Mayor Breed calls for review of public art after crowds topple 3 historic statues in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As monuments and statues are being torn down across the U.S., three more have been toppled in San Francisco.

Lots of power washing was happening in Golden Gate Park Saturday afternoon, city workers were removing graffiti from pedestals that once held statues.

A group of several hundred people, tore down the statue of Francis Scott Key who wrote the National Anthem and was a known slave holder.

RELATED: Christopher Columbus statue removed at Coit Tower in San Francisco

The statue of Junipero Serra was also toppled Friday night, Serra established the California Missions and is accused of committing atrocities against Native Americans. The statue was later doused with red paint.

The bust of Ulysses Grant was also brought to the ground, another statue of Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes was vandalized.

The group dispersed around 9:30 p.m. Friday and no arrests were made, according to police.

San Francisco police also confirmed Saturday that officers were sent to the area of Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for "a large civic gathering."

Some park visitors had a lot to say.

"It's shameful, horrible, it's a sign of mob violence and it needs to stop," said Howard from San Francisco.

Police say the crowd turned on arriving officers and began throwing objects at them, then took off running.

"I'm not sad, statues like this tend to make heroes of people without a lot of real conversation or a full picture of what they did in their lives, owning slaves for example," said Stephan Hastrup from San Francisco.

In a statement, Mayor London Breed acknowledged pain felt in the country, rooted in a history of slavery and oppression.

She said in part, "Every dollar we spend cleaning up this vandalism takes funding away from actually supporting our community, including our African American community, I say this not to defend any particular statue or what it represents but to recognize that when people take action in the name of my community, they should actually involve us," said Mayor Breed.

This comes a day after city officials removed a statue of Christopher Columbus from Coit Tower.

Mayor Breed is now calling for a review of all public art in the city. She has asked the Arts Commission, Recreation and Parks Department and Human Rights Commission to work with the community so that art, including statues, reflect the values of the city.

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Francis Scott Key statue comes down at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park



In a statement to ABC7 News, San Francisco Mayor London Breed writes:

"There is very real pain in this country rooted in our history of slavery and oppression, especially against African-Americans and Indigenous people. I know that pain all too well. But the damage done to our park last night went far beyond just the statues that were torn down, and included significant damage to Golden Gate Park. Every dollar we spend cleaning up this vandalism takes funding away from actually supporting our community, including our African-American community. I say this not to defend any particular statue or what it represents, but to recognize that when people take action in the name of my community, they should actually involve us. And when they vandalize our public parks, that's their agenda, not ours.

If we are going to make real change, let's do the work with our impacted communities to make that change. To do that, I have asked the Arts Commission, the Human Rights Commission, and the Recreation and Parks Department and its Commission to work with the community to evaluate our public art and its intersection with our country's racist history so that we can move forward together to make real changes in this City. Who and what we honor through our public art can and should reflect our values."


The Spanish Embassy and the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco weighed in on the removal of the Junipero Serra statue Saturday, The embassy tweeed:

"We deeply regret the destruction of the statue of Saint Junípero Serra in San Francisco today, and would like to offer a reminder of his great efforts in support of indigenous communities."


Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone issued a statement defending Serra, saying:

"St. Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers. Even with his infirmed leg which caused him such pain, he walked all the way to Mexico City to obtain special faculties of governance from the Viceroy of Spain in order to discipline the military who were abusing the Indians. And then he walked back to California."

His full statement can be read here.
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