11:45 GMT29 November 2020
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    The phrase “#MeToo” was spray-painted this week on a bayfront statue of a sailor and dental assistant kissing at the end of World War II in Sarasota, Florida. The statue recreates an iconic photo of two strangers embracing on a New York City street.

    According to the Sarasota Police Department, police received a report at around 1 a.m. Tuesday about someone vandalizing the "Unconditional Surrender" statue located at North Gulfstream Avenue and Bayfront Drive. When officers arrived at the scene, they found "#MeToo" spray-painted in red on the woman's leg.

    Police did not find any spray paint bottles in the vicinity of the statue. No other objects in the area were found to be vandalized, and there was no surveillance video of the incident. Law enforcement officials believe that the vandalism occurred some time Monday.

    "The approximate damage is estimated to be more than $1,000 due to the large area that the graffiti covers and the resources needed to repair it," the Sarasota Police Department wrote in a Tuesday statement.

    The City of Sarasota Public Works department removed the graffiti by 9 a.m. Wednesday.

    The #MeToo movement spread like wildfire in October 2018 after sexual misconduct accusations against powerful film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein came to broad public light.

    The phrase, long used by social activist Tarana Burke, gained rapid popularity when Alyssa Milano tweeted it in October to encourage women to publicize their experiences of sexual misconduct in an effort to demonstrate its widespread prevalence in today's society.

    The "Unconditional Surrender" statue depicts US Navy sailor George Mendonsa grabbing and kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse's uniform, on August 14, 1945. It is based on a photograph taken by German-born American photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt depicting the pair kissing on Victory over Japan Day (the day on which Japan surrendered in World War II) in New York City's Times Square. 

    The photograph was published in Life magazine a week after it was taken and years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to to be a couple.

    According to critics, the photograph and statue should not be celebrated because in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project, Friedman (who died in 2016 at the age of 92) admitted that when Mendonsa kissed her that day, he was merely a stranger who had grabbed her.

    "I was grabbed by a sailor, and it wasn't that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back, I found out later — he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific, where they already had been through the war. And the reason he grabbed someone dressed like a nurse was that he just felt very grateful to nurses who took care of the wounded," Friedman said in the interview.


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    statue, WWII, vandalism, MeToo activists, MeToo, Florida, Sarasota
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