The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday those who're against the repeated removal of a controversial painting on Capitol Hill depicting police officers as pigs may have to get physical with offenders.
"We may just have to kick somebody's ass and stop them," Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the CBC, told Politico.
Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) on Friday unscrewed and took down the painting of a confrontation between black protesters and police and delivered it to the office of Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). The painting is by a recent high school graduate and Clay constituent who won the Democrat's annual congressional art competition last year.
In this Jan. 5, 2017, photo, a painting by David Pulphus hangs in a hallway displaying paintings by high school students selected by their member of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/Zach Gibson)
“He had no right to take that picture down,” Clay told the Washington Post. “It’s thievery.”
But not long after Clay and other members of the CBC rehung the painting Tuesday, another GOP lawmaker — Doug Lamborn of Colorado — removed it again.
"I could not, in good conscience, continue to walk by a painting that so flagrantly disrespected the brave police officers that protect us here in the Capitol and in our communities across the country,” Lamborn said in a statement. “I decided to continue the protest started by my colleague Congressman Hunter and I hope that permanent action is taken to remove this brazen attack on the brave men and women who make up the thin blue line.”
Clay soon placed the painting back on the wall for a second time Tuesday — and CBC chair Richmond made his "kick somebody's ass" comment, Politico said.
Well, the ante's been upped. Again.
The painting came down Tuesday for a second time — courtesy of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Rep. Brian Babin (R-Tx.).
They brought it, again, to Clay's office, the Huffington Post reported.
“There are certain restrictions that apply,” Rohrabacher said, according to the Post. “If someone wants to do this in a private gallery, they have every right with their freedom of speech. We support freedom of speech. But you don’t put something attacking policemen, treating them like pigs, here in the Capitol.”
Clay told Politico he wants a meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and that painting removals demonstrate "lack of civility and decorum on the part of members of the majority party of this House."
"Lamborn came over, brought the picture to me, and I made sure he left swiftly from my office," Clay told Politico. "I’m in the middle of meetings in my office and he brings the picture. It’s a lack of decorum and respect for people’s constituents and people’s First Amendment rights. This kid has a right to express on canvas what he feels. How dare you try to stifle that, try to censor that. That’s wrong."
House Republicans discussed the painting at a morning conference meeting Tuesday, saying it violates the art competition’s rules as inappropriate, the Hill reported, citing members in attendance. Ryan told members he would investigate removing the painting, spokeswoman AshLee Strong told the Hill.
Richmond said things could escalate to "anarchy" on Capitol Hill's walls.
“I’m looking at some paintings that people could probably find some offense to," he told Politico. "So you just open up Pandora’s Box to, I think, anarchy when it comes to the art around this building.”
Here's Clay on the dust-up: