Pictured: The statue of St. Junipero Serra in front of Ventura City Hall on June 20, 2020. Photo by Kimberly Rivers. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

As of press deadline, the bronze statue of St. Junipero Serra still stands in front of Ventura City Hall amidst demands for it to  be removed or taken down. 

“In recent weeks, the City of Ventura has received a groundswell of feedback from the public on the Father Junipero Serra statue. We want the community to know that we are receptive to their concerns and seek to provide a peaceful environment where all voices are heard and respected,” said Alex D. McIntyre, city manager of Ventura. “This is an historic decision and must involve the voices of the Chumash tribe, the Mission San Buenaventura, residents of Ventura and the city council.”  

The city has begun the formal process it says must take place to make a decision about the statue’s fate. First, on July 1, at 6 p.m., the city’s Historic Preservation Committee will review the landmark status of the statue. A statement released by the city clarifies that the committee “will not discuss if the statue should be retained or removed.” 

Then on July 7 the Ventura City Council will receive public input and is expected to make a decision about whether the statue should be removed. 

Ben Leaños, one of the local organizers of a June 20 protest demanding the statue be removed, said he’s not confident the city will decide to remove the statue. “They are dragging their feet.”

The July 7 meeting comes after the July 4 deadline set by some protestors for removal of the statue. “I’m worried about the people who wanted to tear it down, they asked for a deadline,” Leaños said, adding that the group of organizers he was with did not demand the deadline. “This is a worldwide uprising, time for Ventura to jump on it.” 

He expressed concern that elected officials would make a decision with an eye toward reelection. “Politicians’ goal is to secure their vote and secure power,” Leaños said. He thinks voting to remove the statue will be “an unpopular move” for city council members “given the city’s racist history.” He sees moving it to the San Buenaventura Mission as problematic also. “I don’t want the mission to have it . . . They are not going to give it the full context of what he did, the crimes he committed. The Catholic Church is not the place to learn about colonialism, slavery or rape or genocide.”

Statues of Serra are being torn down by public groups or taken down by churches and municipalities due to community outcry over the role of the missions in the decimation of Indigenous culture. Statues were felled last week in Los Angeles, Carmel and San Luis Obispo. 

To watch or participate in the July 7 Ventura City Council online meeting, visit https://bit.ly/2NvYlRX or by phone: 1 (408) 418-9388 and use access code: 126 228 9208.  

To submit written comments, visit: www.cityofventura.ca.gov/FatherSerra