Marin County DA files felony vandalism charges for St. Junipero statue damage, Archdiocese of SF says

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Friday, November 13, 2020
Father Junipero Serra in middle of Bay Area political battle
EMBED <>More Videos

Protesters marched into and sat outside the office of Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli Monday, demanding prosecution of five people arrested for toppling a statue of Fr. Junipero Serra outside a church.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- The Marin County District Attorney has filed felony vandalism charges against people who allegedly damaged and tore down the St. Junipero Serra statue at Mission San Rafael last month, according to the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of San Francisco posted on its website:

"This is a breakthrough moment for Catholics. Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli's decision to prosecute on the charge of felony vandalism represents the first time that any of the lawbreakers attacking statues of St. Junípero Serra and other acts of vandalism on Catholic Church property across California will be held accountable for their actions in a court of law.

I would like to thank the hundreds of San Francisco Catholics who have already signed the petition launched this weekend by the Benedict XVI Institute at supporting my call for prosecution of these offenders.

The crime was caught on video. 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.

Given that this was vandalism at a house of worship, the San Rafael Police Department understandably recommended that the perpetrators be charged with a hate crime. Indeed, to vandalize a house of worship to express one's views is not a mere property crime: it is an attack on the identity and rights of a whole faith community.
In a diverse society we may debate and disagree about many things, including St. Junípero Serra's legacy. But mobs do not get to trespass on other people's holy grounds to destroy their sacred symbols. While a hate crime was not charged in this case, let us hope that this prosecution will nonetheless contribute to putting an end to attacks on all houses of worship.

Father Luello Palacpac, pastor of San Rafael Parish and Mission, added, "The traumatic experience of the parishioners at Mission San Rafael caused my flock to enthusiastically support the Archbishop's call to prosecute those who first desecrated and then toppled the statue of St. Junípero Serra. St. Junípero Serra is the first Latino-American saint, canonized by Pope Francis. Whether you agree or disagree with the historic record of St. Junípero, no one has a right to trespass on a faith community's sacred grounds to destroy property and even more importantly the symbols of its faith."

Stay with ABC7 News for the latest.

Previous story from October 19, 2020 down below

The fallout continues following the desecration of a statue of Father Junipero Serra outside St. Raphael Church in San Rafael. Descendants of Native Americans say he has their blood on his hands, but less than two weeks from Election Day, it has thrust the issue into the crosshairs of political debate.

Protestors marched into and then sat outside the office of Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli on Monday.

They demand prosecution, "to the fullest extent," of five people arrested for pulling down a statue of Father Junipero Serra outside St. Rafael Church.

"We would do the same even if it was a statue of Chairman Mao," said one. "It was private property."

"Law and order must be respected," said Richard Kakayjian. "Otherwise, we have Portland."

Native Americans say Junipero Serra has their blood on his hands for how he treated their ancestors while establishing California's missions. "We wanted to open a dialogue with the church, basically, and it just kind of got out of hand," said Lucina Vidauri, of Miwok ancestry.

She was not arrested, but decries the response. "Since then, my life has been threatened. My family has been threatened."

"It is unfortunate and uncalled for. This is the time we're in, now," said Cesar Lagleva, who attended that same St. Rafael Church as a child. He resents the hijacking of this cultural issue into a political one.

"I realize this is being thrust into the political arena. It is a social issue."

Back in the Marin Civic Center, protestors played loud revolution music through a megaphone while waiting. It echoed through the buildings long halls and even serenaded people casting their votes, but District Attorney Lori Frugoli never came out to meet with the law and order contingent.

VIDEO: SF mayor calls for review of public art after crowds topple 3 historic statues

San Francisco Mayor Breed asked officials to work with the community so that art, including statues, reflect the values of the city after statues of Francis Scott Key, Junipero Serra and Ulysses Grant were torn down in Golden Gate Park.

Instead, she sent a messenger with a statement saying they're waiting for a full investigation before reaching any decision.

On Monday, the Archdiocese of San Francisco told ABC7 News that it does want to prosecute.

Outside the church, Father Serra's statue is gone. Only a mound of concrete remains where the base used to be.

The church held an exorcism to rid the spot of its evil.