A California Catholic university has placed a statue of St. Junipero Serra in storage after at least three statues of the saint have been toppled by protestors in the state.

“In response to a statement from Archbishop Gomez, an outdoor statue of St. Junipero Serra on the University of San Diego campus was moved to temporary storage after several outdoor statues of the saint have been damaged in California,” a spokesman for the University of San Diego told CNA July 14.

The university referenced a June 29 letter from Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who wrote that while “those attacking St. Junípero’s good name and vandalizing his memorials do not know his true character or the actual historical record,” increased security precautions meant that some California churches would “probably have to relocate some statues to our beloved saint or risk their desecration.”

Public statues of the saint were in June toppled in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and on July 4, a statue of Serra on the grounds of California’s state capitol in Sacramento was torn down, burned, and beaten with sledgehammers.

“The sad truth is that, beginning decades ago, activists started ‘revising’ history to make St. Junípero the focus of all the abuses committed against California’s indigenous peoples,” Gomez wrote in his June 29 letter.

“But the crimes and abuses that our saint is blamed for — slanders that are spread widely today over the internet and sometimes repeated by public figures — actually happened long after his death.”

For its part, the University of San Diego told CNA that although he “has become a touchstone for past cruelties to the indigenous peoples of California…St. Serra, America’s first Hispanic saint and missionary who brought Christianity to these lands, worked tirelessly to eliminate oppression that was clearly a part of the mission era.”

Serra was also a founder of the city of San Diego itself. In 1769, the Mission San Diego de Alcalá was founded by Franciscan missionaries led by Serra; the city grew up around that mission.

The above comes from a July 14 story on the Catholic News Agency