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Protesters in San Francisco tore down and defaced statues of white men who had enslaved black and indigenous people, targeting statues of Father Junipero Serra, Francis Scott Key, and former US president Ulysses S Grant.

NBC Bay Area
(@nbcbayarea)

#BREAKING: Demonstrators topple statues in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. @hurd_hurd will have details on our News at 11. https://t.co/RvmlMqu73s pic.twitter.com/iUZE28AvdD


June 20, 2020

Videos posted on social media and from local news outlets on Friday night show a small crowd in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park cheering as people toppled the monuments with rope, covering them with blood-red paint, and, in at least one instance, dragged them through the grass.

Joe Rivano Barros
(@jrivanob)

Activists just toppled the Junipero Serra statue in Golden Gate Park here in San Francisco

Now they’re onto Francis Scott Key, slave owner and writer of the Star Spangled Banner pic.twitter.com/Ykv0hFMZvK


June 20, 2020

Junipero Serra was a Spanish priest who played a central role in the violent colonization of California. His path towards being canonized as a saint in the Catholic church has long been met with protest from Native Americans.

Serra’s own contemporaries, including French explorer Jean François de Galaup de la Pérouse, compared the Catholic missions the priest founded across California to slave plantations, where indigenous people were forced to work and harshly disciplined.

Joe Rivano Barros
(@jrivanob)

Crowd beat up on the statue after and tagged it, plus a nearby statue of Cervantes for good measure pic.twitter.com/F7foXW1ez6


June 20, 2020

“By law, all baptized Indians subjected themselves completely to the authority of the Franciscans; they could be whipped, shackled or imprisoned for disobedience, and hunted down if they fled the mission grounds,” PBS News wrote in its biography of Serra. “Indian recruits, who were often forced to convert nearly at gunpoint, could be expected to survive mission life for only about ten years.”

“Everywhere they put a mission the majority of Indians are gone,” Ron Andrade, executive director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, told the Guardian in 2015. “Serra knew what they were doing: they were taking the land, taking the crops, he knew the soldiers were raping women, and he turned his head.”

Shane Bauer
(@shane_bauer)

Statue of Francis Scott Key, slave owner and author of the Star Spangled Banner, toppled in San Francisco. pic.twitter.com/uhoSNVmoEn


June 20, 2020

Francis Scott Key, the author of the Star-Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem, not only personally enslaved people, but also tried to silence the free speech of abolitionists. He used his position as the district attorney for Washington DC in the 1830s to launch high-profile cases attacking the abolitionist movement.

Protesters dragged the Key statue through the grass and were going to dump it in a nearby fountain, until they were told the fountain was a memorial to the AIDS epidemic and stopped, a witness tweeted.

Joe Rivano Barros
(@jrivanob)

Long snail trail left after group pulled statue towards a fountain to dump it in

Then in sweetest moment of the night, someone came up to the group and said “no no no, that’s the AIDS memorial fountain,” and everyone immediately stopped and brought the statue back to the grass pic.twitter.com/sefi4QkRMA


June 20, 2020

Joe Rivano Barros
(@jrivanob)

All that’s left of Francis Scott Key here in Golden Gate Park pic.twitter.com/2Gf0qjTgys


June 20, 2020

Grant, a general who fought on the side of the United States during the Civil War, was the last US president to have personally owned another human being. While Grant’s father was an abolitionist, he went on to marry a woman from a slaver family and personally direct the labor of the family’s enslaved workers.

As president, Grant also “launched an illegal war against the Plains Indians, and then lied about it,” as Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Joe Rivano Barros
(@jrivanob)

Nearby statue of Ulysses S. Grant is also toppled. He was a slave owner too, before the Civil War. That’s three for three this night. pic.twitter.com/Lyw6bXeOTO


June 20, 2020

Even as Grant was leading battles against the Confederate Army, his wife, Julia, was traveling around army camps with a woman named Jules who was still enslaved, a decision that prompted public condemnation. The Grant family did not free Jules after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; instead, Jules self-emancipated by running away, according to the White House Historical Association.

On Friday, Americans celebrated Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the end of slavery. Juneteenth also marks the long period of waiting between when the United States government officially ended slavery, and when formerly enslaved people across the country actually learned they were free.