Black, Latino residents burned out of Palm Springs seek reparations

Pearl Devers was too young to understand why her mother brought her and her brothers together and fled their family home on tribal land in Palm Springs.

Devers’ father, who had built the house with his own hands, stayed behind to oppose the brutal 1950s urban renewal project that gripped them prime downtown lot for nothingno legal recourse, no compensation, no relocation assistance.

In the years after city employees and firefighters razed and burned homes in the area known as Section 14, Devers said her father, a community leader and devoted family man, lapsed into alcoholism and never recovered.

“It tore my family apart,” Devers said before a news conference in Los Angeles about an amended reparations claim filed against the city on Tuesday over a state official who called it a “city-caused holocaust.”

Speakers at the Leimert Park conference mapped out the Section 14 burnout with other historical racial atrocities, including the 1921 The Tulsa race massacre in Oklahoma, which destroyed a neighborhood called “Black Wall Street,” and the Rosewood massacre, which wiped out a black Florida town in 1923. And they saw their demand as part of the broader reparations movement for black Americans, which recently included compensation for the descendants of Bruce’s Beach owners. who were evicted from the City of Manhattan Beach in 1924.

The City of Palm Springs issued a 2021 apology for the Section 14 destruction and fires that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. But supporters say there has been no action for 14 months.

In the amended lawsuit, filed with the city clerk, former residents and their descendants say the city owes them up to $2 billion in damages for the evictions, which took place with little or no notice sometimes destroyed houses with personal belongings inside.

The claim names 250 survivors and 100 descendants, but proponents expect the final list of claimants to grow. Spokesmen on Tuesday described the $400 million to $2 billion damage estimate developed by their economic adviser as an opening move in what are expected to be complex negotiations with the city.

“Don’t tell me Palm Springs can’t afford it,” said economist Julianne Malveaux, dean of Cal State Los Angeles’ College of Ethnic Studies, who developed the $2 billion estimate. “This could happen over a period of five, 10, 20 years. But there has to be a way to reverse that damage.”

Section 14, 646 acres of land downtown, was owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and now houses a casino, convention center and hotels, although some lots remain undeveloped. The land, known to residents as a reservation, was restricted to short-term leases by the federal government until the 1950s.

The strain leased lots to Black and Latino Workers excluded from much of the rest of the city by racist real estate contracts and lending practices. Activists said at its peak, at least 1,000 domestic workers, chauffeurs, construction workers and others lived in Section 14 and worked to turn the desert city into a playground for the wealthy and Hollywood stars like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra.

“They have turned this one square mile into a thriving community,” attorney Areva Martin, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of six black and Hispanic people Applicant said Tuesday. “A community with churches and shops… where blacks and browns lived next door to each other.”

When federal lawmakers relaxed restrictions on tribal lands and allowed 99-year leases in the mid-to-late 1950s, the city saw a “great financial opportunity” to develop not only luxury real estate, but also to take working-class housing out of the sight of tourists and white homeowners said the claim.

Then-Mayor Frank Bogert, one of the main players in the parades, told the Los Angeles Times in 2001: “I was terrified that someone from Life magazine would come out and see the poverty and the cardboard houses and write a story about the poor people and the terrible conditions in Palm Springs,” the claim said.

The burning and burning of the city not only took the homes of blacks and Latinos without a trial, but also deprived them of a chance to build wealth and destabilized their families for generations, spokesmen said Tuesday.

Devers said her family, unable to borrow money or move to many parts of town, had to hop from place to place, staying with friends at times. Delia Ruiz Taylor, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, said her family moved to a racist neighborhood where children shouted racial slurs and shot her with a BB gun.

“We have been disturbed and uprooted from our homes; Happiness turned to bitterness,” said Ruiz Taylor, who cried as she recounted how her cousin saw her house burn down.

The City of Palm Springs removed a Bogert statue in front of City Hall and is seeking a consultant to help officials determine equitable compensation for Section 14 claimants. However, Mayor Lisa Middleton said in a brief phone interview on Tuesday the city does not necessarily agree that it is liable for all the damage residents have suffered.

“The Palm Springs City Council is committed to repairing the damage we have caused. This is a very complex situation involving many actors,” she said. “What we do know from history is that the City of Palm Springs employees were involved in the bulldozing and home burning.”

The former leader of the Agua Caliente Band has made it clear that the tribe “did not believe that this was a matter affecting the tribal council,” Middleton said, adding that the city has not attempted and will not attempt to involve others in the to negotiate reparations.

Kate Anderson, director of public relations for the Agua Caliente Band, did not immediately respond to a call for comment. Black, Latino residents burned out of Palm Springs seek reparations

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