The archbishop of San Francisco on Saturday performed an exorcism in front of a San Rafael Catholic church at the site where protesters tore down a statue of a Spanish missionary.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone held the exorcism outside of St. Raphael’s Church on Saturday morning before performing Mass in honor of the 40 Days for Life movement, an anti-abortion campaign. Following Mass, pro-life supporters marched to the Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown San Rafael and said the rosary.
The exorcism came in response to a protest for Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday in which a group of demonstrators toppled the church’s statue of Fr. Junipero Serra. The demonstrators said Serra, an 18th century Catholic priest who founded nine of California’s missions, contributed to the destruction of Native American cultures.
Mike Brown, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said the exorcism was an attempt to bless the area where the statue once stood.
“The idea is that there was evil present, either during that event or because of that event, so he’s driving that away with prayer,” Brown said.
San Rafael police on Monday arrested five people accused of felony vandalism in connection with the destruction of the statue.
Almost 50 people attended the demonstration, which took place on the federally recognized Columbus Day holiday, to protest against the colonization and treatment of Native Americans.
About 30 minutes into the protest, a small group of demonstrators removed protective tape that was covering the Serra statue and threw red paint on it. The demonstrators also covered the statue with spray paint and wrote the word “rape” on it.
Protesters then tied straps around the neck of the statue and pulled it down, breaking it at the ankles.
According to Brown, church leaders were not asked by the demonstrators to take down the Serra statue prior to the protest. Cordileone has denounced the incident, saying in a written statement that the statue was “mindlessly defaced and toppled by a small, violent mob….”
Sgt. Justin Graham said San Rafael police knew the protest was planned and talked with church leaders about how to handle it. He said the Archdiocese of San Francisco asked police to use de-escalation techniques and to minimize interactions that could lead to use of force.
“We decided not to get directly involved or interact with the demonstration because we did not want to inflame or escalate the situation,” Graham said in a statement.
The above comes from an Oct. 18 story in the East Bay Times.