- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

BALDWIN PARK, Calif. (AP) — Members of a group that opposes illegal immigration protested a piece of public art with inscriptions they say are anti-American, sparking heated exchanges with residents of this heavily Hispanic city.

Police in riot helmets separated the 40 members of Save Our State and scores of residents during the rally Saturday, but no arrests or injuries were reported. The protesters were escorted away from the site.

The artwork, called “Danza Indigenas,” has a 20-foot-high arch with inscriptions that read, ?It was better before they came,” and “This land was Mexican once, was Indian always and is, and will be again.”

The Ventura-based Save Our State organization, formed seven months ago, said it wants the inscriptions removed before the Fourth of July.

“I find it incredibly offensive,” said Joseph Turner, the group’s executive director. He said the inscription “is seditious in nature. It essentially talks about returning this land to Mexico.”

The artwork was created 12 years ago by artist Judy Baca and commissioned by the city. Miss Baca said the structure is a “layered history piece” that honors American Indians, immigrants and other groups who have lived for centuries in the area.

Miss Baca said Save Our State’s complaint was misguided. She said the quote, “It was better before they came,” was originally uttered by a “white man from Arkansas,” who was complaining about the arrival of Mexican-Americans after World War II.

“When it went on the arch, its ambiguity became profound,” she said. “The ‘they’ could be any ‘they.’”

Baldwin Park, about 70 percent Hispanic, is 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

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