Though Serra himself did not found Mission San Rafael, it owes its existence to Serra’s legacy, as he founded the first nine missions in what would become California.
During the hourlong October protest, organized by members of the Coast Miwok tribe, several masked people peeled off the duct tape and threw red paint in the statue’s face. At least five people were captured on local news footage pulling on the statue’s head with nylon cords and ropes, dragging it to the ground.
Of the group that destroyed the statue, police arrested and recommended charges for six individuals. District Attorney Lori Frugoli subsequently charged five of those people, all women, with felony vandalism.
Two of the women charged hailed from Oakland, one was a local, and two were from nearby communities.
Four of the five assailants, who are now calling themselves the “Indigenous Peoples Day 5”, were arraigned late last year, and the last of the five was arraigned Feb. 18.
“I want above all to thank the San Rafael Police Department and the Marin County District Attorney’s Office for recognizing that social justice requires justice: that all of us enjoy the equal protection of the laws,” Cordileone concluded.
Catholics rallied in a peaceful prayer demonstration the day after the riot, with Father Kyle Faller, parochial vicar at the mission, leading a rosary and urging the crowd of 75-100 people to persevere in prayer, and offering a reflection on Christ’s forgiveness in the face of persecution.
Cordileone performed an exorcism at the site of the statue Oct. 17, calling the statue’s destruction an act of blasphemy.
Cordileone had in late October 2020 asked the Marin County district attorney to prosecute those arrested after the riot at a mission church to the “full extent of the law.” He also seconded the San Rafael Police Department’s request that the six individuals be charged with vandalism in a house of worship, a hate crime.
“If the perpetrators of this crime are not brought to justice, small mobs will be able to decide what religious symbols all people of faith may display on their own property to further their faith, and they will continue to inflict considerable spiritual suffering on ordinary Catholic people who would see our sacred spaces as unprotected by law,” he wrote to Frugoli at the time.
In contrast, some activists in California continue to call for the charges against the five assailants to be dropped, and repeating claims that Serra facilitated, or at least represents, the destruction of native California.
An online petition demanding that the district attorney drop the charges, anonymously posted by a group calling itself Decolonizers Defense, has garnered nearly 77,000 signatures as of Monday morning.
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“While monuments to racism and violence are being removed across the state, the city of San Rafael is refusing to recognize the harms perpetrated against Indigenous people by Serra and instead has decided to file felony charges against five of the fifty demonstrators,” the petition reads.
During a recent online press conference hosted by the Anti-Police Terror Project, a San Francsico activist group, an indigenous leader defended the assailants’ actions and repeated charges that Serra himself was racist and participated in genocide.
Corrina Gould, tribal spokesperson for the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, called the Catholic Church a “worldwide epidemic of colonization and genocide” and demanded the charges against the assailants be dropped in favor of “a different solution.”
“Who needs to be in court right now is the Catholic Church. They need to be held accountable for the horrific crimes they have created around the world,” she stated, and denounced Cordileone for his opposition to “gay rights” as well as his advocacy for reopening churches amid the pandemic.
A lawyer for three of the assailants, Hasmik Geghamyan, said at the press conference that Frugoli’s charges represented an effort to “target and harm dynamic activists who provide so much support, healing, and justice in their communities.”
CNA contacted Geghamyan and James Burch, Policy Director for the Anti Police-Terror Project, but did not receive responses by press time.