Gary Hereford washes graffiti off the side of St. André Bessette Church in Old Town. (Courtesy Monica Hofstetter/St. André Bessette Parish)
Gary Hereford washes graffiti off the side of St. André Bessette Church in Old Town. (Courtesy Monica Hofstetter/St. André Bessette Parish)
As fringe protesters in California continue to destroy statues of St. Junipero Serra, the Archdiocese of Portland as of July 8 has received no reports of serious attacks on church or school property in western Oregon.

But St. André Bessette Parish in Portland’s Old Town district was hit by graffiti during demonstrations in June. Staffers washed it off quickly and could not discern what it said. “That was a laugh in the midst of this,” said parish business manager Monica Hofstetter.

“We reached out to our downtown area parishes in Portland, Salem, Eugene and Medford to check in, and to advise continuing to keep a close watch of parish premises in light of the vandalism at churches we’ve all been hearing about nationwide,” said Delia Wilson,

director of property and risk management for the archdiocese.

Rumors had been spreading in social media about possible raids on church windows with depictions of Jesus looking northern European.

“Most stained glass windows have exterior protective coverings,” said Wilson. “The coverings are not intended to protect against extreme violence, although they do provide a layer of protection. We’re not advising boarding up windows at this point.”

Terri Wallo-Strauss, Portland Police spokeswoman, said the bureau knows of no threats targeting Catholic churches in city. “I would just continue to advise your normal facility protocols,” Wallo-Strauss said.

In Eugene, while protesters brought down statues at the University of Oregon, St. Mary Parish has been unscathed, reported a grateful Father Ron Nelsons. That despite outdoor statues and a nearby Knights of Columbus Hall. Depictions of Christopher Columbus are being destroyed nationwide because of the explorer’s treatment of native tribes.

In Springfield, the security expert at St. Alice Parish has not seen or heard about attacks, but is on alert.

“Every parish is different, so parishes should look at their individual situations,” said Mike Whitney. For example, St. Alice has no outdoor statues but does have security cameras and alarms.

“We have a large number of parishioners trained on how to handle emergency problems,” Whitney said. “Most importantly we are blessed in Springfield to have a fully funded police department that responds quickly when called.” Squad cars arrive in four minutes or under when called to the parish, he said.

Springfield police have letters on file that allow officers to detain trespassers when no parish staff are around. The church is always locked unless someone is inside.

If statues or windows are attacked, Whitney recommends that parish staff tell police it should be considered a hate crime.

Since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota May 25, most demonstrators across the planet have been peaceful. But some groups began destroying property, including at Catholic churches.

Church buildings in California, Minnesota, New York, Kentucky, Texas, and Colorado were attacked in the first weeks of unrest.

In Los Angeles, the Maronite cathedral for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon was vandalized with anti-police messages. Within a few days, parishioners were on the scene painting over the graffiti.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver sustained serious damage from repeated attacks. The exterior was spray painted with the slogans “God is dead” and “There is no God,” along with anti-police and anarchist symbols. Gates surrounding the 108-year-old cathedral were damaged as were the doors. Three bags of rocks were collected from the parking lot, but the cathedral’s most valuable windows were unharmed. Other windows on the cathedral’s campus were shattered.

The Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in Chicago also was damaged by rocks. The Blessed Sacrament was removed from the tabernacle in the bookstore’s chapel and the sisters sequestered themselves upstairs. None of the sisters were injured, and upon doing a review of inventory, found that nothing had been stolen.