A minor dust-up on Capitol Hill over a controversial painting that depicts police officers as pigs turned nuclear Monday evening when a Missouri congressman demanded criminal charges against Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter for removing the painting off the U.S. Capitol walls.
Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., told reporters that his staff met Monday with members of the Capitol Police to press theft charges against Hunter, who yanked the painting Friday and delivered it to Clay’s office.
“He had no right to take that picture down,” Clay said. “It’s thievery.”
According to Kerry Picket of the Daily Caller, Clay said the police “have not been helpful to the congressman in his quest to file charges against Hunter.”
A source on the hill familiar with the matter claims that Clay “asked for law enforcement protection to be present when he puts the painting back up at 10 a.m.
However, Clay denied he asked law enforcement for protection when asked by The Daily Caller about it.
“Why would I ask for police protection? I’m from St. Louis. I don’t need police protection. I don’t’ need that. For what? I do what I need to do. I’m a member of Congress. So how dare you ask me that. Why do I need police protection?” Clay snapped back.
According to the Caller, Hunter’s top aide brushed off Clay’s threats of prosecution:
“We’re less than zero percent worried about this, because, one, it’s not theft when you take something off a wall, without damaging the property, in the Capitol Building and return it to its rightful owner on behalf of a student in any way what so ever,” a Hunter spokesman told TheDC.
“We conferred with counsel on this and their response to us was, ‘give us a break.’ The Capitol Hill Police will be responsible for investigating it. There’s nothing to investigate other than the fact that Hunter screwed it off the wall and returned it to its rightful owner for the purpose of ‘safekeeping.’”
Clay doesn’t know if the ethics committee “would even consider an ethics complaint. I want to file a criminal charge for theft. Look, this kid won a contest. His painting was placed there with the 400 others so why should he be singled out and taken down by a member.”
However, he would like to see other pieces removed from the Capitol that he finds offensive.
“There’s plenty of art work in this capitol that I find to be very offensive and we should remove it—like Jefferson Davis’ statue—like Robert E. Lee—two traitors who caused America 600,000 lives and they’re treasonous. They should be out of here or Nathan Forrest—the founder of the KKK. His ass shouldn’t be hanging around here,” he said.
As PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson reported earlier Monday, Clay and other Congressional Black Caucus members plan to rehang the painting Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. in a staged media event.
— Lacy Clay MO1st (@LacyClayMO1) January 10, 2017
The painting, “Untitled #1” by Cardinal Ritter High School grad David Pulphus, depicts what the Washington Post tactfully calls “a scene of civil unrest” (more accurately described as riots and mayhem) sparked by the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The painting had been hanging in a House walkway among other contest winners, unnoticed since June.
It is part of a national art competition, one of 435 artworks chosen by local panels of artists to hang in the underground tunnel between the Capitol and the Cannon House Office Building.
Some Republican lawmakers have called for the painting to be taken down in recent weeks, but Hunter took matters into his own hands Friday.
Former U.S. Marshal Tommy Kilbride said on Fox Business that the painting is not art. “It’s a despicable piece of garbage that needs to be taken off the wall today,” Kilbride fumed.
Anchor Charles Payne said he hoped that the Congressional Black Caucus members would reconsider rehanging the piece overnight.
“That’s not art,” he said. “And it’s certainly not the time to hang something like that.”
Monday saw two officer line-of-duty deaths in Florida, after a murder suspect opened fire on a female Orlando police sergeant, killing her, and a deputy died in a motorcycle crash while trying to catch the perp. There have been three line-of-duty deaths so far this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
There were 140 line-of-duty deaths in the United States last year.