Mark Schneider, an adult man and reigning commodore of the Riverfest event in La Crosse, Wisconsin, didn’t appreciate it when 14-year-old Emily St. Sauver went rollerblading by his float just before the start of the town’s Maple Leaf parade on Saturday — because she was carrying a pole with two rainbow flags. So he (allegedly) shoved her to the ground.
The teen was rollerblading and carrying a flag pole with two rainbow flags — one a hybrid of the American flag and the gay pride flag — as members of 7 Rivers LGBT Resource Center’s float prepared for the parade about 9:45 a.m. Saturday on Rose Street, said Roseanne St. Sauver, the center’s executive director. Commodore Mark Schneider, who was on a float nearby, approached the girl and put his hands on the flagpole, St. Sauver said. St. Sauver walked over, placed her hands on the pole and told him, “Please stop, she’s a 14-year-old child.”
“He said, ‘I do not care. Look what you are teaching them,’” St. Sauver said. That’s when, St. Sauver said, Schneider shoved the girl with his body. St. Sauver said Schneider told the girl: “Go to a country where they will hang people like you.”
Schneider denies he shoved anyone (“Why would I push a 14-year-old girl?”) and insists his problem wasn’t with anybody’s sexual orientation, but with their desecration of the flag: “It all had to do with the discoloring of the American flag. Other commodores on the commodore float were upset because the flag is offensive to veterans … This is not an issue of gays. This is an issue with the American flag.”
Interestingly, the woman originally calling for Schneider to step down as Riverfront commodore? She’s not only the LGBT center’s executive director; she appears to be the girl’s mother. They share a last name.
In the meantime, Schneider has apologized to Emily, says Riverfest in a statement: “This apology was accepted, with the understanding that both organizations will collaborate to promote La Crosse and the surrounding community as a safe place for all people; where all members of the community can be celebrated.”