Carmel saint statue vandalized in possible hate crime

One or more people vandalized a statue of St. Junipero Serra sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning at a mission in Carmel-by-the-Sea, police said today.

Police believe the vandalism occurred between 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday at the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission at 3080 Rio Road.

The vandalism occurred just four days after Pope Francis canonized the late Catholic priest, who is known for founding missions in California including Mission Dolores in San Francisco.

Police said the people also vandalized other statues, graves and the doorway to the mission’s basilica.

Police Sgt. Luke Powell said it appears the vandal or vandals focused their efforts on statues and graves of people of European descent and did not vandalize statues or graves of Native Americans:

“We are investigating this as a hate crime.”

Controversy surrounded the effort to make the late Rev. Junipero Serra a saint because some have said he oppressed California native peoples, according to the website stjunipero.org.

Police have made no arrests and were not releasing any information about suspects in the investigation, Powell said.

He said the mission has security on the grounds 24 hours a day.

Additional security was on hand today at the mission for a celebration of St. Junipero Serra’s canonization, Powell said.