Vandals graffiti #MeToo on statue of iconic kiss hours after WWII sailor dies

Yahoo News Australia (and agencies)

The infamous kissing statue known as the “Unconditional Surrender” has been vandalised with the words #MeToo on Tuesday morning just one day after the uniformed World War II sailor died.

According to the Sarasota Police Department, officers responded to a call around 1:00 AM on Tuesday at a waterfront in Florida where they found the hashtag spray-painted onto the 26-foot-tall statue.

The statue, a replica of an iconic photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, portrays a sailor grabbing and kissing a nurse in New York City’s Times Square on August 14, 1945, also known as V-J Day — the day Japan surrendered in WWII.

Despite many people stepping forward and trying to claim they were the couple in the image, the pair were later confirmed as George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman.

The red paint was on the nurse’s leg, with no evidence of vandalism on any surrounding objects, and no available surveillance video of the area.

The “Unconditional Surrender” statue was vandalised with #MeToo just hours after George Mendonsa’s death Source: Sarasota Police Department
The “Unconditional Surrender” statue was vandalised with #MeToo just hours after George Mendonsa’s death Source: Sarasota Police Department

The police department estimates more than $1300 in damage was done to the statue, based on the resources needed to repair it. However, it’s understood the company contracted to clean the statue, Gorilla Kleen, removed the graffiti free of charge.

Divided opinion on historical ‘kiss’

But as police pleaded for information in their bid to track down the vandals, locals sparked a fiery debate about whether it’s time to take the statue down or not.

“Take the statue down! It may be called ‘Unconditional Surrender,’ but the circumstance was ‘Involuntary Surrender’,” one woman wrote on the police Facebook post about the vandalism — referring to a 2005 interview where Ms Friedman said “it wasn’t my choice to be kissed.”

“She didn’t know that guy, he just grabbed her and kissed her. She said that she did not want that to happen. Stop glorifying sexual assault.”

Others agreed, adding their thoughts on the police department’s Facebook post. “YES! This is so long overdue and should be removed from our city,” one wrote.

The sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II died Sunday in 1945. Source: AP
The sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II died Sunday in 1945. Source: AP

“Stop glorifying the ‘taking’ of woman against their will,” another added, while encouraging others to learn more about the history of the iconic imagery.

Still, plenty of people said that the current #MeToo movement shouldn’t be used as an excuse to deface a public statue that still represents a celebratory time in America’s history.

“You youngsters just don’t understand the exuberance of the end of WWII. That may be the most celebrated kiss in history. Sorry that your lens is so distorted on this moment,” one person responded.

“There are many other ways to get your point across other than defacing a beautiful statue. This statue is about the end of the war and the happiness that was shared.”

It’s believed statue was vandalised within 24 hours of the Mendonsa’s death. The 96-year-old was residing in an assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island with his wife of 70 years.

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