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Statue standoff: Judge rules Bogert statue can stay in front of Palm Springs City Hall, for now

A Riverside County judge ruled Wednesday morning that the statue of former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert should remain unmoved from its location in front of City Hall until the case can be heard further.

This is a victory for those protesting its removal. A group of people involved with Friends of Frank Bogert guarded the statue for more than a day, making a physical barrier against the city's plans of putting the statue into storage.

Amado Salinas started the protest early Tuesday morning sitting in front of the statue demanding the city not move it until the court hearing.

"It's been wonderful to see the response of the residents… Just the fact that the residents have been able to speak up to support the family," said Salinas. "We no longer trust our city council. We no longer trust their word and that's huge. And the residents of the city they're supposed to represent no longer trust them."

Much of the discussion in the courtroom Wednesday morning centered on the possibility that the process of moving the statue could expose it to damage. An attorney arguing for the movement of the statue asked the judge to deny the requested delay, saying art is moved safely "all the time" and the "city has hired an expert who knows what they're doing, who knows how to do this safely and will do so safely."

The court decided to grant the temporary restraining order request stating that this would give the court more time to fully review the issues including the move of the statue.

Attorney Rod Pacheco said the statue must be protected due to its historical significance.

"This is not a small thing and not an easy thing. And if it's dropped, you can't repair that," said Pacheco. "If it's a historic resource, it has to be treated a certain way. And the city didn't treat it that way. The city has just tried to say it's not a historic resource so they can do whatever they want with it."

The judge ruled that the group "Friends of Mayor Frank Bogert must post a $10,000 bond to match the amount of the contract with the company, Art Collective, that was set to remove the statue Tuesday morning. Palm Springs city council decided months ago to remove the statue, which has been controversial because of the history of Bogert in the city.

Pacheco is open to finding a new location that the group and the city agree on. 

"[The city] suggested various locations that are, you know, in the middle of nowhere, and nobody would see the statue," said Pacheco.

Mayor Lisa Middleton said the city has not broken any laws in the process of removing the statue.

"Finding a location that will be one that is supported by both those who loved him and those who have survived Section 14 is a very difficult undertaking, but we are committed to doing everything that we can to find that location," said Middleton. "The questions before the court are whether or not we followed proper procedures in coming to a public policy decision, that it was not the appropriate location for the statue."

The next court date will be June 3 in Riverside for a preliminary injunction.

Tuesday's protest

Local veteran Amado Salinas single-handedly stopped the initial removal process Tuesday morning not allowing city workers to continue by sitting on the statue in uniform. He said he knew Bogert.

"He's an honest man, no bias bone on his body. And he's been a true gentleman," said Salinas.

The statue was set to be removed at 8:00 a.m Tuesday. But the veteran remained, not convinced by any efforts to ask him to move.

City attorney Jeff Ballinger said they have no intention of physically removing protesters who have been taking turns watching the statue.

"This is normally a pretty routine thing and I think the city is trying to minimize the amount of publicity," said Ballinger. "The city doesn't think it needs to be publicized or politicized at this point."

The city council approved the removal in September 2021 but announced late Monday that the move would happen a day ahead of a court hearing to keep the art in place.

"Seems that the city is taking a tactic to go ahead and remove this statute before we have our day in court," said Salinas.

Attorney Rod Pacheco filed a temporary restraining order to keep the statue from being removed. He works for the group "The friends of Mayor Frank Bogert." 

"We told them that they did not, could not lawfully remove the statue based on the municipal law of Palm Springs," said Pacheco. "Somebody needs to be removed, but it's not the statute."

Pacheco said the elected officials are not following the law.

Bogert's widow, Negie Bogert, said she wants the statue to stay.

"I never thought that we will have to defend frank against the city that he worked so hard for," said Negie. "We just want to have a due process of what is supposed to happen."

Section 14 survivor Alvin Taylor came to see the statue go away. He was one of the hundreds of people forced out of Section 14 in Palm Springs while Bogert was still mayor. Making way for more tourism expansion. 

"I'm here today to be able to see what goes around comes around, we were kicked off of our property, I'm here to see him get kicked off of his property," said Taylor. "I'm excited to see the process of removing statues, anything to do with bigotry, anything to do with hatred that have been displayed here in the city of Palm Springs."

