nash

Rep. Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertWashington Rep. Kim Schrier wins primary Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight Bottom Line MORE (R-Wash.), a former sheriff, asked the Architect of the Capitol on Wednesday to determine whether a controversial student painting depicting police officers as animals should be allowed to hang in the Capitol complex. 

The painting has become a proxy fight between members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Republicans over tensions between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The painting is by David Pulphus, a constituent of Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). Pulphus won a first place prize in the annual student art competition between House member offices. Contest winners’ submissions are hung in a tunnel connecting the Capitol and two House office buildings for one year.


Reichert argued in a letter to Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers that the painting violates the art competition’s rules prohibiting submissions “depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature.”

Clay represents the town of Ferguson, where a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager in 2014 and sparked nationwide protests. 

The painting features a confrontation between a protester depicted as a black panther and two police officers that resemble feral pigs. Off to the side, a human police officer is shown escorting another black protester away from the scene.

“The artwork’s depiction of law enforcement as animals shooting citizens is both sensationalistic and gruesome in nature,” Reichert wrote. “I respectfully request that you review [the painting] and using the rules and regulations of the competition make a determination on its qualifications to hang in the Capitol.”

The artwork has been hanging in the Capitol complex since June, but it only recently drew attention from conservative media outlets. Law enforcement organizations asked Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAt indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates Peterson faces fight of his career in deep-red Minnesota district MORE (R-Wis.) last week to remove the painting.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) then personally removed the painting from the wall on Friday and returned it to Clay’s office. 

Clay, who at the time was boarding a plane back to his district, returned the painting to its place in the tunnel Tuesday morning in an event with other Congressional Black Caucus members.

Clay said fighting for his constituent's painting had become "about protecting the Constitution" and free expression.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Within three hours, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) removed it again and brought it back to Clay’s office.

Clay returned it within 15 minutes. But then two more GOP lawmakers, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) and Brian Babin (Texas), took it down together yet again. 

Clay subsequently re-hung the painting for the third time that day.