June 23, 2020
- When the event organizers unfurled their “Father Genocide” banner, Serra supporters had already surrounded the statue’s pedestal.
Thanks to the presence of a small band of Catholics, a “Tear Down Junipero Serra” event in front of Ventura City Hall on Saturday concluded with the bronze statue of Padre Serra standing unharmed.
Up and down California, mobs are destroying statues of Junipero Serra, canonized in 2015, along with statues of other prominent and not-so-prominent historical figures. Vandals toppled and destroyed statues of the saint in San Francisco and Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday.
Acknowledging the “groundswell” of enthusiasm for removing the statue, Ventura mayor Matt LaVere, San Buenaventura mission pastor Father Tom Elewaut, and the tribal chair of the Barbareno/Ventureno Band of Mission Indians Julie Tumamait Stenslie released a joint statement ahead of the scheduled Tear Down Junipero Serra event.
“The three of us are confident that a peaceful resolution regarding the Father Junipero Serra statue can be reached, without uncivil discourse and character assassination, much less vandalism of a designated landmark,” the statement said.
Junipero Serra founded the city of Ventura in 1782 when he established the mission of San Buenaventura, and his statue has stood in front of the city hall since 1936. The city installed a bronze statue in 1989 to replace the deteriorating original.
On Saturday, when the event organizers unfurled their “Father Genocide” banner, Serra supporters had already discreetly surrounded the statue’s pedestal and held up signs reading: “I ♥ Padre Serra,” “Save Serra,” and “Serra: Defender of the Chumash.” Father Elewaut and a handful of supporters stood across the street, praying.