In Washington DC on June 1, 2020, National Guard and mounted police cleared Lafayette Square of peaceful Black-Lives-Matter protesters with violence, flash grenades and tear gas.
This reduction print is patterned after Henry Pelham’s 1770 engraving “The Fruits of Arbitrary Power”. In my work, Saint John’s Episcopal Church replaces the Massachusetts Courthouse, teargas replaces black powder smoke, and protesters fall before armed US soldiers instead of British Redcoats.
Watching the events at Lafayette Square, where our president abused peacefully protesting US citizens, I thought of the similar scene 250 years earlier in Boston. British troops sent to the American colonies by our capricious king denied his citizens’ basic rights and murdered them for their protests. The Boston Massacre was an inflection point in world history. It began a process where:
- our small colonies successfully resisted the world’s mightiest empire to gain independence
- we committed ourselves to a constitution based on the concept of equal justice for all men
- we overturned the unjust concept of the divine right of kings
Racist and sexist attitudes and backsliding make the original promises of the founding fathers incomplete. Emancipation, constitutional amendments, and civil rights acts help and the process continues. But justice comes so slowly and always at the expense of the mistreated. The insurrection at the Capitol is an example of the resistance to equality and our current atmosphere of cultural conflict. In the tunnel though which our congressmen and women escaped the former President’s mob, there is a stone medallion of the bronze-age king of Babylonia, Hammurabi. He was the first to create a written law that defined the rights of every man. It is imperfect by today’s expectations, but it was a start. The medallion is reminder to them and proof to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s observation is that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
My Lafayette Square 2020 is a reminder to us of our shared American goal of equality and justice for all. It is not a plea for patience nor for violence. It means to strengthen our resolve for the challenges that lie ahead. 20 April 2021