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Vandals Spray ‘Mexico’ on Marshalltown Sign

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MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa –People driving into Marshalltown Wednesday may not have felt so welcome because of what vandals spray painted on a city welcome sign.

It reads, "Marshalltown welcomes you", but someone spray painted the word "Mexico" over "Marshalltown."

The vandalism was only briefly on display as city officials removed the sign Wednesday morning, cleaned off the red spray paint, and put it back where it belongs.

Those active in the Latino community say the message was loud and hurtful whether it was a tasteless joke or act of racism.

"If it's a Mexican and they were trying to be funny, it was really rude and it makes us look bad,” said Anna Hernandez, a Marshalltown resident.

"It just shows that we're not one. We're not accepting of each other at this point,” said Sister Christine Feagan of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

While police work to figure out who is responsible, one thing is for sure. Over the past two decades, Marshalltown's population has become far more diverse with the Latino population climbing to over 25%.

It's noticeable along the city's main street where a Mexican market has become a hot spot and according to Sister Feagen, you can also see the increased diversity in the church.

"We now have three weekend masses in Spanish and two in English. Things have flipped,” said Feagan.

Captain Michael Hanken of the Marshalltown Police Department says the community is doing its best to help acclimate immigrants to life in Marshalltown.

"We hold community meetings for immigrant groups that want to get together,” said Hanken.

He says the sign incident is not the first racially motivated graffiti seen in Marshalltown, but he'd prefer not to see any more.

"We hope people will take it for what it is. It was an act from one person or so that was wrong,” Hanken told Channel 13 News.

Initially, city officials feared the sign would have to be replaced or refurbished which could have cost as much as $5,000 dollars. They were able to take it to a local sign shop where the graffiti was able to be removed and the sign was back in place within 24 hours.


  • William Denison

    The city of Marshalltown has more than just 25 percent Hispanic population. That city gets tagged every day every by the Hispanic gangs living there and the only story I’ve ever seen is that the other folks still living there have to pay to have the tags removed from their property or face a fine from that city. This is a result of Terry Branstad breaking the union at the packing house there in the 80’s driving down wages paving the way for the Hispanic workers to come in and work there for less money and benefits. I was living in Monterey CA at the time and remember seeing TV ads in Spanish asking for workers there to relocate to Marshalltown. That was 1988.

    • Thetruth

      Obviously you don’t know what your talking about. I’ve lived here from kindergarten thru high school and I’m 27 now we DON’T have GANGS in Marshalltown Iowa. I’m sure in California you do but just because you seen some TV ads back in the day doesn’t mean your up to date on what goes on here.

      • William Denison

        Pssssst hey,Thetruth pssst don’t tell know one but I’m 50 years old and live in Marshalltown. I just posted so folks would think I don’t live here. Sorry for the misleading you. I do know what goes on here. I’m just stating the facts as I’ve lived and seen them. Have you ever been on the bike trail in town? Full of gang tagging….just sayin

      • Bob Rooney (@BobRooneyAL)

        Are you tired of paying for illegals, education, healtcare, Food stamps, crime investigation.. etc ? Go to this website and register. Google this: NUMBERSUSA .
        Once you are registered (join us), go to the “action board” to send free faxes to your state
        They are all typed up and ready to go, you just need to click your mouse to send.

  • Matt Smith

    I also lived in Southern Cali in the late 80’s, just as William Dennison said above and saw signs and ads in spanish asking workers to relocate to Marshalltown. Marshalltown is more than 25 percent hispanic and a lot are undocumented gang memebers. It has become a horrible place to live and I would never send a child through the high school there now. Authorities turn a blind eye to the obvious gang activity, afraid of being labeled racist. There are gang initiations, fights, colors being worn etc and it has been going on for years.

    • Thetruth

      Back up your comments with facts. Go thru Marshalltown newspaper I’m sure you’ll have a hard time finding a gang story or even a raid on a known gang since you are so sure of it what are these nitrous Gans names since your saying they been around since forever??? Don’t you think Marshalltown would have a gang unit if we had such a problem with it don’t you think Marshalltown would have loved to add that to their budget a gang unit??? Oh maybe they don’t need 1 cuz we don’t have a gang problem hmmmmmm kinda makes sense huh???????

      • Marshalltown resident

        Ummm look around there are gangs in Marshalltown. ….must be nice living in Mr Rogers land of make beleave. We have the Mexican maffia in town. We are a huge part of the route to transport drugs. Ask kids that go to school ask around and open your eyes.

    • Mayor

      You are right! just read the Marshalltown daily Records in the T.R.News, This city prints it all,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • William Denison

    I was born and raised in Marshalltown and have worked at that packing house in the 80’s before the influx of the Spanish speaking workers and worked there in the early 90’s after our leadership both state and local looked the other way when they were flooding in. It was a gold rush for the slum lords in town and helped fuel the meth epidemic by cheap crank being brought into Marshalltown by gangs from out of state. With that said some of the nicest, hardest working and family oriented people I’ve ever seen are those from south of the border. Some would even still give you the shirt off their backs even after you turn your back on them. I say live and let live.

