Mission San Luis Obispo removes statue to protect it from protesters

June 23, 2020

Amid a wave of statue toppling across the United States, the Catholic Church removed a Junipero Serra statue from the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa on Monday, a move intended to protect the sculpture. [Tribune]

The Diocese of Monterey, which owns the SLO Mission property, released a statement saying a work crew took down the statue and moved it to a storage room to safeguard it and protect it from vandalism. Junipero Serra statues have already been toppled by protesters in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Protesters argue the Spanish missionary’s legacy includes abuses against Native Americans. The Catholic Church argues otherwise, saying Serra pressed Spanish authorities for better treatment of Native Americans.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon stated in an Instagram post she is grateful the statue was removed.

“So grateful to see this painful reminder removed from our public space,” Harmon wrote. “Thank you to the church for doing the right thing and proactively taking this down.”

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Dear CCN commenters, please do not conflate your dislike of Heidi Harmon with a love of Junipero Serra. because she didn’t have anything to do with the removal according to the story. She just tagged it with her opinion which is ostensibly what social media is for.

Here’s why I bother:

I was raised catholic; went to catholic grade school, high school, AND college; and studied archaeology which allowed me to participate in excavations at missions throughout the state. The unvarnished reality is that the colonization of California (whether intentionally or not) directly caused the death of millions of Native Californians and the systematic cultural repression of those who remained. There is no debating that statement. It’s written about by the padres themselves. Our downtown is built on their graves, literally.

Our era of political polarization disposes us to reactively reject those who seem to be “on the other side” but there’s more than two goddamn sides out there and I’m tired of this bipolar bullshit.

The Catholic Church didn’t remove the statute out of respect for Serra. He’s a saint, right? He sits at the right hand of God, so what does heaven care for statues? The Catholic Church wants to protect its money and keep itself out of the headlines. It’s the first and most enduring corporation and like any other they don’t want to change and they don’t want to explain their questionable actions. It bad PR to re-examine how their words (love thy neighbor) don’t match their actions (wiping out thousands of indigenous cultures).

Perhaps they could reapportion the time and money spent protecting that statue towards the victim funds for the thousands of children raped by priests?

All faiths have blood on their hands, literally and figuratively. The Catholic Church of today is not the same institution it was in Serra’s time. In fact, Catholic Charities is one of the most efficient and transparent aid organizations in the world. But is it perfect? Hardly, the institution like all large multinational organizations constantly finds itself in challenges and controversy.

Like it or not, the Roman Catholic Church is inextricably connected to post Colombian (after 1542 with Cabrillo) development of California and the American Southwest. I’t is our history. Instead of wiping all the vestiges of that history away, sweeping it under the rug, why not not read it, deliberate, and learn from it.

What pathetic piece of work Mayor Harmon is. She’s a painful reminder of how ignorant and pandering politicians can be. The stupidity flows from her constantly. Please, someone check her for insanity. Please resign and move to Seattle.

Thank you Mayor Harmon. We should be allowing these statues (works of art) to be removed and not destroyed. Its sad that most of these destructive acts are done by people who have little or no knowledge about the these individuals. Yes George Washington was a slave owner, but lets remember that if it was not for General George Washington we would not be sitting here today. Destroying these statues or changing the names of schools and other buildings will not erase our past. Our mistakes are meant teach us lessons in hopes that we will not repeat them.

Please, will a reasonable, able bodied person out there please step forward and run for mayor! We can and should do better than Harmon. Heidi and her gang of hipsters must go!