The attacker sprayed the words "racist fish" on the statue. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
“We can confirm that The Little Mermaid has been vandalised some time before 9:00 am this morning,” Copenhagen police said in a statement to AFP.
“An unknown person has written the words 'Racist Fish' on it. We are investigating the case.”
The Little Mermaid, inspired by a character in Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 fairytale of the same name, is a 175-kilogram (385-pound) statue by sculptor Edvard Eriksen.
The statue has been vandalised numerous times over the years, including when the mermaid's head was stolen in 1964 and 1998, as well as when an arm was cut off in 1984.
Often the vandalism is tied to a political message and in January someone painted “Free Hong Kong” on the same rock.
The meaning of the apparent racist accusation has however so far left some scratching their heads.
“Of course in general with literary works, you can read them with various glasses,” Ane Grum-Schwensen, an expert employed by the H.C. Andersen centre at the University of Southern Denmark, told broadcaster TV2.
“However, I do find it a little difficult to see, what would be especially racist in the adventure “The Little Mermaid,” she added.
According to police other statues around Copenhagen have also been vandalised with “various phrases.”
One of missionary Hans Egede, who launched Lutheran mission efforts to Greenland, and one of Mahatma Gandhi in the northwestern part of the city.
Police also said that on June 16, someone had written “racist” on a statue of Danish King Christian IV, who ruled between 1588 and 1648.
Statues of historical figures in many countries have come under fire from activists protesting racism following the May 25 death of George Floyd, an African-American killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.