Poster

Cody Middle School art teacher Stephanie Manuele designed a sticker after the alleged harassment of a Wapiti couple.

Last week’s claims of harassment brought forth by a same-sex couple in Wapiti triggered a sizable response from the community – individuals and businesses alike – on social media and through their actions.

“This is exactly what Cody should not be about,” Wes Allen, owner of Sunlight Sports, said of the incident. “I don’t think anybody has the time to deal with people like that.”

Sunlight Sports made a public statement against hate on its Facebook page last week.

“If you hate your neighbors so much for who they are – who they love, the color of their skin, where they were born, where they worship, or any of the other things that make up that person – that you need to treat them differently or harass them or make them feel unsafe in their own home, don’t come into our business,” the post read in part.

Allen said he does not find this to be a “bold” statement and if anything wishes his business had done it sooner. He said employees have faced discrimination at his store.

“It’s not a reaction only to what happened in Wapiti,” Allen said. “This has not been a one and done thing.”

Stephanie Manuele, a Cody Middle School teacher, had her own response in the form of 300 stickers. Her series of three anti-hate and equality stickers include a Wyoming Bucking Horse and Rider with a rainbow and Heart Mountain in the background.

“This was my way of using my talents to help spread positive messages of encouragement,” Manuele said. “The hate can be overwhelming and it’s been heartwarming to see our community come together to support equality for all.”

Sarah Mikesell Growney is selling the stickers at her store, The Thistle. She said they have been flying off the shelves.

“Even though this is a fringe movement, the rest of us need to make very clear this is not acceptable here,” Growney said.

The stickers are also available in poster form. Manuele said $2 from every sale will go towards supporting local LGBTQ organizations.

One of these groups is the Prism Club, Cody High School’s first Gay Straight Alliance group. The club is sponsored by teacher Amy Gerber and was formed by a group of students including CHS graduate Ben Wambeke in 2019.

Gerber said the club has about 25-30 kids frequently attending their meetings.

"I wanted to establish a safe space for LGBTQ kids and allies to meet and discuss issues of interest and concern," Gerber said.

There have been a fair amount of detractors to the Wapiti allegations and response on Cody Classifieds and Cody Chit Chat Facebook pages. Many are questioning the legitimacy of the allegations and that hate and discrimination exists locally.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the incident and has not publicly released any more details. Sheriff Scott Steward has not made a comment on the allegations despite multiple requests from the Enterprise. The county’s dispatch center records do show a trespassing complaint filed from the street where the couple lives.

Four people accused in the incident have declined to comment on what happened.

Divisive times

Growney has lived in Cody for 17 years. She feels extremist voices and fringe hate movements started to gain traction in Cody about five years ago.

“This isn’t my Cody,” she said.

Melissa Maier has been living in Park County for nearly 30 years and helps manage Facebook groups Park County for Racial Justice and Park County Social Justice Book Club. She also helped organize a peaceful rally against racism in City Park this past June.

Maier said the purpose of these endeavors is to promote anti-racist education and help awareness move forward. She added they are in talks with Braver Angels, an organization that promotes people from many different beliefs having tough conversations about race in a civil manner, to host an event in Cody.

She feels people on both sides of the aisle are more divisive and radical than ever because of the upcoming presidential election and because social media gives exposure and better organization to specific groups of thought.

“When you can’t have civil discourse you lose credibility,” Maier said. “We need to work to find consensus across party lines to spawn change.”

Rose James, 57, is a hispanic woman and member of the Park County for Racial Justice group. James has lived in Cody since 2002 and Wyoming nearly her whole life. Although she said she has not faced overt discrimination, she did receive subtle forms of it while working at a few different Cody businesses.

She said being a member of these groups has been an empowering experience.

“There was so much going on around me and I didn’t realize it,” James said. “I’ve been learning too. I’ve been coming full circle in being able to understand what’s going on.”

Cody native Garrett Randolph recently released a music video for his band R&M’s new single “Change of Power.” The black and white video, featuring infrared-style clips of social justice protests and President Donald Trump from the past year, was edited by his brother, filmmaker Preston Randolph.

Garrett Randolph said the messages behind the song are encouraging people to get out and vote, as well as expressing his discontent with the current social environment.

“I wanted to not just preach, I saw words with his visuals,” he said. “I think most people can agree when you’re on someone’s neck for eight minutes, that’s not a good thing to do.”

Although Randolph said he believes both the Republican and Democratic parties are fueled by “dark money,” he is particularly unhappy with the Trump administration.

“I just want people to act more with empathy and love more for their country, not their party,” he said.

Change on the way?

The FBI reported 1,445 incidents of hate crimes nationwide involving sexual orientation in 2018.

Wyoming is one of three, and likely soon to be two, states nationwide that have no hate crime legislation. Because there are no hate crime laws in Wyoming, it is difficult to track these events.

"Being one of only four states that doesn't have a hate crime bill seems ironic since we are the state where Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence post, and left for dead simply for being gay," Gerber said. "When a crime is based on something that a person cannot change (such as sexual orientation or skin color), it harms not only the individual involved but every person that exists in that person's community."

