BALDWIN PARK, Calif. – The monument has been standing beside the railroad tracks for years, but now the inscriptions on the structure in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles, have angered some Californians who call it a racist disgrace.
Commissioned by the city in 1993, the arch — called "Danzas Indigenas" or "Indigenous Dances" in English — features inscriptions protesters call anti-American, including one that says "it was better before they came." Artist Judy Baca (search) said the original statement did not refer to Anglos, but Mexican immigrants, and it is meant to be ambiguous. Her work, she insisted, simply reflects local heritage.
"It will not be destroyed. I will not remove any language because by doing so I would destroy the voices of the people of Baldwin Park," Baca said.
Another inscription — "this land was Mexican once, Indian always and is and will be again" — makes clear the issue is about more than words, said Joe Turner, founder of "Save Our State."
"I don't believe the First Amendment (search) protects this type of speech. It's not freedom of expression, it's government-sanctioned sedition. It's paid for by tax dollars and unacceptable," Turner said.
Demonstrators with Save Our State (search), which is lobbying to have the arch removed or changed, recently staged a protest at the site.
"To me, that is an extremely racist statement, if you don't like what America stands for, then you shouldn't be here," said protester Erika Selenak.
But after a radio station riled up the crowds, a confrontation between protesters and counter-demonstrators got heated. Racial slurs like "Go home, whitey, go back to England" and other insults that can't be reported were exchanged. Police officers suited up in riot gear but no arrests were made.
Baldwin Park City Councilman David Olivas defended the arch and said he is angry that outsiders are trying to drag his community into a divisive debate.
"They don't care about art in Baldwin Park. They care about their political agenda. They are attempting to bring their anti-immigrant politics and bootstrap it to a First Amendment issue. And we will not let them," Olivas said.
Protesters say they want the arch to be taken down or the offending quotes removed by July 4. But as of now, park officials say the arch stays as is.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Adam Housley.