After winning first prize in Missouri’s United States Congressional Art Competition in April, a painting depicting police officers as pigs terrorizing a black neighborhood now hangs on display inside the nation’s Capitol.
The painting, submitted by Cardinal Ritter College Prep graduate David Pulphus, is a supposed interpretation of the months of unrest that took place in the region in response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014.
Brown’s shooting served as the catalyst for the “Black Lives Matter” movement, a movement that has referred to police officers as “pigs in a blanket,” in addition to claiming there is an epidemic of white cops targeting and murdering black men in cold blood with racial animus.
Such a narrative is false, as statistical evidence has wholly debunked these claims and a new study has actually found no racial bias against blacks in police shootings. Even so, the movement has become a seeming paragon of social justice in the eyes of lawmakers and the current administration.
Painting of cops as pigs hung proudly in U.S. Capitol https://t.co/f3Ol2F6hKz
— Independent Journal (@TheIJR) December 29, 2016
Pulphus’ painting was selected on behalf of Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO). Reports have not confirmed that Clay personally selected “Untitled #1” as the winner, though he effusively praised the controversial painting in a press release.
In the painting, two officers carry guns while protesters march towards them carrying signs that read “history,” “stop killing” and “racism kills.” On its right side, a man is crucified wearing a graduation cap holding the scales of justice in his hands.
Currently, the painting hangs in a tunnel between the U.S. Capitol building and Longworth House Office Building. Pulpus himself evoked racial undertones in accepting the award.
“It is hard to imagine that as a young African-American man from North St. Louis, I could receive such a prestigious award by the U.S. Congress,” Pulphus said.
Pulphus was previously scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C. to unveil his painting, which “portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society,” according to Rep. Clay’s press release.
Reports indicate that Clay also called the piece of art the “most creative expression that I’ve witnessed over the last 16 years” during remarks on the House floor.
Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), a former law enforcement officer, told Independent Journal Review in a statement that he was disappointed to see the painting in the hallway of our nation’s Capitol:
It is disheartening to see this depiction of law enforcement hanging in the hallway of our nation’s Capitol where officers work everyday to protect our safety and freedoms. Unfortunately, many people of influence have taken part in promoting offensive and inaccurate caricatures of the very people who do the most to protect our families.
While I understand in some neighborhoods trust between police and communities has all but deteriorated, we must work on rebuilding these relationships and focus on our shared goals of peace and civility.
In addition to irritating lawmakers, the painting also strikes home with law enforcement officials who work just 25 yards from the painting. There, they screen visitors through metal detectors and protect those inside the Capitol building, including the Democratic lawmaker who honored the painting with a spot on the wall.
Each year, members of Congress put out a call for students to compete in the contest, and the resulting work is displayed on the white walls of a long tunnel that connects House Office Buildings to the U.S. Capitol.
Over 200 members of Congress and over 50,000 high schools students have taken part in the popular and competitive program.
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