Defense Attorneys: 5 Who Toppled Statue of Catholic Saint Should Not Be Prosecuted: ‘Called Attention to the Nation’s Past’

The statue of the Roman Catholic Spanish priest Junipero Serra is pictured in Palma de Mal
AIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images

Five people who face felony charges for toppling a statue of 18th century Franciscan priest Junipero Serra at a mission in San Rafael, California, should not be prosecuted, according to defense attorneys and activists who claim the act on Indigenous Peoples Day in 2020 is not a crime because it “called attention to the nation’s past.”

The attorney for the so-called “Indigenous Peoples’ Day Five” held a virtual press conference on Monday and said tearing down historical figures is necessary to press for telling the “true history of this country,” Corrina Gould, co-founder of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an effort led by Indigenous women to return lands to Indigenous people, said at the press conference.

The United States “was built on the enslavement and the murder of Indigenous peoples and the enslavement and murder of Black people and we don’t look at that history,” Gould said. “This is a way for us to have those conversations.”

The left-wing San Francisco Chronicle advanced the narrative that Christopher Columbus, who never stepped foot on the U.S. continent, and the Catholic priest “colonized” and even tortured and killed indigenous people.

The Chronicle also reported:

Five of the alleged participants were arrested by San Rafael police and later charged with vandalism by Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli’s office, said defense attorney Hasmik Geghamyan. Online court records show a felony case was filed against five defendants on Nov. 11, 2020.

In the days after the Serra statue fell in San Rafael, Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone went to the site and performed an “exorcism” — a ceremony to ward off evil — and defended Serra as someone who brought salvation, not subjugation, to native Californians.

The Catholic Church has also requested restitution for the toppled statue, Geghamyan said.

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