LOS ANGELES — The delicate, gold-specked mosaic that hangs above the entrance to St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church on the edge of Chinatown was marred with bright red paint Monday morning in an apparent act of vandalism, officials said.
A crowd had gathered at the building by noon, where detectives investigating the scene said it appeared to be linked to the day’s holidays, which include Indigenous Peoples Day and the former Columbus Day.
A fallen banner on the church’s front steps read, “STOP COLONIZING OUR LAND,” while graffiti on the sidewalk spelled out phrases including “Land Back,” “USA” and “Stolen Land.”
Explosions of red paint dotted the steps, doors and walls of the church on North Broadway, which was established in 1904 and holds Masses in English, Spanish and Italian.
Arturo Martinez said he first spotted the red paint around 8:15 a.m. on his way in to his daughter’s nearby clothing shop. He believed it happened sometime after 6 a.m. because a neighbor did not see signs of vandalism earlier.
“I think it’s all related to Columbus Day,” Martinez said, noting that St. Peter’s is an Italian church. “We know the history of Columbus, so they have taken a direct hit to Italy and what Columbus represents.”
Columbus was Italian, but his famous voyages were sponsored by Spain.
The Los Angeles City Council and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in 2017 voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in recognition of the harms and injustices suffered by America’s native people at the hands of Christopher Columbus and other colonial settlers.
“This gesture of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is a very small step in apologizing and in making amends,” councilman Mike Bonin said at the time.
On Monday, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced plans to rename Father Serra Park in downtown Los Angeles.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been working closely with several of L.A.’s Indigenous communities to acknowledge the church’s role in the colonization of California and to “heal the wounds of the past through dialogue and understanding,” spokeswoman Carolina Guevara said.
“As a community of faith, we offer our prayers for those who felt compelled to express their concerns in this way,” Guevara said.
Church officials noted that it was too soon to link the vandalism to any group or person. Officer Jeff Lee of the Los Angeles Police Department said no suspects had yet been identified.