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Missouri lawmaker seeks to press charges against rep over painting removal

Rep. Duncan Hunter

January 10, 2017

A Missouri congressman wants a fellow lawmaker criminally prosecuted for removing a controversial painting on Capitol Hill that depicts police officers as pigs.

Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., told the Washington Post on Monday he wants the Capitol Police to press theft charges against Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter for removing the artwork Friday.

“He had no right to take that picture down,” Clay said told the Post. “It’s thievery.”

The Congressional Black Caucus and Clay announced earlier Monday that the painting will be rehung in the Cannon Tunnel Tuesday morning.

“The rehanging of this painting for public view represents more than just protecting the rights of a student artist, it is a proud statement in defense of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression to every American,” the CBC said in a news release.

Hunter, a California lawmaker, personally unscrewed and removed the painting last week, saying he was angered by its depiction of law enforcement officers. He then delivered the painting to Clay’s office.

“Lacy can put it back up, I guess, if he wants to,” Hunter told FoxNews.com at the time, “but I’m allowed to take it down.”

The painting, hanging since June, was done by a high school student who had won Clay’s annual Congressional Art competition.

The acrylic painting depicts a police officer as a pig in uniform aiming a gun at African-American protesters. Above the scene, two birds — one black, one white — fight, and beside them, an African-American protester holding a scale of justice is crucified.

Law enforcement groups had strongly objected to the painting’s display on the Capitol complex grounds, with one group calling it “reprehensible, repugnant and repulsive.”

“These are his impressions. Those are his feelings. That’s how he formed his opinion, and he expressed it in his art. So what’s wrong with that?” Clay added.

“Any black parent would tell you that they have to have this conversation with their children about police and how to act around them, so that’s the conversation we need to be having here. Not about taking some kid’s picture off the wall — it should be about, how do we change these attitudes and improve the relationships between police and the black community?” Rep. Clay has yet to research the statistics on police violence against blacks, which don’t support his argument.

Joe Kasper, a top aide for Hunter, said he wasn’t worried about Clay’s threats of charges.

“…we’re less than zero percent worried about this whatsoever.”