Sign vandalized, message questioned as racist - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sign vandalized, message questioned as racist

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MARSHALLTOWN (KWWL) -

Wednesday morning, Marshalltown residents noticed a new addition to the welcome sign on the North side of town. Now, instead of reading 'Marshalltown Welcomes You,' it read, 'Mexico Welcomes You' in spray paint.

It's a troubling development for some in the large Hispanic community there. One woman, who moved there from Mexico, asked that her identity be protected. She said she's experienced racism first-hand.

"They look at me funny," she said. "They look at me like I'm in the wrong place. They look at you with hate, and it doesn't feel comfortable."

According to U.S. Census data, 24% of the population in Marshalltown is Hispanic, well above the Iowa average of 5%.

This Marshalltown woman says many in her community have horror stories of discrimination.

"In the Hispanic community, you do hear about those things," she said.

The sign was taken down within a few hours to be repaired. A city representative called it an unfortunate incident.

Still, with the graffiti gone, the message remains in the minds of some.

"We just want to feel welcome," the woman said.

She noted that the message was unclear -- is it a 'get out,' or a response to that sentiment, one of pride?

"It could be someone that's frustrated," she said. "But I'm not trying to justify them. It's just not right."

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