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    Ventura and Chicago linked by the removal of statues in the middle of the night

    By Michael Hernandez 

    In Ventura: City officials chose to remove the Junipero Serra statue in the middle of the night reportedly at 3 a.m. on Wednesday (July 22). Nothing but the pedestal remains along with the chain link fence and three signs:

    • An Official City Sign: “Closed by order of City Manager: No Trespassing.”
    • An Unofficial Cardboard Sign: “Father forgive them.”
    • An Unofficial Cardboard Sign: “Blessed are you whom they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely.”
    Photo by David Pu

    In Chicago: Workers arrived under cover of darkness early Friday (July 24) to remove a Christopher Columbus statue from Grant Park where rioters clashed with city police as they attempted to tear down the statue.

    In Ventura: The City Council approved (July 15) in a unanimous 6-0 a motion to remove the Junipero Serra bronze statue from in front of the City Hall and the wooden statue from the City Hall atrium. Councilmember Erik Nazarenko (District 4) made the motion seconded by Councilmember Jim Friedman (District 5). Mayor Matt LaVere was recused (absent) from the special City Council meeting on the statue because of his involvement in attempting to broker an agreement to remove the statue prior to City Council action.

    In Chicago: Mayor Lori Lightfoot made the decision to remove the Columbus statue—as well as another Columbus statue in Little Italy earlier Thursday after hundreds of protesters calling themselves “Good Kids: Mad City” surrounded her home shouting “Black Lives Matter” and “defund the police.”  The Mayor claims she has been in touch with Italian Americans in the city. “The Italian American community feels betrayed,” said Pasquale Gianni of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. “The Mayor’s Office is giving into a vocal and destructive minority. This is not how the Democratic process is supposed to work.”

    Screenshot, Fox News Chicago

    Last Friday, multiple police officers in Chicago were injured and several arrests made during a tense protest in which demonstrators tried to pull down the statue. Meanwhile, protesters filed at least 20 complaints of police brutality.

    In Ventura: The Junipero Serra statue story generated national media when LifeSiteNews (a nationwide Catholic platform) reported on how 20 heroic Catholic youths kept the statue from being torn down on June 20 by 200 Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists. A larger group of 75 pro-Serra supporters defended the statue from a BLM rally on the Fourth of July.

    (Editor’s Note: To see the LifeSiteNews  story of the June 20 attempt to remove the statue go to: To see the Citizens Journal story on the July 4 Black Lives Matter protest go to:

    Councilmember Friedman claimed that city council members had received over 2,500 emails, 2,000 pages of written comments and seen 3,000 comments on Next Door and Facebook that were split 50:50 on the issue. Four petitions on also generated almost an additional 17,000 signatures. The City Council also heard 96 public comments during the July 15 meeting.

    The motion considered by the Ventura City Council stated that both statues would be permanently relocated to a place that city staff deemed feasible and appropriate with the intent that the bronze statue be given to the Mission San Buenaventura.

    The original Junipero Serra concrete statues was installed in 1936 as a product of the Works Progress Administration (New Deal). A City Council Resolution made it Landmark #3 in 1974. This concrete statue was replaced and moved to an off-site storage in 1989 and replaced by a wood Junipero Serra statue which was placed in the Atrium of City Hall after being used as a mold for the bronze statue installed in 1989.

    The Historical Preservation Committee ruled that both replacement statues did not qualify for historic status which was only given to the concrete Junipero Serra statue which meant that an environmental report was not needed to remove the statue.  The City expects litigation on the removal of the statue with five possible bias allegations involving city council members. The City Council seats of Cheryl Heitmann, Matt LaVere, and Christy Weir are up for re-election this November.

    (Editor’s Note: To see the original Citizens Journal story on the City Council vote to remove the Junipero Serra statue go to this link:


    Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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