Despite plans to remove the statue on Tuesday, a hearing on the temporary restraining order to prevent the removal of the statue is scheduled for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m at Riverside County Superior Court.

The motion was filed by attorney Pacheco on behalf of his client, the group "The Friends of Mayor Frank Bogert."

Statement from Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton:

“After a very long and public process, the Palm Springs City Council voted unanimously to remove the Frank Bogert statue from the front of City Hall – to do so respectfully and to work with the community to identify a location for the statue within the City of Palm Springs that would be supported by a broad population of our City.

The City of Palm Springs has now begun the process to remove the statue and safely place it in storage until a location can be identified and agreed to for the statue. A group of residents who did not agree with the City’s decision to remove the statue are exercising, peacefully, their First Amendment right to address City Council. We encourage everyone to remain peaceful in this process and to work collaboratively.

We look forward to the judge making a decision in this case and as always, we hope both parties respect the judicial process and the decision made by the judge.”

Bogert was one of Palm Springs' most famous cowboys and a major figure in the city's history. He served as the city's mayor from 1958 to 1966. He returned for a second term as the city's first-ever direct mayor from 1982 to 1988.

Bogert died in 2009 at the age of 99.

For nearly two years, Bogert has been the subject of controversy with public outcry for his statue to be removed following accusations that he was part of the removal of hundreds of people from a one-square-mile block of property in downtown Palm Springs referred to as Section 14.

From 1954 to 1966 about 200 structures were demolished and burned. The actions displaced hundreds of low-income residents and people of color to make room for hotels and further tourism. The city did not have a plan to relocate the residents, forcing many of them to move to the north part of town and throughout the county.

Check Out: City of Palm Springs Citywide Historic Context Statement & Survey Findings

The demolition of Section 14 was described in a later California Department of Justice report as "a city engineered holocaust."

In April 2021, the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission voted to recommend the city council remove the statue from city hall. In Sept., the City Council voted to begin the process to remove the statue and issue an apology for the city government's role in the destruction of Section 14.

The process to remove the statue was a lengthy process, as the city hall is a Class 1 (Landmark) historic resource.

On February 1, 2022, the City’s Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) voted 4-2 (with 1 abstention) to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the removal of the statue. The board added a strong recommendation that the City Council ensure relocation of the statue to a suitable, publicly accessible site in perpetuity.

Days after the board's decision, attorney Rod Pacheco filed an appeal of the decision on behalf of his client, the group "The Friend of Mayor Frank Bogert." The group advocated for keeping the statue where it is. Frank Bogert's widow, Negie Bogert, said the campaign to move a statue of her husband is full of slander and lies.

"I don't think that he was perfect but he was not by any means what they portray him as being," Negie told News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia in Sept. 2021.

The appeal was broken down into three categories:

  • The City did not follow the municipal code in approving the Certificate of Appropriateness;
  • Appellant’s assertion that the issuance of the Certificate of Appropriateness
    violates the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”); and
  • Appellant’s assertion that federal and state laws regarding visual art on public
    display bars the proposed City action.

Check out the full appeal here

On Feb. 24, the city council unanimously voted to deny the appeal and upheld the HSPB's decision.

Councilmembers directed staff to work stakeholders to identify an appropriate location, not on City property, for the Bogert statue within 60 days. If no alternative location was found, the Bogert statue would be removed to secure storage until a new home is found.

City officials said the council authorized City Attorney Jeff Ballinger to enter into an agreement to extend the statute of limitations by 30 days, but the Friends of Mayor Frank Bogert group did not request any such extension. As a result, during that time, City staff made arrangements for the removal of the statue, in accordance with the City Council’s February 24 decision.

On Friday, Pacheco filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent the removal of the statue, city officials said.

Despite plans to remove the statue on Tuesday, a hearing on that motion was scheduled for Wednesday.

"The City has been, and remains, willing to work with the group to find an appropriate location to place the statue. It will be safely stored until a new location has been determined," reads a notice by Palm Springs city officials.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

KESQ News Team

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Marian Bouchot

Marian Bouchot is the weekend morning anchor and a reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. Learn more about Marian here.

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