Updated at 7:40 p.m. Feb. 21, 2017
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter’s removal of a student painting depicting police as pigs and others animals has led to a lawsuit, although the East County congressman isn’t the target.
According to news reports, Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) filed suit in federal court Tuesday against the Architect of the Capitol for removing a young constituent’s award-winning painting.
Although Republican Hunter was the first to remove it, the Architect of the Capitol decided that the painting violated the rules of the competition that earned it its place in the Capitol complex, The Hill reports.
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Clay said the decision made by Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers violated his constituent’s right to free expression.
“It’s not directed toward Rep. Hunter, so not much to say, really,” Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper told Times of San Diego. “What I’ll say is that he’s got a right to file, regardless of motive or however tenuous, just as Rep. Hunter had a right to remove it and return it.”
A statement from the National Coalition Against Censorship noted how St, Louis high school student David Pulphus last spring was chosen as a winner in the annual Congressional Art Competition for an allegorical painting depicting a scene of protest against police violence.
“Together with the work of 400 other winners, Pulphus’ painting was displayed in a public passageway leading to the U.S. Capitol building. The painting hung for six months before conservative media stirred controversy over its depiction of police,” the statement said.
Clay contends that architect’s decision “sent a chilling message to young Americans that their voices are not respected; their views are not valued; and their freedom of expression is no longer protected in the U.S. Capitol.”
— Lacy Clay MO1st (@LacyClayMO1) February 21, 2017
The statement is co-signed by American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Authors Guild, College Art Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Free Speech Coalition, Index on Censorship, PEN America, International Association of Art Critics (AICA International), Vera List Center for Art and Politics, Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts.
“At a time of nationwide concerns about the future of our free speech protections, this decision is deeply disturbing,” said NCAC’s Director of Programs Svetlana Mintcheva. “We urge the Architect of the Capitol to place the core national value of free speech over and above partisan strife.”
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