Missouri Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay rehung a painting Tuesday made by a high school student that depicted police officers as pigs shooting up a black St. Louis neighborhood.
Clay, surrounded by other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), returned the painting to its place among other paintings from members’ districts that hang in Cannon Tunnel at the U.S. Capitol.
“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 stated in a press release.
Clay, however, wants statues of Civil War Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis removed from the Capitol.
“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,” Clay told The Daily Caller Tuesday.
Clay would not say if he would want a painting of any of these men or the confederate flag removed from Cannon tunnel if a high school student’s piece, from a member’s district, portrayed any of the images.
Police Associations from California to New York admonished Clay for rehanging the painting saying in part in a statement:
Representative William Clay’s poor judgment was on full display today as he chose to continue his disparaging treatment of law enforcement by re-hanging a piece of art that is both offensive and repugnant to sworn peace officers and their families.
Rep. Clay, who clearly is not a profile in courage, took this have-it-both-ways stand by stating: “I do not agree or disagree with the painting, but I will fight to protect this young man’s right to express himself.”
The law enforcement group went on to say, “The 27,000 members we collectively represent could not disagree more with that statement. By re-hanging this painting in our nation’s capitol, Rep. Clay is not only agreeing with it, but he’s celebrating it. Clay agrees with this painting’s depiction of police officers as pigs looking to gun down innocent people and he shouldn’t cowardly hide behind the first amendment to justify re-hanging the picture.”
The associations representing law enforcement in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan to “to utilize his authority and remove this offensive painting from the halls of congress.”
California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter removed the painting last Friday. Hunter considered it to be offensive to those who serve in law enforcement and brought it to the Missouri congressman’s office.
Clay told reporters he wants to charge Hunter with theft Thursday but the California Republican brushed off the threat.
“He took it off the wall. He took it off of the place that it was placed in and so in the definition of theft in the District of Columbia it qualifies,” said Rep. Clay on Monday.
“The Capitol Police aren’t going to arrest me for taking down a picture that portrays them as pigs,” Hunter responded to Clay’s charge on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning.