Missouri Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay plans to appeal a decision of a Washington D.C. Circuit Court judge that ruled last Friday that Congress could remove a painting by a student in his district from a tunnel wall connecting the Capitol and House office buildings.
“Our nation was founded on the very principle of freedom of speech, and there are few places where that core freedom warrants greater respect than the U.S. Capitol. That is why we are confident that the U.S. Court of Appeals will eventually vindicate not only our legal rights, but those of the American people,” Clay and the painting’s artist, David Pulphus, said in a joint statement on Clay’s Facebook page.
“We believe our Constitution simply cannot tolerate a situation where artwork can be removed from the Capitol for the first time ever as a result of a series of ideologically and politically driven complaints.”
Judge John D. Bates denied Clay’s and his constituent Pulphus’ efforts last Friday to re-hang “Untitled #1,” Pulphus’ student piece showing Ferguson, Missouri police as pigs.
Although Pulphus had previously won the annual Congressional Art Competition in Clay’s district last year, which initially earned Pulphus a place on the Capitol Hill tunnel wall, among other young artists from around the country. However, after its presence was noted four months after it was placed, law enforcement demanded the piece be removed.
Republicans in Congress pointed to contest rules which they say Pulphus’s work violated and needed the approval from the Capitol architect, Stephen Ayers.
Judge Bates agreed saying in his ruling, “Although the Court is sympathetic to plaintiffs given the treatment afforded Pulphus’ art, under controlling authority this case involves government speech, and hence plaintiffs have no First Amendment rights at stake.”
In 2014, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old resident Michael Brown, which set off violent riots in the area. Wilson was cleared of any wrong doing by federal investigators.