Following an emotional court battle, the city removed the statue of former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert from in front of City Hall Wednesday.
The removal was carried out by the Palm Desert-based Art Collective Fine Art Services shortly after 7 a.m., and followed a back-and-forth court battle between the city and the Friends of Frank Bogert group, which wanted the statue to remain in place.
The Friends group filed court papers in hopes of blocking the removal. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Carol Greene initially granted the group’s request for a temporary restraining order, blocking the planned May 17 removal of the statue. The judge’s decision coincided with a protest by local veteran Amado Salinas, who sat on the base of the statue for most of the day in his uniform.
But Greene subsequently declined to extend the restraining order, rejecting a bid from the Friends group for a preliminary injunction. That decision cleared the way for Wednesday’s removal.
The city plans to store the statue at a maintenance facility, but will work with the Friends group to find a new location for it.
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 determined 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.
After the removal was approved, the Friends group lobbied the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board to stop the move. The HSPB approved a certificate of appropriateness on Feb. 1 in favor of the removal from City Hall, recommending that the city relocate it to a suitable and publicly accessible site in perpetuity.
Attorney Rod Pacheco — who represents the Friends of Frank 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.
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.