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Huizenga speaks out against controversial artwork

By Jordan Climie/Holland Sentinel • Jan 14, 2017 at 12:00 PM

A painting hung by U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, Jr., D-Missouri, is causing controversy around the Capitol, as many believe it shows disrespect to law enforcement officers.

Fellow congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, is one of those speaking out against the painting.

"I believe that it is very important that our police forces get support from their community as well as Congress," Huizenga said. "Police officers and first responders around the country risk their lives daily to ensure that citizens are protected and safe. I strongly support our local and national police forces."

The painting in question was created by David Pulphus, who won an annual contest held by Clay. At the time, Pulphus was a high school student, and his work, titled "Untitled #1," depicts injustice, inequality and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and prominently depicts police officers with the heads of animals.

It was originally hung in the tunnel between the Capitol and House office buildings among hundreds of other paintings done by high school art contest winners.

In a letter to Clay, Huizenga requested that his fellow congressman remove or swap-out the painting.

"This is a direct insult to the brave men and women who risk their lives who protect us, our staff and visitors," Huizenga said. "Now is a time for uniting our nation, not divisive actions that will further degrade our local communities and law enforcement officers."

The letter led to a meeting between Huizenga and Clay.

"He approached me later and said he appreciated receiving my letter and how respectful it was," Huizenga said. "My understanding is they were reaching out to the artist, who's now in college, but last I heard he was not willing to do another piece."

Huizenga contends this is not a First Amendment issue, but the House itself having rules on what can be displayed.

"This artist can create the art. The artist can enter the art," he said. "The only thing that it says is we are not going to hang certain pieces of political controversy. We have taken down state flags that have remnants of Confederate battle flags on them."

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