A statue depicting the famous moment a U.S. sailor kissed a female stranger during celebrations of the end of World War II has been vandalized, with the words “#MeToo” written in red spray paint across the woman’s leg.
The act of vandalism occurred in Florida the day after the serviceman, George Mendonsa, died. He was famously captured on camera kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, and while the image has long been linked to a celebratory mood felt all across the globe when the second World War finally came to an end in 1945, many have criticized it for essentially depicting sexual assault.
As reported by the Guardian, Friedman had openly spoken about the shock she felt when she was grabbed and kissed by a stranger in the middle of all the commotion in Times Square, New York City, after Japan surrendered. And in 2015, Mendonsa confirmed in an interview with CNN that he was drunk and did it out of “plain instinct.”
“So we get into Times Square and the war ends and I see the nurse. I had a few drinks, and it was just plain instinct, I guess. I just grabbed her,” Mendonsa said of the moment that was eternally captured by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
During an interview in 2005, Friedman said that she realized that the unexpected kiss was a “jubilant act,” but that it was non-consensual. Her son later told the New York Times that his mother, who died from pneumonia in 2016 in Richmond, Virginia, at the age of 92, did not “view the kiss negatively.”
Graffiti has been removed from the Unconditional Surrender statue. pic.twitter.com/dSrq1MbfsJ— City of Sarasota (@CityofSarasota) February 19, 2019
The vandalized statue, titled Unconditional Surrender, which was created by the sculptor Seward Johnson, can be found in Sarasota, Florida. On Monday, local police said that the cost of the damage was estimated to be $1,000 “due to the large area that the graffiti covers, and the resources needed to repair it.”
Sarasota police department said in a statement that their officers were “dispatched to the intersection of North Gulfstream Avenue and Bayfront Drive reference to an unknown individual spray painting ‘#MeToo’ on the Unconditional Surrender statue.”
“They found the words ‘#MeToo’ spray painted in red along the left leg of the nurse. The red lettering covered the length of the nurse’s leg. A canvass by officers was conducted in the area to locate spray paint bottles, however, none were found. During the canvass, no other objects were observed to be defaced or spray painted,” the department stated.
And while Sarasota police believe the incident occurred on Monday between “the mid-afternoon and evening hours,” they can’t pinpoint the exact time of the event, adding that no CCTV cameras captured it and no witnesses were known to exist. The city of Sarasota confirmed the graffiti was removed from the artwork on Tuesday, two days after 95-year-old Mendonsa suffered a seizure and died at a care home in Middletown, Rhode Island.