LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – The LGBTQ community is reeling after police say two teens were assaulted in La Crosse.
First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff has a reaction from advocates and explains why they want to see the attack considered a hate crime.
A suspected assault against members of the LGBTQ community is prompting discussions of safety and inclusivity in La Crosse.
40-year-old Travis Crawford is facing charges of substantial battery with intent to cause bodily harm and felony bail jumping.
Police say Crawford confronted a transgender teen girl and her boyfriend at Copeland Park, called them gay slurs, then punched the boy in the face.
7 Rivers LGBTQ Executive Director Alesha Schandelmeier says this isn’t a new occurrence in the La Crosse area.
“We have a fairly accepting and open community, but there are things like this that happen on a daily basis,” Schandelmeier said. “Maybe not to the extent of physical violence but definitely verbal…people are harassed daily by transphobia and homophobia.”
La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds spoke out against the attack, saying in part:
“It is…appalling that some members of our community are so consumed by hate that they are provoked to violence against children.”
Reynolds is calling on lawmakers to update state statutes so attacks involving transgender and non-binary individuals can be classified as hate crimes.
Ultimately, Schandelmeier hopes this serves as a wakeup call that members of the LGBTQ community not only face discrimination nationwide, but in the Coulee Region.
“There is that underlying current of hate still, and we want to make sure that people realize that this is something that doesn’t just happen in New York City or in another part of the world, this happens right here locally,” Schandelmeier said. “We need to make sure our trans community, our LGBTQ community and definitely our youth are safe here.”
Schandelmeier believes education is the key to create a more tolerant community.
In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.
Travis Crawford is being held on a 2,500-dollar cash bond.
He’s scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday morning.