La Crosse mayor condemns Copeland Park assault, calls for lawmakers to update hate crime law
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds condemned an alleged assault against two LGBTQ teenagers and called on Wisconsin lawmakers to include protections for transgender people under the hate crime statute.
“It is, of course, appalling that some members of our community are so consumed by hate that they are provoked to violence against children. But we should extend our indignation of this attack to our state lawmakers who choose inaction on outdated state laws over justice,” Reynolds said.
Travis D. Crawford, 40, La Crosse was charged Wednesday in La Crosse County Circuit Court with substantial battery, disorderly conduct and felony bail jumping. According to the criminal complaint, Crawford approached a transgender teen girl and her boyfriend in Copeland Park, called them slurs for gay men and accused them of having sexual intercourse. The teens told him to leave them alone, then he punched the teen boy in the face, chipping his tooth and leaving his nose bloody, according to the complaint.
“On Tuesday night, two juvenile members of our LGBTQ community were violently attacked in Copeland Park. Apparently not for anything they had done. But simply for who they are,” the mayor said in a statement. “While the perpetrator of this crime has been charged with a felony, the assault apparently cannot be charged as a hate crime under state statutes due to arcane language in those statutes that do not extend hate crime enhancement to crimes committed against transgender or non-binary individuals.”
The La Crosse mayor noted that the officers asked the La Crosse County District Attorney’s Office to review whether the alleged crime was eligible for a hate crime enhancement under state law. DA Tim Gruenke said it was considered, but the statute doesn’t apply.
“The statute hasn’t caught up with society yet. You can see the statute doesn’t apply to gender, political party, or transgender. ‘Sexual orientation’ we believe would not include the persons involved in this case. We think it should, but isn’t an option under the statute,” Gruenke said.
Mayor Reynolds referenced a common sign in La Crosse, which reads “Hate Has No Home Here,” saying, “It is a powerful statement of justice and fairness and inclusion and I am honored to lead a city of so many who spread this positive message. So it pains me to hear of an attack in one of our parks this week that shows the extent to which hate does in fact continue to exist in our city. And does so quite demonstrably, aggressively and violently.”
He called on state lawmakers to take immediate action to update the state law. “Take action to prove to your constituents that the rights of all matter. Take action to demonstrate your devotion to justice and fairness,” Reynolds said.
Read the full statement from the mayor here: Copeland Park incident – Press release
Read the criminal complaint against Crawford here: Criminal-Complaint-County_1-Crawford-Travis-D-2021CF000554-Crawford-Travis-D_2522918_1
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