SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli 's decision to reduce charges in a vandalism case led to a protest in downtown San Rafael Tuesday afternoon.
Catholics of Marin, a self-described grassroots group, said five defendants should face felony charges for defacing and pulling down a statue of Saint Junipero Serra that was in front of Mission San Rafael more than two years ago.
Frugoli recently reduced the charges to misdemeanors.
A small group marched from the church to downtown.
"The statue that was taken down ripped my heart out. This is part of our shared history. I have Native American roots. I'm also born and raised Catholic," said parish member Theresa Brunner.
On October 12, 2020, a KTVU crew saw people tying ropes around the statue and pulling it down.
It happened during a gathering held by Coast Miwok of Marin commemorating Indigenous People's Day.
Organizers said they did not ask anyone to take down the statue but said they were glad it happened.
They said Serra is responsible for the destruction of Native American culture.
"There are different views on this saint but don't go tear the statue down. That doesn't help anyone. That's just violence," said protest organizer Joe Tassone with Catholics of Marin.
Four women and one man were arrested for felony vandalism which has been reduced to misdemeanors.
"It was a historical upset and angst," said Frugoli.
The district attorney said the reduction of charges includes conditions.
The defendants have been ordered to pay restitution, stay away from the church for one year, participate in a community forum with historians and church officials, and write letters of apology.
"We really want to see accountability, which we have," Frugoli said.
She added that the defendants have already spent 18 hours during a span of two years meeting with a restorative justice practitioner who works in the district attorney's office.
"The one thing we don't want to see is for this to happen again. There are people in the church who want this disposition," said Frugoli, "There are many people sitting in jail who have no remorse whatsoever. It's not what we want to create. That's not what we want to happen here."
"They just can't walk up to any property and decimate something that means something to a community," said Brunner.
The District Attorney said she plans to have the community forum for all sides to meet within the next 60 days.
Brunner said the statue has been repaired.
But there is concern that it'll be vandalized again if it's installed in its original spot.