State Rep. Sandy Newsome (Cody) has teamed up with Rep. Sara Burlingame (Laramie) in recent months to draft a hate crime bill for the 2021 legislature. Burlingame said the bill would give law enforcement officers the ability to specifically label hate crime acts.

She said she has the support of the Cheyenne police chief and director of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation in crafting the legislation.

Since the bill is still being drafted Burlingame didn’t have many details, but said hate crime education and training provided to law enforcement officers would likely be a cornerstone.

Newsome said it’s important the bill contains very specific verbiage.

“We want to make sure it comes out without creating problems for law enforcement,” she said. “It needs to be really carefully structured.”

Newsome added she was actually opposed to this type of legislation until she had coffee with a young homosexual man this summer who changed her mind on the issue.

“A crime’s a crime,” she said. “He laid out a very clear reasoning why it’s important to him and others in the LGBTQ community.”

Gerber said this type of legislation is important because, "It would send a powerful message to offenders if their "hate" was prosecuted, if it crosses into harassment or physical harm."

Also possible in the legislation could be specific punishments for behavior deemed as hate crime activity.

Burlingame said the bill could make Wyoming more appealing to corporations considering moving their operations to the lower-tax state. Major corporations like UPS, Charles Schwab, Walmart and Visa have recently spoken out on the need for racial equality and LGBTQ rights.

“It’s making Wyoming a state where they know it will be safe for their employees to live,” Burlingame said. “The number one way to signal that is a hate crime bill.”

Those opposed to this type of legislation have criticized it as policing thought.

“A ‘hate crime’ is a crime based on thought. ‘Motive’ is the reason a criminal act is perpetrated,” said Ray Hunkins, a lawyer and 2006 Wyoming gubernatorial candidate, in an August Cowboy State Daily column. “It can be proven through evidence of thought. Hate crimes thus place motive as the operative fact to be determined in a trial alleging a ‘hate crime.’ In my opinion, criminalizing thought is a dangerous road to start down.”

But Burlingame and Newsome said determining motive is the exact measure prosecutors use to determine what charges and punishments the State will push for against a defendant, such as homicide murder versus manslaughter.

“You’re looking always at what happened, this isn’t ‘1984’ George Orwell,” Newsome said.

Newsome, a Cody resident since 1982, said the community has become less accepting of integration since those days.

“It seems now, it’s happening less and less,” she said.

James said knowledge gained from participating in social justice has been empowering.

“I’ve been learning how to be more supportive, and how many want to learn along with me,” James said. “It’s so wonderful, it’s empowered me to speak out. I want to be here for my granddaughters and any other person in Wyoming to help make changes.”

(38) comments

bayern53

Let the investigation conclude. Rep. Newsome is engaging in a politically correct crusade that is unnecessary. Existing laws will suffice if there was indeed a crime. Additionally, any folks referencing the Matthew Shepard case are advised to read investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez’s (a gay man) book “The Book of Matt”. His murder had nothing to do with Shepard’s sexual orientation. However, the facts get in the way of his martyrdom. Unfortunately, Wyoming has borne the stigma for decades unnecessarily. Thought Police Laws have no place in Wyoming. We earned the moniker “Equality State” by treating people as “live and let live”, not by following trends of identity politics.

Guy V. Schultz

These ALLEGATIONS sooo remind many of us about when the two Cody Mean Girls villainized a respectable local family over that hilarious trans gender float in the parade. They did their usual hit and run by posting nasty things online about this family...then promptly deleted their comments when they found that their narrative of the event was quite on par with everyone elses view. They've been called out so many times that the Mean Girls kind of went away after awhile but these ALLEGATIONS were right up their alley and they decided to c'mon out and play. Hmmm, so far, no arrests have been made yet...but a whole new groupl of people have been villainized. < THAT, is NO allegation

Whatsup

Just a little advice politics and businesses do not mix if you own a business if you choose to politicize yourself don't expect mercy from the local people as you can read and hear from our locals you will loose customers to bad for Sunlight sports I have talked to several people about this and they sadly said, I will take business elsewhere even if I have to go to Billings it's cheaper anyway sunlight sports you Dug your grave

SevenBlack

I hope Sunlight sports is laughing all the way to the bank. You think old ignorant people shopped there before this? Nope. And by the way, them saying that you shouldn’t blindly hate people isn’t politics, it’s basic human decency.

barbed wire bliss

Why is it that the comment section always seems to bring the haters and cowards out of the woodwork?

KZ Howell

For about the past 10 years, Wapiti has turned into a divisive and troubling place. I think that we can blame the neo conservatives from the Golden Bear State who've migrated here and want to show the rest of us how "republican" they are. Many of us dread driving through there and don't dare stop. Maybe the state can build another road between Cody and YNP so that we can bypass these people

Jack Dittmer

Yes, an let’s not forget those from Brunton, Ohio!

Cornwoman

Comments questioning what happened when the women were confronted by people who told them they were not welcome in Wyoming baffles me.

cjtruth

ALL crimes are hate crimes. Why are we making distinctions. People do not do hateful things and commit crimes because they love some. We do not need additional legislation to add more paperwork. We as people can stand up and show that acts - any of these - are not acceptable.

