The Catholic Church abruptly removed a long-standing statue of Junípero Serra from the San Luis Obispo Mission on Monday, amid a reassessment of the missionary’s controversial history that includes abuses against Native Americans.

The statue was brought down by a work crew at about noon Monday to “safeguard the statue and to protect it from vandalism,” a spokeswoman for the diocese of Monterey, which owns the mission property, said Monday.

The statue’s removal follows weeks of protests against systematic oppression of ethnic minorities. Similar statues of the Catholic priest have been toppled by protesters in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

After the statue was removed from its base Monday and wheeled to a nearby storage room in the church, the Rev. Kelly Vandehey referred all questions to the diocese of Monterey.

Erica Yanev, spokeswoman for the diocese of Monterey, said the removal was for the protection of the monument. Yanev provided a news release from the California Catholic Conference that defended the legacy of Serra, who the conference said “made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California.”

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon said in an Instagram post that she was pleased to see the statue removed.

The above comes from a June 22 story in theTribune of San Luis Obispo.