Lonnie McWilliams Sr. grew up in section 14 near downtown Palm Springs.
He says he still remembers the day his family was forced out their home and into Desert Highland Gateway Estates.
“They didn’t want us downtown, so they made that and got us all out here,” said Lonnie McWilliams Sr, “They tricked us, hurt us or whatever, and it was different up here. It turned out to be a violent neighborhood. Even the police wouldn’t come up here.”
Section 14 is controlled by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, but in the the 40s through the 60s, the city of Palm Springs evicted residents living on the property, destroying what was left behind.
“They wanted to erase every essence of us in Palm Springs and that hurt me to my heart because this is my town, I was born here,” said McWilliams.
Recently, a Palm Springs resident created a petition to remove the statue of former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert from in front of city hall.
The creator of the petition says that the image of Bogert represents the controversy of section 14, as Bogert was mayor during that time, and shouldn’t be memorialized.
Lonnie says he agrees and will sign the petition.
“I think it should be taken down and stored somewhere, that’s the history of Palm Springs and it should be preserved somewhere, just not out in public view,” said McWilliams.
The Palm Springs City Council acknowledged they’ve never issued a formal apology to the residents of the area, however the topic as been discussed at meetings this month.
“What happened in section 14 with families being pushed out, those families still live in certain neighborhoods, like council member Garner said, to this day. So that still exists today and we have to talk about it because we have to move forward as a community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Christy Holstege.
But Lonnie says, at this point, an apology is too late.
“I just want the people of Palm Springs to know how bad you hurt people when you do that. I’m still hurt from it,” said McWilliams.
Mayor Pro Tem Christy Holstege says the council has not recently discussed the statue. The petition to remove it has received over 1,500 signatures.