    • noraeng

      @William I know what you’re saying. The same thing happened in Ottumwa. The meat packing plant there and slum lords down there made a killing of bringing in cheap south of the border labor as well . Ottumwa was once a fairly nice little town. Now it is nothing but gangs, drugs, graffiti and filth.

      • professoriowa

        I live in Ottumwa… have for 20 years… Ottumwa is NOT just gangs and filth stupid statement… there are a lot of us who live here of all races creeds and colors… we have approximately 1500 hispanic immigrants out of a population of about 25000 people. Yes gangs have come to Iowa they existed before… the difference is the new gangs look different act different and speak differently than the old gangs… you talk about drugs… the first time I was offered drugs was NOT by a hispanic a black a serbian or an asian person… I am very anti drug use and anyone who knows me here knows that. Drugs are an Iowa problem… every small town in Iowa has some type of underworld that is laced with criminal activity… to think its “mexicans” who brought the meth… bullcrap… people have choices they can choos3 to use drugs or not… first time it was offered to me 22 plus years ago I said no told the guy if he didnt get out of my personal space we would have problems… I did it very publically and have never had a problem since.

        To think we dont have gangs is Naive to think they are all your community is about is just voluntary blindness… to think that is all someone elses community is about is just voluntary lack of knowledge.

  • Lisa Coppock

    So the way I’m reading this report once again the Hispanics are blaming others in the town for being racist, I’m sure it couldn’t have been one of the many gangs in the town tagging this sign could it? Let’s get over the poor me they are being racist. I’ve lived in this town all my life and I have all races in my family and let me tell you there are just as many whispers and hatred looks coming from the Hispanics and others in this town, I fear walking on the streets here and I fear for children in any of the schools in this town that’s went down hill.

    • Thetruth

      Lol we have some of the lowest crime rate in the country what are you taking about????? And who cares who wrote the sign instead of focusing on how to improve your community all you do is try and point fingers I feel so sorry for you.

  • Brandi Nemer Mastain

    . “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

    My grandpa came through Station Island in 1888. What makes folks so righteous because they were lucky to be born in the USA? Not all Mexican’s are gang members. They are some of the nicest folks I have ever met. Not once in Iowa City Iowa have I been disrespected as a customer, not once. I just moved to California, and let me tell you. Many do all the very hard jobs, working their buns off. Just for minimum wage.
    I have a very very close friend, and the conditions in Mexico….terrible.
    Its sad this is happening, but what are you doing to reach out and help resolve the problem? Trust me communication goes a long way. If someone tells you nothing can be done, they are wrong. I proved that.

    • Diana

      Thank you Brandy Nemer Mastain for yr comment and so glad there are some intelligent peopme left when it comes to this issue

    • noraeng

      @Brandi…… So your grandpa came over here legally through the proper channels and went through the medical checks and everything? Good for him!

    • Right Wing Patriot

      And a TWO Billion dollar budget deficit……much of it in welfare programs (California). Your forgetting an important point. The folks who came through Staton Island came here LEGALLY. Good grief, get it together Brandi.

      • noraeng

        @XJM716….Myself and others were responding to a woman by the name of Brandi who has since deleted her post. In her post she stated that her grandpa had came here in the late 1800’s through “Staten” island. I can only assume that she meant Ellis Island. We were pointing out to her that those that migrated here through “Ellis” Island did so LEGALLY with proper documentation and with medical checks and they were usually quarenteened,(Sp?), sometimes for months. They also had to have family, a sponsor, housing and a job waiting for them before they came.

  • jaime y

    I hope that the city of Marshalltown takes the highground and makes a statement to their community. New sign: Marshalltown, “Welcome to all”

  • Paul

    Who’s to say it wasn’t Mexicans, proud of the fact that they’ve taken over our country that spray painted it?

    • Thetruth

      It doesn’t matter who did it. What’s more important is how’s stupid your thought process is. Did you know Hispanics don’t care who did it? Their coming together er to repair without waiting for the city too. Inform your biggotry before you speak.

  • William Denison

    FYI In Dec 2007 – NBC News long-time and semi-retired anchorman Tom Brokaw interviewed Marshalltown (republican) Mayor Gene Beach. Beach spent much of that interview stating the wonderful benefits of having the Hispanic people move to town. Now seven years later republicans are crying foul. This simply shows how republican politicians are just catering to the fear mongers in their party for their simple minded vote during a mid term election year.

  • Listen up

    I love comments from people who’s ancestors came in from places like Ireland, England, Germany, etc…. but then again, you’re “white” so I guess you all deserve to be in America more so than people who aren’t

    • Right Wing Patriot

      ”Listen Up’ to Listen Up – The immigrants from Europe came here LEGALLY. Wise up. All that is being asked is to go through the proper legal channels to become a US citizen. If you can’t, then you get deported.

