San Francisco

Demonstrators Topple Statues in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park

The statues of St. Junípero Serra, Ulysses S. Grant and Francis Scott Key were torn down amid growing debate over the legacies of historical figures

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Cleanup was underway Saturday after people tore down statues of people in history across the country, condemning them for their ties to slavery, all on Juneteenth, the day to celebrate the freeing of enslaved people over a century and a half ago.

Several videos surfaced on social media Friday of statues of St. Junípero Serra, Ulysses S. Grant and Francis Scott Key being torn down in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

This comes amid growing debate over the legacies of historical figures.

Junipero Serra established missions and is accused of atrocities against Native Americans, while Key composed the Star-Spangled Banner and was known to have enslaved people. Grant, the 18th president, had a history with both.

Police say about 400 people arrived around 8:30 p.m.

The city said crews worked through the night to remove the toppled statues, and on Saturday just the pedestals remained.

“I think about how there aren't any other statues depicting people who were oppressed by Junipero Serra and the missions," said one local man who exercises in the area. "So, I'm not sad."

NBC Bay Area obtained video of the monuments being pulled down.

“The country's not ready to admit to a lot of things that have happened," a local in the area said Saturday. "And I think that a lot of people now are saying, 'If you won't do it, we'll do it.' I don't necessarily prescribe to that thought pattern, but I'm not mad at it."

Mayor London Breed released a statement that said, in part, "There is a very real pain in this country rooted in our history of slavery and oppression, especially against African American and Indigenous people. I know that pain all too well. But the damage done to our park went far beyond just the statues that were torn down and included significant damage to Golden Gate Park.”

Breed said she’s not defending any particular statue or what it represents, but that people should go through the proper channels in order to take action. She also asked the arts commission and others to evaluate the city’s public art so that they can make changes.

“I think it’s wrong,” said one neighbor. “What are you accomplishing? You’re destroying things that don’t belong to you. It’s from the city, our city, my city.”

Several videos surfaced on social media Friday of statues of St. Junípero Serra, Ulysses S. Grant and Francis Scott Key being torn down in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Cheryl Hurd reports.

A similar scene took place in Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.  Two confederate monuments torn down, one of them was dragged through the street and left on the courthouse steps.

And in Washington D.C., demonstrators toppled a statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike near D.C. Police Headquarters and set it on fire.

President Trump tweeted about the statue in our nation’s capital, saying “The D.C. Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country!”

In San Francisco, no arrests were made.

A group of protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement held a protest Saturday, as demonstrations continued in the region for a fourth week. Sergio Quintana reports.

On Saturday the embassy of Spain raised concerns about two of the statues that were targeted in Golden Gate Park. The embassy issued a series of tweets.

“We deeply regret the destruction of the statue of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco,” one tweet read.

In a second tweet, concerns were raised about a bust of novelist Miguel De Cervantes that was also damaged.

“Cervantes, who was himself held as a slave in Algiers for five years, and whose literature serves as a call for freedom and equality.”

The Spanish embassy called for shared cultural figures to be protected.

Protests in the Mission District continued Saturday with a sizeable group at Precita Park.

An eclectic group of demonstrators joined to show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and efforts to defund the police.

The group started as a caravan of cars and slowly made its way over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco’s Mission District.

Along with the calls for change, several younger organizers called for sustained action.

“The common unity of the community is essential,” said organizer Jordan Gomes. “So what we have to do is come together like this, not just today, not just tomorrow.”

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