WASHINGTON — Law enforcement associations across the country called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to remove a painting that depicts police officers as pigs shooting up a black neighborhood in St. Louis from the U.S. Capitol complex.
In a joint letter sent to Ryan from the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York, and the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose Police Officers Associations, the speaker is urged “to exert the extraordinary power he possesses to remove from our nation’s Capitol a piece of ‘art’ that depicts police officers as Pigs intent on harming the communities we serve.”
“This latest indignation, sponsored by an elected official intent on pandering to professional protesters, unfortunately adds credence to a demonstrably false narrative about law enforcement that undermines the safety of law enforcement officers and those we protect. This false narrative portrays law enforcement professionals as posing a danger to the very communities we serve. That is untrue and this ‘art’ reinforces this false narrative and is disrespectful on so many levels,” the letter says.
The groups, which represent more than 27,000 law enforcement professionals, joined Andy Maybo, president of the DC Fraternal Order of Police, an organization representing 10,000 members, in his call for its removal.
Maybo told The Daily Caller last Friday, “The fact that it hangs just feet from where Capitol Police officers are posted on a daily basis, protecting the very members of Congress who support such an offensive piece of artwork, could not be more disrespectful to the Capitol Police, and all law enforcement across the country.”
The painting, “Untitled #1,” comes from the St. Louis district of Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay. As part of the annual congressional art competition, it hangs in the tunnel between the Capitol and the Cannon and Longworth House office buildings, and is just a few feet away from a Capitol Police screening checkpoint. It sits with other pieces from each member’s district that were painted by high school students.
“Speaker Ryan, please stand up for those of us in law enforcement and immediately remove this stain from our beloved Capitol and send a message that you support the men and women of law enforcement over those that perpetrate lies about our profession.”
Speaker Ryan told The Daily Caller Thursday he was not aware of the painting so he could not comment on it.
Rep. Clay’s spokesperson told the St. Louis Dispatch last Sunday the congressman has no plans to remove the painting.
“I had no role in selecting the winner of this student art competition and I would never attempt to approve or disapprove artistic expression,” Clay said in a statement. “The U.S. Capitol is a symbol of freedom, not censorship. The young artist chose his own subject and the painting will not be removed.”
Clay snapped at TheDC Wednesday when asked about the law enforcement associations’ response to the piece.
“I really don’t care to discuss it with you — especially with the press. You all should know better. It’s a First Amendment speech issue and for you all to be treating me like its all something other than that is wrong. This is about Constitutional rights — people’s ability to express themselves — artists ability to express themselves,” said Clay.
The Association For Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs responded to Clay’s claim, saying, “This isn’t a matter of free speech. In just the past year, Congress removed Confederate battle emblems from the tunnels at the Capital following controversy over their display. Congressman Bernie Thompson lauded the removal, stating he was pleased there would no longer be displayed ‘symbols of hatred and bigotry in the esteemed halls of the United States House of Representatives’ and that Congress should ‘refuse to condone symbols that seek to divide us.'”
Joe Patterson, president of the St. Louis County Police Association, agreed stating, “We are not about censorship, but good art and good taste are sometimes not the same thing. This is an extraordinarily disrespectful piece at a minimum.”