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La Crosse council member suggests move to eliminate city Human Rights Commission



One La Crosse city council member has had enough of the city’s Human Rights Commission.

Gary Padesky loves the 25-foot Hiawatha statue in Riverside Park. The Commission is talking about asking the council to take it down. Do that, says Padesky, and he might introduce a measure to get rid of the mayor-appointed group. Padesky is fed up with attacks on what he calls, art.

“Art is an interpretation of that artists and how it’s important because it strikes up conversation,” Padesky said Thursday afternoon on WIZM. “And conversation about art is so good. But when it comes to Hiawatha, we’re hurting feelings. That has to come down.”

Padesky likened removing the statue to WWII Nazism.

“When you start tearing down history, and you’re tearing down art, to me it goes back to Nazi Germany and we’re burning books,” Padesky said. “Is that going to be next? Is the Human Rights Commission going to pick out what books may offend people? And six people on a panel decide it’s going to hurt feelings that we have to burn them? And that’s what it’s going to lead to.”

The commission this week suggested a resolution soon could be forwarded to the city council, calling for the removal of the 60-year-old concrete statue. Critics have called the statue a caricature of Native American culture.

Padesky says he’s not buying the explanations that the statue is offensive.

“A lot of art hurts feelings and a lot of feelings are hurt by taking it down,” Padesky said. “What about those people’s feelings that are being hurt by taking it down? So they don’t rate? We have no say, if our feelings are hurt?”

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