The Junípero Serra statue that stands at the base of the staircase leading into the Old Santa Barbara Mission was beheaded and defaced with bright red paint in the early morning hours of this past Monday.
It was the second attack on a Junipero Serra statue since the movement to remove, destroy or deface any public image of the Confederacy began. In August, a statue of Serra in Mission Hills was covered in red paint and the word “Murder” written in white down the saint’s cassock.
According to the Los Angeles Times,
This week … workers were forced to remove the statue of the controversial figure after someone poured red paint over the sculpture and cut off its head.
“I think people forget the friars do live here,” said Monica Orozco, the mission’s executive director. “Anytime something like this happens to anyone’s home it’s difficult for people.”
The vandalism, which occurred between midnight and 6 a.m. Monday, has triggered an investigation, said Sgt. Joshua Morton, spokesman for Santa Barbara Police Department. No arrests have been made.
Employees are reexamining security measures for the 13-acre property, which is home to 20 friars and houses the Franciscan School of Theology, Orozco said. It also serves as a historical museum, mausoleum and event space.
Santa Barbara Police are investigating the vandalism, but as yet have no suspects, even though there is an unconfirmed report that video footage of the crime may exist.
Local Santa Barbara online news source Edhat explains Serra’s significance to the region:
Junípero Serra was a Roman Catholic Spanish priest and friar of the Franciscan Order who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco. Santa Barbara’s Mission was founded on December 4th, 1786, two years after Serra died. He planned to build this mission, raising the cross at the Presidio of Santa Barbara in 1782. Successors of Serra carried on his wishes in building Mission Santa Barbara.
Serra was beatified in 1988 and canonized in 2015, because of his religious devotion and missionary efforts. He was largely credited with bringing Catholicism to California while it was under Spanish rule.
In spite of the fact that Serra spent his life serving the less fortunate and protecting them from the exploitation and abuse of the Spanish, according to Thomas White’s opinion piece in the Washington Examiner, leftist “[a]ctivists see the Franciscan friar as an emblem of Spanish colonialism and thus a potent symbol of the sins of imperialism — the “Saint of Genocide,” as one miscreant scrawled near a statue he defaced.”
White notes that “Fr. Junipero Serra is called the ‘Father of California'” and his statue is one of only two that stand in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol representing the state.