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….
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 statue’s destruction took place Oct. 12 at Mission San Rafael Arcángel in San Rafael, 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 many states and cities have designated to replace Columbus Day.
A church maintenance worker had covered the statue in duct tape before the protest to protect it from graffiti, and boarded up windows at the mission. Numerous statues of the saint have been vandalized or destroyed this year, most of them in California.
The masked rioters peeled off the duct tape and sprayed red paint in the statue’s face.
“This is a continued reminder of the impact of colonization and genocide of our people,” Dean Hoaglin, chair of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin, told Fox2.
The protestors tried to prevent local news cameras from filming the toppling, but Fox2 captured the statue’s fall on video. At least five people can be seen pulling on the statue’s head with nylon cords and ropes.
The tape appears to show the statue falling on one of the protestors, though there have not been any injuries reported.
Police arrested five women in connection with the incident and charged them with felony vandalism, Fox2 reported.
“We cannot allow a small unelected group of lawbreakers to decide what sacred symbols we Catholics or other believers may display and use to foster our faith. This must stop,” Cordileone said.
“Attacking the symbols of faith of millions of Catholics, who are as diverse in ethnicity as any faith in America, is counterproductive. It’s also simply wrong.”
Mike Brown, spokesman for the San Francisco archdiocese, told local news media that the protestors had not asked the mission to take down the statue prior to Monday’s demonstration.
Catholics in San Francisco are planning a peaceful prayer demonstration at the statue site Tuesday evening, Brown told CNA.
Cordileone noted that the protest began peacefully, but soon descended into violence. He encouraged people to learn more about Serra.
“There is no question that the indigenous peoples of our continent suffered under Europeans who came here and their descendants, especially after the mission era ended and California entered into the United States. But Fr. Serra is the wrong symbol of those who wish to address or redress this grievance,” Cordileone contended.
“Fr. Serra and his fellow Franciscans renounced all worldly pursuits to give their lives to serving the native peoples and so protected them from the abuses of their fellow Spaniards….”
The above comes from an Oct. 13 story on the site of the Catholic News Agency.