Protesters marking Juneteenth on Friday in Golden Gate Park toppled and defaced several statues, including one of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, KPIX reports.
Grant, a former U.S. president, led Union forces to victory in the Civil War but owned a slave before the conflict, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. He freed the man in 1859.
Other statues toppled by protesters honored Father Junipero Serra, founder of the California mission system blamed by many for oppressing Native Americans, and Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a slave owner, The Mercury News reported.
Protesters also spray-painted a statue of “Don Quixote” author Miguel de Cervantes, who was himself a slave at one point, KPIX reported.
“It’s horrible,” said Steven Martin-Pinto, a San Francisco resident, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.. “It’s mob rule. These people taking down statues won’t be satisfied until they’ve removed every book and canceled every TV show.”
But fellow San Francisco resident Stefan Halstrup said he has often wondered about some of the statues, The Mercury News reported.
“I realize these are people who lived in a context, I get that,” Hastrup said, according to the publication. “But putting up statues makes them heroes. I’m not sad.”
In a statement, Mayor London Breed said she understands “the very real pain in this country rooted in our history of slavery and oppression, especially against African-Americans and Indigenous people,” KPIX reported.
“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,” Breed said, according to the station. “Every dollar we spend cleaning up this vandalism takes funding away from actually supporting our community, including our African-American community.”
Confederate statues across the South have been toppled or removed for safekeeping, while Christopher Columbus statues have been knocked down or defaced in several cities during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day.
Floyd, a Black man, later died. Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, and three other officers have been fired and charged in his death.
Some of the protests, which have spread from Minneapolis across the nation, have been blamed for clashes with police, fires and other unrest.
The violence and thefts involve much smaller groups at mostly peaceful gatherings, authorities say. The vast majority of the protesters across the nation have been “peaceful demonstrators calling for change,” law enforcement officials told ABC News.
A statue of Serra also was toppled by activists in Los Angeles on Saturday, the Los Angles Times reported.
Serra, a Franciscan priest, founded nine of 21 missions in California when it was still a Spanish territory, according to the publication. He was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvadore Cordileone condemned the destruction of Serra’s statue in Golden Gate Park in a statement, KPIX reported.
““What is happening to our society?” Cordileone said, according to the station. “A renewed national movement to heal memories and correct the injustices of racism and police brutality in our country has been hijacked by some into a movement of violence, looting and vandalism.”
But the activists behind the Los Angeles protest said “it is time for reconciliation and with that, it is time for the WHOLE truth, all sides of the history need to be told” in an email statement, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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