The Architect of the Capitol on Tuesday removed a controversial Ferguson, Mo.-themed painting depicting police officers as animals from the tunnel which connects the Capitol to the Cannon House Office Building.
Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who selected the painting as the winner of his district’s Congressional Art Competition, said he would appeal the ruling, reached after House Republicans called for its removal, arguing it violated the competition’s rules by “depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature.”
The painting had sparked a tug-of-war between members of the House GOP and the Congressional Black Caucus, who supported Clay as he continued to rehang the painting after it was removed by a number of Republicans.
In a statement released with CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Clay said the Architect of the Capitol acted to “suppress the free speech rights” of the 18-year-old student from St. Louis, whose painting represented the 2014 protests against police tactics in Ferguson following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man.
“The assertion that the painting did not comply with the rules of the Congressional Art Competition is arbitrary and insulting,” Clay said. “Like the other 400+ entries, this painting was accepted and approved by the Congressional Art Competition last spring, and it has been peacefully displayed in a public forum for more than six months.”
Clay’s office said the painting would be “safely on-display” in his own office while he appealed the decision.
The move by the AOC, which oversees the Capitol complex, came nearly a week after Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), a former sheriff, penned a letter urging the painting be removed. The office informed Reichert it would remove the painting on Friday, said Breanna Deutsch, a spokeswoman for the Washington Republican.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) weighed in on the painting last week, calling its depiction of police officers “disgusting.”