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Lafayette artwork showing officer in riot gear obscured after drawing police complaints

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LAFAYETTE, Indiana — An artwork depicting a police officer in riot gear that faced a central Indiana police station has been obscured after it attracted complaints.

The black-and-white pencil-type illustration was put on the side of a downtown Lafayette restaurant as part of a city-sanctioned "small spaces: Lafayette" project to place street and graffiti-style art around the community. The artwork was partially covered with red paint on this week after the project leader decided to take it down, the Journal & Courier reported (http://on.jconline.com/1vQBTCH ).

Dick Nagel, owner of Sylvia's Brick Oven, said he received multiple calls from city police officers asking whether the piece was illegal graffiti. After Nagel explained that the piece was sanctioned by the city, they responded with outrage, he said.

"The officers questioned why it was there and said they were in bad taste and offensive," Nagel said.

Nagel passed along the officers' concerns to the art project's manager, who decided to have it removed.

Zach Medler, curator of the project, disagreed with the action, saying the controversy highlights the importance in wake of the Ferguson, Missouri, protests over a police shooting of encouraging, not suppressing, dialogue about "bully cop" mentalities.

"I feel bullied right now," he said.

"My issue with it is free speech. The situation in Ferguson was why they were offended to begin with," he said. "When police complain about it, now we run into First Amendment issues."

Police Chief Patrick Flannelly said any police complaints were unofficial and not representing the department.

"But from what I saw, I can understand why an officer might be upset," Flannelly said.


Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

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