    • William Denison

      Translated with Bing “It is the land of the Indians and they do not say anything”. Good point .

    • Jess

      I am so tired of the argument being thrown out that no one except Native Americans has the right to call anyone else an ‘illegal alien’ ‘illegal immigrant’ etc, no one by Native Americans has the right to say that someone should have to leave because they didn’t come here the right way.

      I did not have anything to do with taking the US from the Native Americans. That all happened way before my time. None of that can be undone. I am not responsible for the things that happened that long ago.

  • noraeng

    TPI and Trinity in Newton have been hiring a lot of Asians and Africans (Sudanese) lately. The Mexicans that (did) work at those places are infuriated. I think it’s kind of funny.

  • Ali

    They already made the new sign at the sign shop on Lynn st yesterday. I have a picture of it, they just haven’t put it up yet.

    I don’t find this sign offensive as it could have been a Mexican themselves showing pride though I am offended at the thought of it being a person being racist. But I do not know who it was or their reason behind it.

    Vandalism is never something to be proud of. And I am upset that someone would do that especially with all the things going on in Marshalltown currently. Not to mention being a different race in the town is very difficult, there’s a lot of hostility, especially towards Mexicans and that upsets me very much. Every place I’ve worked, I’ve work with amazing hard working Mexican men and women and I have several very close Mexican friends that have always been welcoming and I feel so much more cultured by everything they have taught me. I hope someday they can feel just as welcomed.

  • Jeff

    I live in Ottumwa and heard for the past 5 years saying that no Hispanic gangs are here until the police responded to a disturbance and found piles of drugs and 20 illegal fully automatic weapons. So tell me again there are no gang ties here so I can say pull your heads out of the sand and wake up.The flip side is that we also have many fine Hispanic folks and they are great to have around.

  • rosita

    Someone wanted to get attention. . Now ppl have nothing but evil things to say .. cuz some idiot had nothing other to do but deface property. .

  • Rob

    For those that love to put the “Give me your masses” line from the statue of liberty as evidence we used to welcome immigrants to the USA, you better check your history. First of all that was legal immigration, not illegal. Those people did not come here illegally only to get some amnesty later. They got in line and went through the proper and legal channels. Also when that phrase was slapped on the statue, we already had passed laws BARRING immigration of certain “undesirable” people in 1875 with the Page Act and later in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act. I have had to get a family member into the USA via legal immigration. No it is not easy, but it is not impossible.

  • Ivana

    If the sign’s correct, you cannot object. Johnny Cochran didn’t say it, but he would’ve if he was still alive. Really, tasteless joke or racism, the truth hurts.

  • Joseph Barker

    Gangs in Marshalltown? Please. I live three blocks from Swifts and have many Hispanic neighbors. They have been nothing but polite and hospitable. They come here for a better life as I’m sure you would if you didn’t have the luxury of being born in America! I assure you Marshalltown is a safe and thriving community. This act of stupidity represents no race in my town. It represents ignorance!

  • Joseph Barker

    The Hispanic people need to just not go to work for one week, then we would see a little less of the ignorant comments!

  • Dan

    Ok now I think I got it. We live on Mr Rogers street, where only whites are racist. It’s a touchey feely kind of place that Obama would love to live here. But if your a Republican or Independent you have a rope ready to hang them? If you support legal immigration but don’t support illegal immigration, your a racist and don’t belong in this country.
    One thing is for sure, OTM’s are invited here, and you won’t convince a Democrat that it is not a good idea, until he see’s IED’s along his roadside.
    Ask the Indian’s what they would do to the Pilgrims, if they had to do it over again.

    • Jess

      I can’t speak for Marshalltown, but, I am from the Ottumwa area. The meat packing plant may have wanted all of the cheap, ‘undocumented’ workers there. The rest of the community was not asked. I have had family members who worked for the meat packing plant for years, then were driven out because it was cheaper to hire an illegal to work their job. I have had friends who have had 12 illegals living in an apartment they thought they rented to TWO Hispanics who were here with proper documentation. I have had a family member who was stalked by an illegal. The meat packing plants (where the both worked) responded by firing her when she complained. All of the information she had for him (name/address, etc) was false so when she reported the problem to the police, they couldn’t find him. They finally did find him after he sat parked outside her home and she called the police because she was afraid to leave. No, I am not saying all Mexicans are bad people, of course not. BUT, if you are willing to break a federal law by coming to this country and living here illegally, you have proven that you have no regard for our laws at all. I think that says a lot about your character.

  • noraeng

    As far as I’m concerned Marshalltown and Ottumwa have exactly what they deserve for letting the meatpacking plants do this to them! Ottumwa’s nickname is “Dumpwa” for a reason! Good going Marshalltown and Dumpwa! ENJOY!!!!

  • xjm716

    The ignorance shown here is sad. What’s more, many of you refuse to show a real name or way to own up to your statements.

    We are embarrassed for you.

Comments are closed.

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