Vandals caused more than $25,000 in damage to the Old Mission Santa Barbara overnight, scrawling “rape” on several pillars and misspelling the word “genocide” with red paint on the stone front of the historic building.

At least one vandal broke a small window and splattered red paint on the front door and the walkway leading up to the church. The person also wrote “never forget the lives + land stolen” in red paint on the white wall of another building where some of the nearly 30 Franciscan friars that live on the property sleep, according to police and mission officials.

“It’s not the happiest way to start the day,” said Monica Orozco, the mission’s executive director. “It’s disappointing and upsetting. My first thought is always for the friars who live here because it’s their home. Imagine having your home vandalized. It’s a real invasion of your life and can make you feel unsafe.”

A passerby reported the felony vandalism to Santa Barbara police about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. Some of the lettering on the graffiti is at least 3 feet tall, making it difficult to miss, police spokesman Anthony Wagner said.

Authorities suspect that the vandal’s actions were done in protest of the Spanish conquistadors’ treatment of Native Americans. The incident also could be linked to protests surrounding the celebration of Columbus Day, which was Monday, according to investigators.

Orozco said she hopes to have the paint cleaned up before a wedding that’s scheduled at the church on Saturday, but the process could be tricky given the porous stone facade on the building. Specialized crews likely will have to be hired so the building isn’t damaged further, she said.

“We’ll do what we can to clean up and move forward,” Orozco said. “I feel sad for the people who thought they needed to do this. There must be a lot of anger there. We will pray for them.”

This isn’t the first time the mission has been the target of vandalism.

A statue of St. Junipero Serra that for years had stood at the foot of a staircase leading into the mission had to be removed last year after someone poured red paint over the sculpture and cut off its head. An investigation did not lead to any arrests in that incident.

Full story at The LA Times.