Clay Files Lawsuit Over Ferguson Painting’s Removal From Capitol

Congressman says Architect of the Capitol bowed to ‘enormous political pressure’

Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., left, speaks to the media after re-hanging the student art contest painting in January. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday over the controversial student art contest painting that was removed from the Capitol.

Clay’s office said in a news release that the removal by the Architect of the Capitol violated the constitutional rights of David Pulphus, whose “Untitled #1” was a winner in the annual high school competition in Clay’s district.

The painting depicted police officers in Ferguson, Mo., as pigs in showing strained police-community relations there.

“His artwork was initially reviewed, accepted and approved for public display under the very same standards and criteria that apply to all student entries in this prestigious, annual competition,” Clay said in a statement.

It has been the subject of controversy on Capitol Hill, with the portrait frequently being removed by Congressional Republicans. The Architect of the Capitol eventually removed the portrait.

In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Clay said Architect of the Capitol Steven Ayers made his decision based after coming under “enormous political pressure from the Speaker of the House and certain right-wing media outlets.

“Seven months after being displayed as part of a public exhibit, a deluge of alternative right media, aided by the unauthorized actions of certain reactionary Members of Congress, deprived Mr. Pulphus of his constitutionally guaranteed 1st Amendment Right of Free Expression,” Clay said in his statement.

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