La Crosse, WI (WXOW)- La Crosse Police are investigating an incident during the line-up at the Oktoberfest Mapleleaf parade.
The incident involves the current Riverfest Commodore and the Executive Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center also know as LGBT.
The heart of this disagreement involves a symbol which is a source of pride for both individuals.
According to the Executive Director of LGBT Rosanne St. Sauver her 14 year old daughter was approached in Saturday's Maple Leaf parade line up by Riverfest Commodore Mark Schneider.
St. Sauver says Schneider grabbed the flag pole from her daughter saying it was a disgrace to our country.
Schneider said, "It was presented that she was disgracing the flag and that we as a whole. It is very infuriating to me because that is not at all what we were doing. What the flag means to us is gay people are American citizens and have a right to their rights like any body else. We just simply love the people of the same gender that's it."
Schneider doesn't dispute he put his hand the flag pole. He says he and other past commodores became upset when they saw the gay pride flag using colored stripes instead of the red and white stripes.
Schneider said, "Before the parade started, some of the commodores where already on our float and they noticed that the gay, lesbian movement on their float that they had defaced the American flag. They had changed the colors on it and they were very upset about that because they thought it was a real insult to vets."
Schneider says he approached the female on roller blades and put his hand on the flag pole. He then told her he thought the LGBT flag dishonoring veterans and that it should be taken down.
Schneider says the incident had nothing to do with the LGBT group.
"I have nothing against the gay people, I have some close family members that are gay, I love them dearly and I would never say anything negative about the gay people."
Schneider admits he probably did not have the right to put his hand on the flag pole and tell the female to take it down. But he says he did it because he doesn't agree with the discoloring of the American flag.
The La Crosse Police Departments say the incident is under investigation.
Riverfest President Mike Schieber says he is looking into the matter to correct it.
He says he is working on setting up a meeting some time this week with the LGBT group.
Statement from LGBT Resource Center:
La Crosse, WI-The LGBT Resource Center for the Seven Rivers Region had a unit in the Maple Leaf parade this past Saturday, September 25, to promote the Center and its' many programs and groups. At the start of the parade where we were lined up on Rose Street, an altercation occurred between the reigning La Crosse Riverfest Commodore, Mark Schneider and Emily, a 14 year old ally and daughter of our executive director, Rosanne St. Sauver over an American Pride Flag. Emily was on roller blades and carrying a pole which had two flags attached to it, one being a standard pride flag and the other an American pride flag with a blue corner and 50 stars.
Pride flags are common in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community and serve as a universal symbol of pride. The American Rainbow Pride Flag which was at the center of this altercation "makes a wonderful statement about freedoms which should exist in this great country of ours. Liberty, Justice and Equality for all! This is a great flag for peace and pride and even July 4th parades and marches!"(www.peacepeddler.com/peaceflags.html)
The Commodore came over and physically grabbed the flag pole in Emily's hands and attempted to take it from her. Our director went over and attempted to intervene and repeatedly asked the Commodore to stop as there were children present and Emily was a 14 year old child. He did not stop and said, "Look at what you are teaching them." During the incident he pushed Emily and remained belligerent throughout the confrontation.
Another participant in the Center's unit, Will Van Roosenbeek, came over and asked the Commodore if he wanted us to call the police and he stated go ahead. The officer told us to go to our areas and not to speak to each other. As the Commodore was walking away he yelled, "You are a piece of shit. Go to a country where they will hang you." This statement was relayed to the officer by our director and he asked, "What do you want me
to do?" She then walked back to our unit and took the starred flag off
the pole and one of the vets in our group wore it through the parade.
Immediately after finishing the parade, Emily, her parents, and Will all filed police reports with the La Crosse Police department. The investigation is pending and contact has been made with the board of Riverfest.
If you are outraged by this incident, please take action if it is safe and you feel able to do so. To show support for Emily and the others who bravely marched to promote the Center, please mail correspondence to: LGBT Resource Center, 303 Pearl Street, La Crosse, WI 54601.
For more information, please call Rosanne St. Sauver, executive director of the LGBT Resource Center for the Seven Rivers Region, at 608-784-0452 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement from Riverfest President Mike Schieber
Thank you for voicing your concerns with Mr. Schneider and his alleged actions yesterday at the Oktoberfest Parade. Personally, I was not present at the parade staging area and was not made aware of any incident until I checked my e-mail and facebook pages Sunday morning. Myself and the Riverfest Board are looking into the allegations. As soon as we have all of the facts I will inform you of the decision and inform you of our actions.
The Riverfest Commodores are good will Ambassadors and are not in any way directly connected to the day to day workings of our board of directors.
Riverfest, is an extremely diverse organization. We do support the diversity of La Crosse area whether it be gender or race or sexual identity. This year two members of our board are openly gay, and in precious years there have been many others actively involved in our organization by volunteering or serving as director on our board. Being one of the two gay members on our board, I was extremely upset to hear of the allegations. From knowing Mr. Schneider and his extended family, I was also extremely surprised to hear that he made such a statement.
We are working to contact the person involved from the parade entry, as there are people on our board who know her. I am also contacting Mr. Schneider to get his side of the story. I will inform you of the official decision, and if a public apology or further action is necessary we will proceed with those actions.
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