Someone vandalized the Lincoln Memorial, the National Park Service said.
The words "F--- law" were found written in red spray paint early Tuesday on a pillar at the monument that overlooks the Capitol building and National Mall, NPS said Tuesday afternoon. The graffiti was found about 4:30 a.m.
"It's frustrating, not only for the Park Service but certainly for the visitors that come here, that anyone would vandalize any of our iconic memorials. Especially the Lincoln Memorial. Especially with everything that's going on now -- the calls for unity and people to come together," NPS spokesman Mike Litterst said.
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"To go to the site of the memorial to Abraham Lincoln and do that, that's disappointing," he said.
A child visiting the memorial said, "They vandalized the Lincoln Memorial, this beautiful masterpiece."
It was not immediately clear if the vandals were caught on surveillance cameras, the NPS spokesman said. The crime is a federal offense.
Work to remove the words is underway. A preservation crew is using a "mild, gel-type architectural paint stripper" to remove the paint without damaging the stone. The crew is applying a layer of the gel, rinsing it, checking how effective it was and repeating as necessary.
On Tuesday evening, the words were covered by thick paper.
The work is expected to extend for a week.
News4 spotted additional damage to the Lincoln Memorial Tuesday afternoon. Someone appears to have carved "M + E" on the same pillar where the red spray paint was found. The letters were thought to have been there for a while. While the paint can be removed, the carving is permanent.
Additional vandalism, in silver spray paint, was found on a sign on the 1400 block of Constitution Avenue, NPS said. Any words were indecipherable.
That graffiti was small scrawlings that appeared to say: "Jackie shot JFK;" "blood test is a lie, leukemia, cancer HIV get a second option;" and "9/11/01 ... pilots fly planes into WTC."
Kevin Hall, a U.S. serviceman who took his family to the Lincoln Memorial after the vandalism in February, said he took it personally.
"I served the greatest air force in the world, but to come here to see that is like a slap in our face," he said.
Defacing a national monument or memorial is rare but not unheard of. The most significant case in recent memory was a bizarre incident in 2013, when a woman threw green paint on the Lincoln Memorial and later at the Washington National Cathedral. She was arrested but later found incompetent to stand trial.
In that case, it took crews nearly a month to clear the green paint from the Lincoln Memorial, but NPS staff are skilled in the tricky removal process of graffiti removal.
Anyone with information on the recent crime is asked to contact U.S. Park Police at 202-610-7515.