Just as Remembrance Day ceremonies got underway Saturday morning, a war memorial was defaced in the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent.
Berj Merdjani saw the red graffiti, that said "F--k war" and "F--k the army" in French, as he was entering his photography studio across the street from Beaudet Park.
It was about 8:30 a.m. ET and Merdjani called the city right away. He feared the writings would still be there as people arrived to pay their respects at 11 a.m., just as he's watched them do for the past 35 years.
The words especially stung on Remembrance Day.
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"For me, it's too sad," said Merdjani, whose great-grandparents were killed in the Armenian Genocide. "This is embarrassing. It's an insult."
City workers showed up and promptly removed the defacement. Montreal police say they have launched an investigation.
But some visitors had come to the park early, Merdjani said, and left dismayed.
"Another lady came, she just stopped the car and went right there and she was stunned," said Merdjani, who is also the president of the local business association, Zone Décarie Nord.
"I said, 'Are you OK?' and she couldn't say anything. That's what was shocking … My reaction was, it was like in my stomach I felt bad."
Merdjani said he's happy the city took action so quickly, but he wants to make sure people understand what kind of impact the defacement can have.
"It's wrong. They're welcome to express their views, but not like this," he said.
"Imagine, soldiers' parents … they see this, how are they going to feel?"
A silver lining
Merdjani saw a silver lining. Some of those who had initially left when they saw the graffiti came back later.
The middle-aged woman he'd spoken to returned, this time with a friend, and a man he'd seen leave upset came back around 1:30 p.m.
"He was smiling that it was clean. He waved to me from afar and he left," Merdjani said. "It was a good gesture."