Controversial painting depicting cops as pigs is now subject of lawsuit

He also says that the painting "was initially subjected to the same review and approval process as the other 400-plus winning student entries in the 2016 Congressional Art Competition".

The painting was inspired by the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer, who was later clear of any wrongdoing. In the background, protesters hold signs, including one that says, "Racism kills". In a statement, Clay said Capitol officials chose to retroactively censor the young artist's artwork "in response to the enormous political pressure ... experienced from the Speaker of the House and certain right-wing media outlets".

Last month, though, Republican lawmakers took issue with the way it showed police officers with boars heads, saying it disrespected members of the law enforcement community and violated the ground rules of the competition, which warned against "sensationalistic" issues and "contemporary" events. Several House Republicans took the painting off the wall themselves, forcing Clay to re-hang it three times in one day. According to the lawsuit, the Architect of the Capitol staff inspected the painting and determined it complied with the guidelines. They asked a court to reinstate the painting and rehang it in a busy corridor between the U.S. Capitol and Cannon House Office Building.

". This case is truly about something much bigger than a student's painting", Clay added.

Hunter's office did not return requests for comment. It is about defending our fundamental 1st Amendment freedoms which are now under assault in this country. In January, Ryan said that the painting was "disgusting" and "not befitting the Capitol".

Clay was joined Tuesday by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor.

"The AOC's decision to remove the Painting - based exclusively on these objections to its content and viewpoint - constitutes a "heckler's veto" and a clear violation of Mr. Pulphus's constitutional rights" and those of the art work's congressional sponsor, Clay, according to the lawsuit.

If it is a forum, courts have ruled government officials can not censor viewpoints they disagree with, said Frank LoMonte, an attorney and executive director of the Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates for student expression. A judge would likely still rule on the case even if it lasts beyond the time Pulphus' work was supposed to come down, although the remedy might be in question, LeMonte said.

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