Four days after Pope Francis went through with the canonization of Junipero Serra—despite protests from numerous Native American groups—a statue of Serra and some gravesites were vandalized at Mission Carmel, where Serra is buried.
Police say the vandals struck sometime late Saturday, September 26 or early Sunday morning. They splashed green and white paint around the cemetery, wrote “Saint of Genocide” on a headstone, and toppled a Serra statue.
Carmel Police Sgt. Luke Powell told the Los Angeles Times that the incident is being investigated as a hate crime because the vandals targeted “specifically the headstones of people of European descent, and not Native American descent.”
Powell also said investigators were reviewing surveillance footage to identify those responsible, but had no leads as of Monday morning.
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission was founded by Father Junipero Serra on June 3, 1770, soon after his arrival in California in 1769. Under the mission system, California’s Native people endured torture, brutal slavery, abuse land theft, as well as the loss of their culture, languages, and spiritual practices.
“Mothers would give themselves abortions so their children would not have to suffer abuse. These stories have been passed down to us from our mothers and grandmothers. We want people to know the truth, not the historic myth that surrounds these missions,” explained Caroline Ward Holland, who is currently doing a 650-mile journey of all 21 missions to honor indigenous ancestors who suffered and perished under the genocidal policies of Serra.
Michael Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP
Pope Francis, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Vice President Joe Biden, and others, pause in front of a sculpture of Junipero Serra, the Franciscan Friar known for starting missions in California, on September 24, 2015, in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.