A Republican lawmaker removed a high school student's painting from a Capitol Hill display Friday because it shows a pig in a police uniform, aiming a gun at African-American protesters. The image was inspired by the shooting and protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
California Rep. Duncan Hunter unscrewed the painting from a hallway display that includes hundreds of works of art and returned it to the office of Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay, who sponsored the work and represents a St. Louis congressional district.
Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter, said "there's nothing appropriate" about the painting. He said the artwork was the subject of discussion when GOP lawmakers gathered for a morning caucus meeting. When Hunter left the meeting, he walked to the display and took it off the wall.
Hunter did not speak with Clay about the portrait. Kasper said it was Clay's prerogative to return the painting to the display.
A spokesman for Clay says the congressman was unavailable for comment.
The painting showed a police officer taking aim at protesters with signs saying "history" and "stop kill." The police officer has an elongated face with tusks, much like a razorback pig. The background includes the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a young black man looking out from prison bars. One of the figures also appears to show a protester as a wolf.
Clay's website gives the following description of the artwork: "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 said Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School Senior David Pulphus won the lawmaker's 16th Annual Congressional Art Competition, and "his visually stunning acrylic painting on canvas entitled, 'Untitled #1' will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol Complex."
A tunnel leading to the Capitol is filled with paintings and other artwork done by students who enter them in the annual Congressional Art Competition. The nationwide competition began in 1982 and students around the country submit entries to their representative's office. Panels of district artists select the winner from each district, and the winning works are displayed for one year.
In August 2014, a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, setting off weeks of protests.