The Copenhagen statue is an homage to Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen who wrote the original fairy tale

By Benjamin VanHoose
July 03, 2020 02:12 PM
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Police officers take pictures of the iconic Little Mermaid statue after the rock that serves as its plinth appeared with the message "Racist Fish" in English spray painted on it overnight in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 3.
MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Copenhagen's popular Little Mermaid statue has been defaced with graffiti that reads "RACIST FISH."

On Friday, local police confirmed that the iconic monument — established in honor of the 1800s fairy tale's Danish author Hans Christian Andersen — was the target of a spray painter.

"We can confirm that The Little Mermaid has been vandalized some time before 9:00 a.m. this morning," Copenhagen police said in a statement to Agence France-Press (AFP). "An unknown person has written the words 'Racist Fish' on it. We are investigating the case."

The outlet reported that the same statue has been damaged several times before, including in 1964 and 1998 when the central mermaid character's head was stolen, and also when one of her arms was severed in 1984. Earlier this year, someone tagged the statue with the message "Free Hong Kong."

According to the Associated Press, no one has yet claimed credit for the vandalism of the more than 5-foot-high bronze sculpture located at the Copenhagen harbor, a major tourist attraction.

The statue was completed in August 1913 by sculptor Edvard Eriksen, and was commissioned by Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen as a gift to the City of Copenhagen, according to tourism site Visit Copenhagen.

Ane Grum-Schwensen, a scholar at the Hans Christian Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark, said she's unsure why The Little Mermaid would be labeled racist.

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"Of course, in general with literary works, you can read them with various glasses," Grum-Schwensen said, per AFP. "However, I do find it a little difficult to see, what would be especially racist in the adventure The Little Mermaid."

The instance of vandalism comes as monuments around the world are becoming defaced. Last month, a statue honoring late black tennis legend Arthur Ashe in Richmond, Virginia, was vandalized with spray paint that read "WLM" and "White Lives Matter."

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A number of longtime U.S. statues are also being removed amid the Black Lives Matter movement, as Americans call for an end to racial injustices.

Monuments that honor Confederate leaders in South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, and elsewhere have been taken away in recent weeks, with local officials condemning the historical injustices represented by the figures.