Washington, DC - After the "Police as Pigs" painting was permanently taken down by the Capitol Architect, Representative Lacy Clay's starting suing to get the painting re-hung. However, the judge didn't want to hear his whining.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Judge John D. Bates of the District Court of Columbia, ruled on Friday, April 14 that "Untitled #1", a painting by former high school student David Pulphus, was government speech, and was legally removed. Rep. Clay's whining was no legal basis for a lawsuit.
Many self-proclaimed First Amendment experts on social media no understanding of what "free speech" actually is or what it protected by the First Amendment. When we explained that this was not a free speech issue, we were blasted for not understanding the First Amendment. Now a D.C. judge has affirmed our opinion.
Judge Bates said that since the painting's content was considered government speech and not personal speech, the First Amendment did not apply.
The painting was among the winners from a Congressional art contest and was painted by a Missouri student, David Pulphus. The painting hung in the Capitol, largely unnoticed, until Blue Lives Matter and other news outlets brought attention to the offensive painting.
In the painting, police officers are depicted as pigs, while pointing guns at black protesters. Also in the painting, two birds, one black, one white, are shown fighting, and a black protester holding the scales of justice is shown as being crucified.
Rep. Clay chose the painting as the winner of his contest and has continued to fight for it, saying that it was "a provocative, symbolic representation of the great anger and pain, frustration and deep deficit in trust for local law enforcement that many young African Americans feel in their heart. The pain also reflects generations of struggle, sacrifice, abuse of power and tenuous relationship between minorities and the system of justice."
After we pushed for the removal of the painting, Rep. Clay refused, even after 27,000 law enforcement officers and officials had protested and said that the painting was "reprehensible, repugnant, and repulsive." Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, then personally removed it from the wall and took it to Rep. Clay's office.
In response, Rep. Clay held a public, media-filled ceremony to rehang the painting. He also filed a report with the U.S. Capitol Police, and demanded that Rep. Hunter be arrested for theft. After Capitol Police had a good laugh at Rep. Clay, no charges were ever filed.
Then Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California followed the lead of Rep. Duncan Hunter in removing the painting from the wall, returning it to Rep. Clay's office again. This prompted the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, to say “We may just have to kick somebody’s ass and stop them.” Rep. Clay rehung the painting each time that it was taken down.
Finally, House Speaker Paul Ryan pointed out that the painting appears to violate the rules of the competition, which bar “exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic and gruesome nature."
The Capitol Architect then investigated the matter and decided that the painting was coming down. It was permanently removed after that decision, on January 17, 2017.
The judge said "competition rules set up a hierarchy of decision-making authority with respect to content suitability: House members, by whatever method of judging they choose, select one winning piece from among the multiple works submitted to represent the district, but their choice may be overruled by the AOC if it concludes that the work does not meet the suitability guidelines.”
There was no comment from Representative Clay or his attorney.