WashPost Slams 'Vigilante Censorship' of Anti-Police Art in US Capitol

January 19th, 2017 9:12 PM

In a Tuesday article titled, "The House unceremoniously yanks down a student's artwork," the Washington Post editorial board condemns the removal of an incendiary painting from a U.S. Capitol hallway portraying police officers as animals attacking blacks, with the Post hyperbolically dubbing the move as "vigilante censorship," and tying the "unseemly stampede" and "sad precedent" of its removal to the "alt-right."

The painting, after being removed previously by Republican members of Congress only to have the Congressional Black Caucus re-hang it, was again taken down after a ruling by the Capitol architect that it is not suitable for public display. After recalling this latest removal in the opening paragraph, the Washington Post editorial gripes:

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It is pretty clear that the student artist's work was sacrificed to political pressure and vigilante censorship -- in the U.S. Capitol of all places. That should alarm anyone who thinks the First Amendment, unlike art, is not a matter of personal taste and choice.

After recalling that the painting "won unanimous approval in the Congressional Art Competition in MIssouri's First Congressional District," and it then hung in the Capitol for six months, the editorial then ties in the "alt-right" as it adds: "That changed when an alt-right blog and other conservative commentators started a campaign against it, objecting to its imaging of police as animals."

The editorial soon calls the campaign to remove the painting "mean-spirited" and ties in Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan as it laments the "sad precedent":

Architect of the Capitol, Stephen T. Ayers, ordered the artwork removed on Tuesday, saying it violates House rules that include a prohibition on subjects of contemporary political controversy. If that determination had been made when the painting was first reviewed (and approved), it might have carried some credibility.

But other paintings can be seen as dealing with political themes, and the architect's revelation came only after a mean-spirited political campaign, and after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) weighed in with his own review. That sequence of events sets as sad precedent.

After lauding the painting's creator for his "restraint and dignity," the article relays his reaction that "The art speaks for itself." The article then takes another swipe at Speaker Ryan and other critics of the painting in the final sentence: "So does the unseemly stampede in Mr, Ryan's House."