Attack on student fits federal hate-crime definition

Cuong D. Nguyen

A Lawrence student was attacked
between Avenue Jewelers and
Colman on his way back to campus
from downtown Appleton in the
early morning Sunday, Nov. 1. The
openly gay student, who was wearing
a dress and carrying baby dolls
for Halloween, was possibly targeted
for the implications of his outfit.
According to the student, he and
a group of friends left the Halloween
party at the co-op house to go to
Topper’s Pizza at around 2:30 a.m.
On their way back to campus, the
assaulted student separated from
the others on the corner of Durkee
Street and College Avenue because
he lives in Colman. At the time, he
was still in his costume dress and
holding props and dolls.
In between Avenue Jewelers and
Colman, the student was attacked
by a group of four middle-aged men
who were drunk and wearing masks.
The group of men at first giggled
among themselves. The men
then started to shove the student
around, asking, “Why are you wearing
a dress?” and “Are you a fag?”
The student got hit in the back
and in the face. When the student
started yelling for help, the men ran
away laughing.
The student did not realize how
quickly the incident would escalate.
“At first I thought they were just
being d-bags, but then they hit me,”
he said.
The attack happened just off
campus, and Lawrence Security was
not contacted. The student reported
the incident to the police Monday,
and it is pending investigation.
The student had a conversation
with Amy Uecke, associate dean of
students for Campus Life, about the
incident and was directed to contact
the Appleton Police Department.
Lawrence Security was also notified.
Uecke explained that if the incident
involved people from off campus
and did not occur on campus
property, the police are responsible
for dealing with the incident.
However, if an incident were to
occur on campus or were to be instigated
by a Lawrence student, the
campus policy for harassment would
also apply, in addition to federal
and local policies on hate crimes.
She pointed out that students are
encouraged to ask security for an
escort whenever they feel unsafe.
By law, such behavior is considered
a hate crime. According to
Wisconsin law, the maximum punishment
for a hate crime misdemeanor
is a $10,000 fine and one
year in the county jail.
The attack occurred following
signing of the Mathew Shepard Act
by President Obama Oct. 28. This
bill expands the definition of a hate
crime to include gender, sexual orientation,
gender identity and disability
and gives the federal government
authority to prosecute violent antigay
crimes when local authorities
do not.
The Fox River Valley lies on
the border between Wisconsin
Congressional Districts 6 and 8, with
Appleton just falling into District
8. The representatives from these
districts were split on the bill, which
passed 281 for and 146 against.
Democrat Steve Kagen from District
8 voted for the bill, while Tom Petri,
a Republican from District 6, encompassing
the rest of the Fox River valley,
voted against the bill.