Military and Police

“Untitled #1”: Battles Over the Anti-Police Painting in the Capitol Continue

By T.B. Lefever:

For anyone who has been following the tug of war going on between House Republicans and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, you know that it has been a sight to see. In what has become the ultimate political football, “Untitled #1,” a controversial painting depicting pigs in police uniforms doing what these types think we do best—that is, brutalizing black people—has been mounted and taken down on three separate occasions.

Let’s look at a brief timeline of this high-profile game of tit-for-tat: the painting went up in the Capitol complex back in May, when it won first place for Missouri’s First Congressional District as part of the United States Congressional Art Competition. The competition, entitled “An Artistic Discovery,” is coordinated annually by members of the US House of Representatives, and the winning paintings from each district are hung in a long corridor that connects the Longworth House Office Building with the Capitol. The painting hanged for nearly eight months before it was noticed by Republican California Representative Duncan Hunter as he walked through the hall one day in late December.

Upon noticing the painting, which had initially been put up by Democratic Missouri Rep. Lacy Clay, Hunter removed the painting and hand-delivered it back to Clay’s office, stating that paintings depicting law enforcement as animals had no place in a state building. When Clay and members of the Black Caucus re-hanged the painting on Tuesday morning, Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn took it down once again, and the special delivery made its way back to Clay’s office by mid-afternoon. Clay didn’t budge, and after he re-hanged the painting a third time, Republican California Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Republican Texas Rep. Brain Babin refused to back down as well.

The painting now sits in the congressional office of Lacy Clay, where it awaits the next political stunt. After having gone up and down like the rodent in a game of whack-a-mole, I can only hope that someone starts swinging a hammer at it.

The war of words the Congressional Black Caucus engaged has been both an exercise in hypocrisy and a shameless act of prostituting for political capital, in my opinion.

While we are on the subject of art—I find that people like Lacy Clay are artists of the double standard. While he calls the actions of those taking the painting down “childish,” he has shown a track record of defending, supporting, and applauding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s childish and misguided deeds.

While he calls for the D.C. Capitol Police to bring up the Republican lawmakers who removed the painting on charges of theft—a crime that doesn’t fit by statute or by any standard of common sense—the chairman of Clay’s Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic Representative Cedric Richmond, went on record saying, “We may just have to kick somebody’s ass and stop them.”

I’m not sure what world the BCB thinks they are living in when they find it professional to threaten assault and battery against those they are wrongfully accusing of theft. That seems a bit “childish” to me. A question for people like Lacy Clay and Cedric Richmond: is protesting only childish when Republicans or white people do it? Was it childish when you protested Mississippi’s state flag? Is it childish to protest the celebration of Christmas or the saying of the pledge of allegiance in our schools? Perhaps “adult protest” only occurs when the subject of the protest is anything that upholds order and protects American tradition.

There is a lot of childish protest going on out there. Many of the mindless dolts blocking our highways during rush hour don’t even know what they are protesting, but I do get the sense that those taking down this painting know exactly what they are protesting.

As a cop, I’m not offended easily. Forged in the fires of insult and malicious name-calling from the day I stepped onto the streets in uniform, I can let most things roll off my shoulders without giving them a second thought. I do, however, take issue with the fact that there are those in high office willing not only to condone but bitterly defend a state-sponsored depiction of my colleagues and I as gun-wielding animals. According to the child creating this piece of work, I am a racist, murderous sub-human who crucifies black teenagers.

Hey, that’s OK. I’ve been called worse.

It is just as American for those who share this opinion to express it with their coloring books as it is for me to laugh off the ridiculousness of the claim. Even when our elected officials are calling these hateful caricatures of those like me “brave” and “courageous,” I can do my part to work toward making sure their moment in the sun as national politicians is short-lived. But when those elected officials are demanding that the hysterics and hatred be state-sponsored, a line has been crossed.

As far as I’m concerned, that painting can hang anywhere outside of state-sponsored grounds. If some teenager wants to hang it as a poster in their dorm room, that’s wonderful. If DeRay Mckesson wants to wear it as a t-shirt at the next rally that he will surely generate personal profit from, outstanding. But before you support hanging this trash in our Capitol, remember that police are being killed in alarming numbers by actual violent animals to whom groups like the Congressional Black Caucus love to give the benefit of the doubt. To the people of Missouri, I also hope you will remember this when it comes time for Representative Clay to defend his seat.

T.B. Lefever is an OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University.

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