Rioters and protesters in San Francisco and Los Angeles pulled down and desecrated statues of Catholic missionary St. Junipero Serra.
Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary to the United States, helped to found nine missions in California in the late eighteenth century. Pope Francis canonized him in 2015.
Los Angeles Times reported that Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere, along with representatives from the Barbareño/Venureño Band of Mission Indians and Father Tom Elewaut, a Catholic priest based at the San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura, had issued a joint statement agreeing to take down the statue of Serra outside Ventura City Hall and have it “moved to a more appropriate non-public location.”
On Saturday in Olvera Street, Los Angeles, 100 people reportedly helped to topple a statue of Serra with ropes. In a video of the incident one participant can be heard saying “this is for our ancestors” as the statue came crashing down.
Natives just tore down the statue of Junipero Serra at Placita Olvera in solidarity with #BLMprotest #antiracism #antislavery pic.twitter.com/8ZDdv7vej7
— L.A. TACO ���� (@LATACO) June 20, 2020
“The demonstration was referred to as an ‘unmonumenting and cleansing of space’ done in partnership with the Tataviam and Tongva Tribal Nations, according to a statement from members of Los Angeles’s Native/Indigenous community,” Los Angeles Daily News reports.
“The act was described as ‘a step forward in returning balance to these lands,’” they continue.
“No police intervened as this was a ceremony,” Joel Garcia, a witness who helped author the statement on behalf of the Tataviam and Tongva Tribal Nations, told the local newspaper.
“We had some elders share songs at the start and we collectively built an altar following the removal,” Garcia said.
— Lexis-Olivier Ray (@ShotOn35mm) June 20, 2020
Additionally, in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, activists pulled down another statue of Serra.
A video of the incident shows those in attendance cheering as the statue is toppled. One person can be seen hitting the statue with their fists and another person hitting it with a skateboard once it has fallen to the ground.
Activists just toppled the Junipero Serra statue in Golden Gate Park here in San Francisco
Now they’re onto Francis Scott Key, slave owner and writer of the Star Spangled Banner pic.twitter.com/Ykv0hFMZvK
— Joe Rivano Barros (@jrivanob) June 20, 2020
Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement that a “renewed national movement to heal memories and correct the injustices of racism and police brutality in our country has been hijacked by some into a movement of violence, looting and vandalism.”
“The memorialization of historic figures merits an honest and fair discussion as to how and to whom such honor should be given. But here, there was no such rational discussion; it was mob rule, a troubling phenomenon that seems to be repeating itself throughout the country,” Cordileone said.
Voices in favor of the destruction of Serra’s statue have accused him of having committed numerous crimes, including genocide and the enslavement and torture of indigeonus peoples.
Cordileone insisted that Serra was a champion and protector of indigenous people.
“St. Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers. Even with his infirmed leg which caused him such pain, he walked all the way to Mexico City to obtain special faculties of governance from the Viceroy of Spain in order to discipline the military who were abusing the Indians. And then he walked back to California,” Archbishop Cordileone said.