A Denver-area high school student’s painting depicting a police officer as a Ku Klux Klan member will be removed from a public building following criticism by local police, WestWord reported.
The painting had been on display at the Wellington Webb Municipal Office Building as part of an art show mounted by the Denver Public Schools system. It showed the officer pointing a gun at a black child wearing a hooded sweater with their hands up. The backdrop shows the Confederate flag laid under the American flag.
“I’m greatly concerned about how this painting portrays the police,” said Police Chief Robert White. “I look forward to having a conversation with the student and her parents.”
However, according to Westword, city officials postponed a meeting involving White and the artist, as well as Mayor Michael Hancock, due to concerns over weather in the area. A press conference concerning the painting was also canceled.
KMGH-TV reported that both the National Latino Peace Officers Association and the Denver Police Protective Association (DPPA) — the union representing local officers — denounced the painting.
“Colorado chapters and its members are highly insulted regarding the public display of a piece of hate art from a DPS student that is currently on display in the Webb Bldg,” the Latino officers’ group said in a statement. “It is an insult to the 2,400 DPD and DSD Officers and deputies who risk their lives each day for the public, which includes DPS teachers and students.”
The painting was reportedly described as “Re-Contextualization of Goya’s Third of May,” a reference to Francisco Moya’s acclaimed work The Third of May, 1808, which depicts French troops aiming their weapons at a man — described as a Spanish “poor laborer” — during Spain’s rebellion against French control.
It is also reportedly infuenced by Michael D’Antuono’s 2014 work A Tale of Two Hoodies, which shows a Klan member aiming their gun at a black youth in a hooded sweater offering them a bag of Skittles candy — a clear reference to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman.
Nick Rodgers, head of the DPPA, said that he was “shocked” not only by the painting, but by the fact that it was put on display in a government building.
“That is a horrible stereotype,” said Rodgers, before alluding to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. “‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ never happened. We all know that; it’s been proven.”
According to the Denver Post, local police killed seven people last year, with six of the deaths involving shootings. Overall, police shot 13 people — the highest amount of shootings by officers in the past 15 years.
Watch KMGH’s report on the painting, as aired in Tuesday, below.