SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s archbishop called a district attorney’s decision to prosecute protesters arrested for toppling a St. Junipero Serra statue outside a Catholic church on charges of felony vandalism “a breakthrough moment for Catholics.”
It is “the first time that any of the lawbreakers attacking statues of St. Junipero Serra and other acts of vandalism on Catholic Church property across California will be held accountable for their actions in a court of law,” said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordelione in a statement Nov. 13.
Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli filed the charges that day against five people for allegedly defacing and pulling down the statue Oct. 12. The news media identified those charged as Melissa Aguilar, Mayorgi Nadieska Delgadille, Victoria Eva Montano Pena, Moira Van de Walker and Andrew Lester Mendle. Each faces one count of felony vandalism.
The Serra statue outside Mission San Rafael in San Rafael was desecrated with red paint and toppled, leaving just the saint’s feet in place.
The attack came on the federal holiday of Columbus Day, which is known as Indigenous People’s Day in California and elsewhere. Protesters say the saint mistreated indigenous people in what is today California as a missionary, but Catholic leaders and historians dispute such claims.
“The crime was caught on video,” the archbishop said. “The lawbreakers came prepared with ropes, chisels and spray paint, clearly indicating forethought in committing this crime. If crimes like these are not punished, then the government is telling mobs they get to decide what symbols Catholics and other faiths may display.”