A group of activists near San Francisco on Monday defaced a statue of St. Junipero Serra on private property with red spray paint before tearing it from its foundation.
Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary, is viewed by some activists as a symbol of colonialism and of the abuses that many Native Americans suffered after contact with Europeans. However, historians say the missionary protested abuses and sought to fight colonial oppression.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Tuesday decried the “mob rule” that led to the statue of the saint being “mindlessly defaced and toppled by a small, violent mob.”
“This kind of behavior has no place in any civilized society. While the police have thankfully arrested five of the perpetrators, what happens next is crucial, for if these are treated as small property crimes, it misses the point: the symbols of our faith are now under attack not only on public property, but now on our own property and even inside of our churches,” Cordileone said Oct. 13.
The riot that led to the statue’s destruction took place Oct. 12 at Mission San Rafael Arcángel in San Rafael, CA, north of San Francisco Bay.
Though Serra himself did not found Mission San Rafael, it owes its existence to Serra’s legacy, as he founded the first nine missions in what would become California.
The hourlong protest, organized by members of the Coast Miwok tribe, marked Indigenous People’s Day, the holiday that some cities and states – including California – have designated to replace Columbus Day.
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