In the early morning hours of July 23rd of this year, city officials in San Buenaventura (commonly referred to as Ventura), California hired an anti-Catholic crane company to remove a statue of Saint Junipero Serra that had stood in the city for just shy of a century. This move came after a contentious debate between outside agitators, the city council and the citizens of San Buenaventura during the height of the Black Lives Matter related iconoclasm.
Despite the attempt to silence the residents of the city through guile and subterfuge, the local population did not back down. From the introduction of the idea of removing the statue to the present day, denizens of San Buenaventura have been out in force in defense of Saint Junipero’s legacy and the statue itself.
In fact, on August 15th, almost two hundred people—most of who were from the city proper—came out to rally in support of the great saint.
The event itself was put on by a group known as the Coalition for Historical Integrity through their “Defend Serra” web site and social media pages. This same organization, which has been responsible for generating street activism in the area, is also involved in a legal suit against the city over the statue.
In the crowd one could see Californians of varying nationalities, ethnicities, ages and other backgrounds. Not surprisingly, there was a palpable Catholic overtone, with both nuns and religious brothers (who, like Saint Serra, were Franciscans).
A good number of those scheduled to speak during the two hour event were also well-known figures in the local Catholic community, a decent portion of which were military veterans.
As to be expected, there was some opposition to the event. Although minor, it was manifested in a nearby display by Amerindian activists and one man who tried to start a physical confrontation with attendees of the pro Saint Serra rally. The latter was promptly arrested by city police.
The former, however, was a schizophrenic performance by individuals who were not sure who they were and what exactly they were doing. Among the many inconsistencies was their use of traditional garb of varying tribes that came from vastly distant regions, the employment of Latino nationalist language and a bizarre religious invocation which claimed that man was simultaneously from the stars and the dirt of the Earth.
This strange display served as an excellent contrast to the Saint Serra rally just a block away. In the former, there was a chaotic and outlandish exhibition. In the latter, there was the presence of order and patriotism. This was perhaps best exemplified when the pseudo-Indian activists began beating on war drums while those in favor of the statue sang the national anthem. Naturally, many of the pedestrians passing by the loony fanfare of the fake Indians viewed it as nothing more than a curious street performance.
Overall, the attitude of the defenders of Saint Junipero was very positive. With the legal challenges to the city council and the sheer amount of public support, there was a sensible ambience of optimism.
At this point, the future of the statue in San Buenaventura is uncertain, but there’s no question as to whether or not there will be those who will continue organizing in support of Church and Californian history.
May Saint Junipero and Saint Francis intercede for the Golden State.