COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - An iconic but controversial landmark on the Texas A&M campus was found defaced with graffiti Wednesday morning.
Someone overnight or in the early morning hours spray painted the word racist on the base of the Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross statue.
The letters BLM and ACAB were also seen spray painted in red. The body and face of Sully was also targeted with red paint and what appears to be a rainbow-colored wig.
Campus employees quickly covered the statue with a tarp after it was discovered just after sunrise.
Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young issued a statement Tuesday, saying they "became aware of the incident this morning and have immediately begun to engage experts to assess damage to the statue. We ask our Aggie community for peaceful discourse.”
The organizers of the local Black Lives Matter group posted to Facebook Tuesday saying "no one with any affiliation with Black Lives Matter Bryan/College Station has had anything to do with vandalizing the Sully statue on Texas A&M's campus."
Calls for the removal of the statue have increased in the past two weeks, but there's also an equal amount of push coming from current students and alum who want to keep it in the Academic Plaza.
This isn't the first time the statue has been the target of vandalism nor the first time there have been calls for its removal, but this latest attempt includes an online petition that's been signed by thousands and a scheduled protest Saturday afternoon on campus.
Dedicated in 1918, Sul Ross is the oldest sculpture on campus. An A&M tradition is for students to leave pennies at its base for good luck before exams.
Lawrence Sullivan Ross was a Brigadier General during the Civil War and commander of the Texas Cavalry Brigade. After the war, he served as a Texas state senator, governor of Texas and, ultimately, president of the troubled Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, which eventually became Texas A&M University.
Under Ross' leadership, the school grew and returned to its status as a prominent and respected state school. Traditions including the first Aggie Ring and the formation of the Aggie Band were established while Ross served the university. Ross died at his College Station home in January 1898.
In 2017, questions surfaced about whether the Ross statue would remain in its current place on campus after Confederate statues were removed overnight at the University of Texas. Texas A&M President Michael K. Young said the Ross statue would remain on campus to honor his role as president of the university.
In 2018, someone vandalized the base of the statue by writing “Sully and A&M are racist #BLM” and "F--k A&M.”