The Majak Kingdom - WTFest

"Grabbing somebody else's flagpole sounds pretty gay."
My friend Anthony, a member of gay Twin Cities rugby club
They often say that life is not a picnic or a cakewalk, and sometimes it's no Oktoberfest parade, either, according to several parts on local news and in the La Crosse Tribune that talk about the alleged confrontation between a Riverfest official and the 14-year-old daughter of the Seven Rivers LGBT Center. It's a scandal that's grown so big that people that I know, FOR A FACT, that only get as far as doing Sudoku in the newspaper or the first weather report in the evening news have actually linked to both in a rare showing of public awareness.

While the details remain murky at this point with the usual he said/she said that arises from any sort of conflict, the basic outline is this: The LGBT Center had gotten their first ever spot in the Oktoberfest Maple Leaf Parade. According to accounts gleaned from news reports and the Seven Rivers LGBT Center's Facebook newsfeed, the center's executive director Rosanne St. Sauver alleges that Riverfest, because this area is a mecca of Fests, commodore Mark Schneider approached her 14-year-old daughter to express, how shall we say, his concern over her carrying an American flag altered to have rainbow colors. At some point, Schneider allegedly tried to yank the pole out of the girl's hand.

WXOW news report on the incident:

First off, we don't even know what the standard behavior of a Commodore is seeing as this is the only type of commodore we've ever dealt with:

We have a sneaky suspicion Lionel Richie would never do this.

So as soon as news hit Facebook about the incident, it's been the scandal du jour, especially with the accusations that Schneider not only tried to take the flagpole but also shoved the 14-year-old and said, "Go to a country where they will hang people like you." You know, your stand pre-parade conversation between an official and a minor.

Schneider for his part denies making that statement and says his concern about the rainbow flag was not based in homophobia but because he thought it was disrespectful to veterans. Whether or not that is true, we don't know. What we do know is that grabbing some girl's flagpole doesn't really reek of well-behaved adult behavior one would expect from a Riverfest official.

The coverage of the incident has actually been fairly well-balanced, aside from news station WKBT's almost hilariously victim-blaming headline on their website with "LGBT flag causes confrontation with Commodore at Maple Leaf Parade."

Wednesday, the LGBT Center and the Riverfest Board released a joint statement on the matter:
"Mark Schneider, Riverfest Commodore for 2010, offered his personal apology to Emily St. Sauver and others that may have been affected for events that happened that day. 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."

I hardly doubt that will put the matter completely to bed but at least it's a start of some sort for all sides to move on from this event and hopefully have something positive come from it.

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