Saint Junípero Serra, Christopher Columbus, Among Statues Vandalized During National Protests

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Currents News Staff

Protesters cheered after tearing down a statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore, July 4. The monument was then thrown into the harbor. 

In Waterbury, Conn., on July 5, protesters discovered a beheaded statue of the Italian explorer. Some said they weren’t upset about it, calling it a symbol of oppression, but others were startled by the site.

“I’m of the firm belief that we need to learn from our past and not destroy it,” said protestor Francis Uribe.

In Sacramento, Calif., a statue of Junípero Serra was targeted, set on fire, spray painted and torn down. Saint Junípero Serra was an 18th century priest who led missionary efforts in California. Some see him as a controversial figure over his treatment of Native Americans.

“It’s a disgrace for us that we have to drive past those statues everyday and see people who committed genocide and torture on our people being glorified,” said Ronnie Gonzalez, a protestor. 

But others see this removal as an assault on their heritage and say St. Serra is an important part of the Catholic religion after Pope Francis canonized him in 2015.

“We prayed to him for his help in everything that we do,” said Uribe. “It’s something that goes into the deep hearts of all Catholics.”

Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto denounced the toppling of the statue, saying in a statement, “This act of vandalism does little to build the future.”

He went on to say, “There is no question that California’s indigenous people endured great suffering during the colonial period. Yet it is also true that while Father Serra worked under this colonial system, he denounced its evils and worked to protect the dignity of native peoples.”

As for the Columbus statues, Andre DiMino is a spokesperson for the Italian-American One Voice Coalition, and is strong in supporting the monuments to the explorer and how Italian-Americans find pride in him.

“For me actually, I actually have a personal story because I’m a first generation Italian-American and my parents both came here from Italy,” he recently told Currents News.

“My grandfather, when he came over, he was a longshoreman. And he was spit upon and paid less on the docks of New York when he worked there,” DiMino explained.

“He saw Columbus Day as the one day of pride fo him,” he added, “and therefore, I think that is the kind of legacy we should continue for Italian-Americans.”

Regarding Saint Junípero, in June protestors pulled down several statues in Los Angeles and San Francisco.