Activists Demand California DA Drop Charges Against Protesters Who Vandalized and Toppled Statue of Catholic Saint Outside Church

After pouring red paint on a statue of Junipero Serra, protesters wrapped cords and attempted to take it down. Activists staged a rally on Indigenous Day outside the Mission San Rafael and took down the statue of Junipero Serra in San Rafael on Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (Douglas Zimmerman/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

A group of activists has started a petition urging the Marin County District Attorney’s Office to drop felony vandalism charges against five people accused of tearing down a statue at a San Rafael church last year.

The online petition has garnered nearly 75,000 signatures. It was started by Decolonizers Defense, a group advocating for the defendants, said Annie Banks, a spokeswoman for the Indigenous Peoples Day 5 Solidarity Coalition.

“We urge the DA’s office to drop these charges immediately,” said Hasmik Geghamyan, an attorney representing defendants Melissa Aguilar and Victoria Eva Montano Pena.

“This decision to file charges goes against the collective consciousness of removing symbols of genocide, slavery and oppression in the U.S. and transnationally, especially in the wake of George Floyd solidarity protests,” Geghamyan said Wednesday.

District Attorney Lori Frugoli declined to comment on the petition, citing the active case.

The charges stem from a demonstration for Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 12 outside St. Raphael Catholic Church on Fifth Avenue. Police said a group of protesters destroyed the church’s statue of Junipero Serra, the 18th century Catholic priest who founded nine of California’s missions.

The protesters smeared the statue with paint and wrote “rape” on it before tearing it down with straps, according to San Rafael police. Five people were arrested at the scene and a sixth was later identified as a suspect, police said.

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SOURCE: Marin Independent Journal, Matthew Pera

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