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Congressional Art Competition Winner Reinforces ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ Lie; Paints Cops as Animals

David Pulphus, a graduate of Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School in St. Louis, Missouri, won first place in the United States Congressional Art Competition last spring.

Pulphus’ painting features two anthropomorphized pigs in police attire. One of the officers is pointing his gun at a black wolf. Behind the wolf, an African American man is nailed to a cross while holding the scales of justice. Protesters in the background carry signs that read “Stop Killing,” and “Racism Kills.”

According to Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democratic congressman from Missouri:

“The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society.”

The St. Louis American reports that between votes on the House floor, Clay offered effusive praise for the painting, saying that “the artwork selected for this year’s winner of the Congressional art competition has to be the most creative expression that I’ve witnessed over the last 16 years.”

Joe Patterson, president of the St. Louis County Police Association, is appalled by the painting:

“This is an extraordinarily disrespectful piece at a minimum…We in the law enforcement community have been continuing to work to build bridges and come to a better understanding with our minority community…and then we have irresponsible leadership from elected officials pouring gasoline on bridges haven’t even finished being built yet…[Rep. Clay is] picking at these wounds that we’re trying to heal.”

Despite calls to pull the incendiary artwork, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Rep. Clay is standing his ground:

“Members of Congress support student art competitions in our districts but we do not select the young artists and we do not judge the artwork…I had no role in selecting the winner of this student art competition and I would never attempt to approve or disapprove artistic expression.”

By praising the painting, then standing in its defense, Rep. William Lacy Clay is reinforcing a false premise. The version of the Michael Brown story in which an unarmed black teenager was surrendering peacefully with his hands in the air before being ruthlessly gunned down by a racist white police officer has been proven false.

Forensic evidence and eyewitness reports debunked “hands up, don’t shoot” a long time ago. Not only that, recent studies show that in many states, police officers are less likely to shoot an African American suspect than a white suspect.

Roland G. Fryer, an African American Economics Professor at Harvard, recently conducted a study on racial bias in policing. Fryer said the results were “the most surprising” of his career.

According to The New York Times, Fryer and his colleagues spent over 3,000 hours examining data from ten cities, spanning fifteen years. In the city of Houston, Texas, he found that police officers “were about 20 percent less likely to shoot if the suspects were black. This estimate was not precise, and firmer conclusions would require more data. But in various models controlling for different factors and using different definitions of tense situations, Mr. Fryer found that blacks were either less likely to be shot or there was no difference between blacks and whites.”

In a piece for The Wall Street Journal, Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute wrote:

“The Black Lives Matter movement claims that white officers are especially prone to shooting innocent blacks due to racial bias, but this too is a myth. A March 2015 Justice Department report on the Philadelphia Police Department found that black and Hispanic officers were much more likely than white officers to shoot blacks based on ‘threat misperception’—that is, the mistaken belief that a civilian is armed.

A 2015 study by University of Pennsylvania criminologist Greg Ridgeway, formerly acting director of the National Institute of Justice, found that, at a crime scene where gunfire is involved, black officers in the New York City Police Department were 3.3 times more likely to discharge their weapons than other officers at the scene.”

Despite the Michael Brown shooting–the foundation upon which Black Lives Matter is built–being proven false, and despite recent studies suggesting police officers do not go out of their way to kill black men, the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative persists. Why? Because Democratic politicians like Rep. Clay have an agenda to advance, and they won’t let facts get in their way.

Progressives must maintain the narrative that African Americans are the victims of an intrinsically racist justice system, and that only the Democratic Party cares enough to help. Unfortunately for them, facts have a way of bubbling to the surface. In order to keep reality buried, Democratic politicians and journalists use a simple but effective tactic: false premise repetition.

The “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative is based on a provably false premise, but every time it’s repeated by a politician or media figure as though it were gospel truth, it’s rejuvenated. Repeated enough times, this lie surpasses reality and becomes a kind of dogma that cannot be questioned.

Rep. Clay’s praise of David Pulphus’ painting as a “colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society” is another shot of adrenaline into the heart of a false premise that’s well on its way to becoming untouchable.

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