by GAY SHAME
On October 12, Indigenous People’s Day, Northern California’s Mission San Rafael Arcángel was the site of a protest where activists toppled a statue of Junípero Serra— known for his role in the Native genocide and colonization of California. Five activists were charged with felony vandalism in the wake of a demonstration led by the Coast Miwok tribe.
Twenty-one Spanish missions stand perched and protected across the state of California. The first nine of the missions were founded by Roman Catholic Spanish Saint Junípero Serra. To many devout Catholics, and even to some of the historically romanticizing non-Catholics, these Spanish missions and erected statues of founders like Serra symbolize the goal of religious expansion at the hands of the Catholic church.
However, what is hidden underneath are the gruesome and violent histories behind these institutions, as well as the architects of the violence that made it all possible.
In 1769, explorer Gaspar de Portolá and Franciscan missionary Junípero Serra took on California to establish “mission communities.” The mission of San Diego was the first of nine missions established during Serra’s lifetime. It was at these missions where Indigenous people, who were native to the stolen land that we now know as the state of California, were proselytized and forcibly converted to Christianity. Once taken into these missions, they were not permitted to leave. Children were forced to attend the schools in the Mission communities, and adults coerced to work in the fields. Missionaries would terrorize the Indigenous people with physical punishments including whippings, shackles, stocks, barbed lashings, solitary confinement, mutilation, branding, and execution. Spanish missionaries violently prevented the use of Native languages and the use of Indigenous traditions and ceremonies. These missions and monuments of Spanish missionaries such as Saint Junípero Serra glamorize a form of genocide that continues to be revered and pedestaled by both the Westernization and predominantly Roman Catholic & Christian idealists.
Activists have every right to remove this statue. Serra was an instrument of genocide., and the Marin County District Attorney’s choice to charge the activists with felonies puts them again on the wrong side of history. The toppling of this statue takes place in the context of broad calls to remove monuments to racist violence and colonization. Monuments of Serra were toppled in San Francisco and Los Angeles in June 2020. We stand with the activists in support of the removal of this statue. We call for District Attorney Lori Frugali to drop the charges against the Indigenous People’s Day 5.
Ways you can support the Indigenous People’s Day 5:
– Share and Donate to the Fundrazr dedicated to the Indigenous People’s Day 5 Defense
– Share and Sign the change.org petition to drop the charges against the Indigenous People’s Day 5