Park Police Investigate Vietnam Memorial Damage

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - As cleanup efforts continue in the removal of an oily substance from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., authorities are investigating how the substance got on the wall, but warned it is "premature" to label it vandalism.

The wall was defaced sometime over the weekend when an oily substance was sprayed along the base of the granite monument. The black material appeared to stain the dark grey wall and tainted some of the more than 58,000 names engraved on it.

National Park Service preservation and maintenance personnel have been working since Saturday to remove the substance, and NPS spokesman Bill Line on Tuesday told Cybercast News Service the organization "believes it will be possible to remove the substance entirely."

Line confirmed that U.S. Park Police are investigating the incident. But he said it is "premature to speculate whether any intentional act was committed," adding that it "could have been somebody accidentally spilled it. It could have been a visitor."

But veterans' groups that seek to protect the memorial from vandalism are suspicious that anti-war protesters are to blame. "Even on the outside chance that it was [an] accident, things like that shouldn't be happening," Kristin Taylor, a spokesman for the Gathering of Eagles (GOE), told Cybercast News Service.

GOE is a coalition of veterans' groups and pro-military organizations that organizes counter-demonstrations during anti-war marches. Taylor said "there are incidents around the country of war memorials being ... vandalized" and pointed to apparent threats on a leftist/anarchist Web site to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

An Aug. 27 comment posted on the DC Indymedia Web site said that "if they [GOE] come to our march we will spray the wall." The comment was referring to an anti-war protest scheduled for Sept. 15. GOE has advertised that it will counter-protest.

The threat to spray the wall may not be genuine, however, as others who posted messages on the Web site accuse its anonymous author of being "FReeper scum," a reference to conservatives who use the discussion Web site Free Republic.

Taylor said the group's main focus during the march will be its own rally and the ANSWER-sponsored march. But he said some members would be monitoring the memorials, "acting as extra eyes."

Regardless of how the damage was done, Taylor called it "an outrage."

Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, echoed Line's call to avoid assigning blame until the Park Police investigation is complete.

In a statement released Tuesday, Scruggs said that "while it is unclear what transpired, we are heartened by the response of the veterans' community and the general public. After 25 years, their connection to The Wall remains as strong as ever, and we appreciate that."

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