Republicans and Democrats Spar Over Capitol Painting

Opponents slam the painting as anti-police.

— -- House Republicans and Democrats are fighting over a painting that depicts police officers as animals and whether the work should be hanging in a tunnel on Capitol Hill between House offices and the U.S. Capitol Building.

Republicans have objected to the painting, by a Missouri high school graduate from the St. Louis area, "Untitled #1," inspired by the Ferguson protests.

The painting, selected by artists from Rep. William Lacy Clay's district, was picked as part of an annual congressional art competition that displays the work from high school artists from every congressional district. Clay represents Ferguson in Congress.

Last week, Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-California, was the first to take the painting down, after Republicans complained about it and asked House GOP leadership to intervene.

His office said the painting "disparaged police officers” and was “viewed offensively by many people.” His chief of staff said the move to take the painting off the wall was done to "signal strong support for the law enforcement community.”

"This is the US Capitol, not a modern art museum," Hunter's chief of staff added. "The Capitol is not a place to have any type of art that refers to police officers as swine.”

The artist's depiction of police officers as animals has been interpreted as pigs by critics. But the painting's supporters stress that it is a symbolic representation of injustice and inequality.

On Tuesday morning, Clay brought the painting back and hung it up with the support of some of his colleagues.

“I am very pleased that today, we have restored the winning painting to its assigned location. But this is really not about a student art competition anymore…it’s about defending the Constitution," he wrote in a statement.

But other House Republicans removed the painting two more times as of Tuesday evening, returning it to Clay in his office.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office would not to make a definitive statement on the matter today, but said the matter was going to be “addressed.” Hunter claimed he received applause from his colleagues in the Republican conference meeting today.

In an interview with ABC News Tuesday evening, Clay said Republicans' actions are making him "dizzy."

But he plans to keep returning the photo to its place on the wall, next to artwork from other congressional districts.

"It's a semblance of the breakdown of civility and decorum of this institution," Clay said, adding that he's spoken to some of the Republicans.

"They have their opinion, and I have mine," he said. "They have a right to hang the portrait, that's the winner."

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Washington, a former sheriff, is writing a letter to the Architect of the Capitol asking the administrative office to intervene.

The Architect of the Capitol's office, which maintains and operates the Capitol complex, did not respond to a request for comment.