SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Five people have been arrested following a protest in San Rafael which resulted in the vandalism and toppling of a Junipero Serra statue at a San Rafael church.

The suspected vandals joined a group of 40 to 50 protesters Monday at Saint Raphael’s Catholic Church at 1104 Fifth Ave. They broke from the group’s planned protest to spray red paint on the statue before pulling off its pedestal.

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San Rafael police said officers monitored the planned protest and had worked with the Archdiocese of San Francisco to develop a response. Protesters had shared information on the protest on social media to coincide with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, recognized by those who object to Columbus Day commemorations.

Junipero Serra is recognized as a saint in the Catholic church, however Native American tribes accuse the 18th century missionary of presiding over a brutal colonization campaign — studies later showed that more natives died under Serra’s watch than were born.

Police said a decision was made not to get directly involved in or interact with the demonstration so as not to inflame or escalate behaviors during the protest. While the Archdiocese said it supported a civil protest, it also said it would seek to prosecute anyone who damaged property, police said.

Officers who were monitoring the protest kept up surveillance of those involved in the statue vandalism. As the suspects left the location, officers spoke to them away from the view of other participants in order to keep the protest peaceful and avoid larger conflict, police said.

The suspects were identified as Ines Shiam Gardilcic, a 40-year-old Oakland resident, Victoria Eva Montanopena, a 29-year-old Oakland resident, Melissa Aguilar, a 36-year-old Novato resident, Mayorgi Nadeska Delgadillo, a 36-year-old San Rafael resident, and Moira Cribben Van de Walker, a 25-year-old San Anselmo resident.

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All five were arrested for felony vandalism, issued citations and released, police said. The cases were forwarded to the Marin County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

The San Francisco Archdiocese said there would be a peaceful Catholic demonstration at the site of the statue at Saint Raphael church at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement Tuesday that while lingering scars from the oppression of indigenous peoples need to be healed, “vilifying a great man who sacrificed to protect the rights of the oppressed is not how we achieve this.”

“There is no question that the indigenous peoples of our continent suffered under Europeans who came here and their descendants, especially after the mission era ended and California entered into the United States.  But Fr. Serra is the wrong symbol of those who wish to address or redress this grievance,” said Cordileone. “Fr. Serra and his fellow Franciscans renounced all worldly pursuits to give their lives to serving the native peoples and so protected them from the abuses of their fellow Spaniards.  To look to Fr. Serra as the icon of oppression of the Indians is akin to doing the same with Abraham Lincoln and the institution of slavery in the United States.”

Police asked anyone with information about the crime to call San Rafael Police at (415) 485-3000 or provide information on the department website.

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