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File photo: Vandals have defaced a North London cafe's Winston Churchill mural. Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

A cafe in Finsbury Park has been defaced by vandals who marked a giant Winston Churchill mural with graffiti.

Blighty UK is a Churchill-themed cafe complete with World War II paintings, Union flags and model Spitfire planes hanging from the ceiling. Coffees are even served in Churchill-themed mugs. One of the cafe's most impressive callbacks was a Winston Churchill mural, showing him ordering an espresso and flashing the peace symbol.

But a few cans of spray paint have left the mural in tatters, with the words "scum", "imperialist" and "warmonger" sprawled across the wall. The owners have opened a second location in Tottenham called Blighty India, which pays tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. The second cafe features Bollywood posters and Indian flags. The expanding cafe chain intends to be entirely based on Commonwealth countries.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, co-owner Chris Evans said the backlash has been unexpected. "We never imagined that Churchill or Gandhi would attract complaints," Evans said. "We thought they were both widely liked and admired figures."

"After all, Darkest Hour cinema audiences are giving standing ovations to Churchill's' 'We shall fight on the beaches' speech. The Churchill mural was just a bit of fun with the idea that he had two fingers up ordering a double espresso. It is simply silly to saw we are celebrating British imperialism.

A petition is circulating online to close the cafes because they "insensitively evoke memory of the Empire". "We understand that many see the Commonwealth as a celebration of a group of countries but it has little to do with cafes," the petition states, according to the Evening Standard.

"While Blighty does make a point of sourcing its coffee from countries in the Commonwealth, we feel its framing of the Commonwealth is an outdated concept using its history in a light-hearted fancy-dress manner. We would like to step in now and ask them to adjust their brand whilst there's still only two branches."