The Friends of Frank Bogert group was granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday to prevent the removal of a controversial statue of the former mayor located in front of Palm Springs City Hall.
Judge Carol A. Greene’s decision follows a protest on Tuesday by a local veteran, who sat on the base of the statue and prevented its planned removal.
The city had planned to move the statue and have it stored until officials could find an appropriate alternate location. Meanwhile, the Friends of Frank Bogert group pursued the matter in court, leading to Wednesday’s temporary restraining order.
“The court cited concerns that, during removal, the statue might be dropped and suffer irreparable injury,” city spokeswoman Denise Goolsby said.
The judge also said the city did not show it would be harmed by any further delay in removing the artwork.
The Friends group is now pursuing a preliminary injunction it hopes will keep the statue in place long term. A hearing on that was scheduled for June 3 at the Riverside Historic Courthouse.
“We respect the decision of the judge,” Mayor Lisa Middleton said in a statement.
“We remain committed to finding a location for the statue that is not on the front lawn of City Hall, but that can be supported by a broad majority of the people of the city of Palm Springs.”
Greene also granted a request — filed by the City Attorney’s office — for the Friends group to post a $10,000 bond to cover costs of the planned Tuesday removal that did not come off.
The Palm Springs City Council unanimously voted to begin the process of removal on Sept. 29, 2021, following a resolution issued by the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission recommending that the statue be removed.
The commission said the statue was perceived as an “offensive and painful public reminder” of what it called systemic racism during Bogert’s mayoral leadership from 1958-66.
On Tuesday, local veteran Amado Salinas sat on the base of the statue — in his uniform — for most of the day to prevent it from being removed.
While acknowledging that some injustices were committed in the past, Salinas told the Desert Sun that Bogert once stopped to help his family when they had a flat tire in the desert.
“They are pitching old things to (divide) us,” Salinas said. “We need to unite as a city.”
Since the removal was approved, the Friends group has lobbied the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board to stop the removal.
The HSPB approved a certificate of appropriateness on Feb. 1 for the removal, recommending that the city relocate it to a suitable and publicly accessible site in perpetuity.
Attorney Rod Pacheco — who represents the Friends of Mayor Bogert group — appealed the action on Feb. 10. The City Council unanimously voted to deny the appeal on Feb. 24, and directed staff to find an appropriate location or place the statue in storage within 60 days.
City staff made arrangements for the removal and signed a contract with The Art Collective — a Palm Desert-based fine art services company — on May 3.
Last September’s resolution by the Human Rights Commission stated that “Mayor Bogert and Palm Springs civic leaders persecuted their lower-income constituents who resided on the land owned by local Tribal Members. Attempting to dispossess the Indians of their tribal lands, and erase any blighted neighborhoods that might degrade the city’s resort image, Palm Springs officials developed and implemented a plan that included having non-Indian conservators appointed by a local judge to manage the Indians land claiming they were unable to manage it for themselves.
“The successful implementation of this plan resulted in the removal of the city’s people of color and restructured the race and class configuration of the city.”
The commission specifically referred to the city-backed destruction of about 200 dwellings in Section 14 from 1965-66, which the commission said “displaced many working-class, Black, Indigenous, and people of color families.”
Negie Bogert, Bogert’s widow and member of “Friends of Frank Bogert,” explained why she is against the resolution.
“I don’t think that he was perfect but he was not by any means what they portray him as being,” Bogert told KESQ. “For them to say my husband is racist, it could not be any further from the truth.”
Bogert died in 2009.