Man Arrested for Using Penny to Deface Lincoln Memorial

A man was arrested after he vandalized the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. with a penny on Monday afternoon, authorities said. GETTY IMAGES/Rosanna U

A man was arrested after he vandalized the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. with a penny on Monday afternoon, authorities said. 

U.S. Parks Police say they caught Nurtilek Bakirov, 21, as he tried to write an "M" into two pillars on the famous shrine, WJLA reported. But closer inspection revealed the words "HYPT" and "MEAK" carved into the memorial to the 16th president, police said.

Bakirov was charged with vandalism and could get as much as 10 years jail time or a $25,000 fine. 

The suspect either pretended or genuinely did not know what he was doing, cops said. When approached by the officer, Bakirov said "sorry" and began to walk away. The officer asked Bakirov to stop, but he walked to another pillar and started carving into it. too. The officer ordered Bakirov to stop a second time, which he did, then apologized again, according to authorities. 

Police said the 21-year-old man did not appear to know that such vandalism is illegal. He also asked if he was "in trouble for doing this." 

This has not been the first time the roughly 100-year-old monument has been vandalized. In August, Lincoln's famous chair was vandalized with red paint and graffiti reading "fuck law," a National Park Service spokesperson told WUSA. The park service also said it found silver paint on a sign for the Smithsonian Institution, though, according to NBC Washington, rangers couldn't read the message. 

In February, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the National World War II Memorial were all defaced with black markers, according to UPI. The messages read "Jackie shot JFK," referencing the assassination of the 35th President John F. Kennedy, and the words "blood test is a lie."

In 2013, Lincoln's memorial had to be briefly closed off after a person threw green paint on the statue. 

Using paint to damage the monuments of D.C. is an ongoing trend that goes back for years. In 1991, the Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain blemished with red paint. A decade later, it was defaced again with phrases "510 Years of Oppression" and "510 Years of Resistance" written in red. 

And of course, graffiti is nothing new. Marble from the floor of the Washington Monument was carved by a 19th-century graffiti artist in a declaration that read "Whoever is the human instrument under God in conversion of one soul, erects a monument to his own memory more lofty and enducing {sic} than this," and signed by tagger BFB.