Historic sins of the past were revisited with countenanced criminality in California last weekend.
Blatantly violating the California criminal code, Native American activists in Los Angeles toppled an offending statue. But their criminality was the subject of an entirely laudatory article in the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco protesters were given free rein by the cops to topple a statue of the same priest as in Los Angeles, plus statues of Francis Scott Key and Ulysses S. Grant. They were gently rebuked by San Francisco Mayor London Breed in a statement that mainly focused on racism.
“It began with a prayer and ended with a loud clunk,” began the breezy Los Angeles Times article. “On Saturday afternoon, a group of about five dozen indigenous activists of all ages — children and elders included — gathered at Father Serra Park in downtown Los Angeles, just south of Olvera Street. As Tataviam/Chumash elder Alan Salazar burned sage and invoked the spirit of his ancestors, a group of young activists bound the nearby statue of Father Junipero Serra with ropes and tore him off his pedestal to chants of ‘Take it down! Take it down!’”
“After the statue flew off its pedestal, the crowd erupted with shouts and drumming.”
That’s quite a breezy description for what was plainly vandalism more commonly known as “malicious mischief” under the California criminal code: “Every person who maliciously commits any of the following acts with respect to any real or personal property not his or her own, in cases other than those specified by state law, is guilty of vandalism.”
The acts specified are defacing the property with graffiti damaging, or damaging, or destroying it. Perps normally face maximum penalties of one year in jail and fines up to $50,000. Or both.
That’s serious stuff but the LA Times made the whole thing sound like a really awesome street fair.
“The Los Angeles action was peaceful — no police were present — and the vibe was more familial ceremony than protest.”
Protestor Joel Garicia, an American Indian of the Huichol tribe, linked the toppling of the statue to larger inequities. “Mass incarceration comes from the mission system,” he said. “It’s important that what is going on doesn’t overshadow what happened in California.”
Father Junipor Serrra was a Spanish missionary who helped colonize what later became California. He arrived in 1769 amid hundreds of thousands of American Indians. He established nine missions spanning San Diego and San Francisco. He converted thousands of Indians, but those who wouldn’t convert or who escaped the missions were flogged and beaten.
Friday night in San Francisco’s Golden State Park was a trifecta of destruction.
Police stood by idly as protestors toppled statutes of Serra, Francis Scott Keys, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner and President Ulysses S. Grant. The protestors also spray painted park benches as well as statues of Don Quixoted and Cervantes. But nobody was arrested.
The most pointed criticism of the vandalism London Breed could offer up was to say that cleaning up the mess would require the use of funds that could otherwise go to black people. “There is very real pain in this country rooted in our history of slavery and oppression, especially against African-Americans and Indigenous people. I know that pain all too well,” she said in a statement. “But the damage done to our park last night went far beyond just the statues that were torn down, and included significant damage to Golden Gate Park.”
“Every dollar we spend cleaning up this vandalism takes funding away from actually supporting our community, including our African-American community,” she declared. “I say this not to defend any particular statue or what it represents, but to recognize that when people take action in the name of my community, they should actually involve us. And when they vandalize our public parks, that’s their agenda, not ours.”
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