Wyoming resident

😂😂😂😂😂

SevenBlack

What a bunch of snowflakes in these comments. Guess what - if you don’t commit violence against other people then literally none of this affects you. People who claim to want law and order yet have zero respect for established legislation or other people’s right to be on their own property peacefully.

God forbid anybody ever shows up on your property looking for a fight. In Wyoming, these fools are lucky they didn’t get shot.

Wapiti 1

The article was encouraging, but then I read the comments. Hopefully the sentiments in the article outweigh the unfortunate opinions expressed in most of the comments.

Philly Cheese Steak Man

Hmm, over a week later and no arrests. Looks like allegations = hoax perpetuated to rally the community. Let's start printing "Hoaxes, NOT in my Commumity" stickers. Good grief, people!!!

SevenBlack

People don’t typically get arrested for harassment on a first offense, so your logic isn’t great. But on the bright side at least we know which business to avoid!

Jim Jones

“A ‘hate crime’ is a crime based on thought...." Sandy Newsome LITERALLY wants to control what we think .

SevenBlack

Time to get out the koolaid and the tinfoil hats, people.

Wapiti 1

Are you even remotely familiar with the concepts of "intent" and "motive"?

Jack Dittmer

Get over it ! Your candidate lost she won! To bad!

SAMORDER

Allegations being made. But no proof...So why is the rest of the article underlining LGBTQ equality? Shouldn't the investigation conclude first? Are we talking about a possible hate crime, or is this article promoting a narrative . There is much weight here to responsibly report. Not to sway the ethics and morals of ones faith and beliefs....

Gunrunner Auctions

There are two books out now on Shepard. He was killed by his homosexual partner. The dispute was over dope as they were both dealers. The liberal media made it look like a hate crime, but it was anything but. There are still people who hate Wyoming who spread this incorrect information. I'm surprised the Enterprise reporter did not correct this. The Shepard case was distorted to fit a liberal agenda. The truth will set them free.

P Demoney

Clueless as usual. You wouldn't know the truth if it feel from the sky and landed on your head.

SAMORDER

What's wrong is using the ' unproven ' allegations as leverage for talking about promoting legislation to protect a lifestyle most Wyoming conservative residents don't agree with. And then pictures with heart mountain with a bronco rider having rainbows? What!! It's not broke back mountain...

Now that's harrassment

Fox Blue River

Just got done reading some of the comments. Before I read them I was going to say exactly the same thing. Hate and bigotry are okay here with more than half the population. Lets be real.

XMonkey

Seems anybody with whom you disagree is a hater and bigot. Where would we be without labels? Ever hear the saying that when you point a finger, three are pointing back at you?

XMonkey

Apologies, but I just can't help adding one more comment. When I was a kid our family moved to a suburb of a large eastern city. Our neighbors told us point blank they were not happy that a family of our ethnic background had moved next door. Other hostile remarks were made at school and elsewhere (and no, I'm not black). Didn't make the front page of the local paper. Nobody was accused of hate crimes. We just dealt with it, and the neighbors and others had to too. Why is it when you're of a "different" sexual orientation suddenly it has to be front page news, stickers have to be made, it's a "hate crime" if you disagree with it, and on and on?

Bensbrandy

the University of Wyoming was savagely beaten, burned and left to die tied to a wooden fence outside Laramie, 30 miles northwest of Cheyenne. Three suspects were arrested. Passers-by found Matthew Shepard…

6FUresident

Regarding the comment made in the article that Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay is false. It was a drug related homicide that had nothing to do with his sexual orientation.

LoraC

You are absolutely correct about that! The spinning of the story from one of a drug transaction gone wrong to one of attacking Matthew's sexual irientation is just one example of media perpetrating an untrue story to gain attention. Unfortunately, Wyoming was the scapegoat in that entire fiasco!

Freecitizen

An allegation is made. It is reported and takes on a life of it's own. A community responds "we must do something!". Talk is made of legislating for "Hate Crimes", making a crime punishable beyond the norm based on what the perpetrator was thinking. All this prior to completion of the investigation...there is an investigation, correct? All this before a warrant is issued for arrest. All of this based on nothing more than a story. A story which may be true, or a story simply meant to inflame. I see the torches and pitchforks are coming out to burn the "hate crime" perpetrators at the stake. Shall I bring matches?

LoraC

OK, OK.....We've all expressed our displeasure with how this couple was treated! Let's move on and strive to do better!

XMonkey

And if I may add a little something, when you die and stand before God and He says, "This is not acceptable here," then what? It's not hatred. It's truth. Hurts, maybe, but doesn't hate.

XMonkey

Cody, California. The collapse of a nation in progress. We just don't learn from history, do we?

Devildog307

Definitely don’t, it’s like Jackson is slowly creeping over the mountains and infecting the county.

Jack Dittmer

I don’t think it is so much Jackson as it is California, Colorado, Texas, and Brunton, Ohio!

LoraC

The poison that is in Jackson IS making its way into Cody....just watch!!!! It's just a matter of time and your town is doing nothing to stop it! SO sad!

Wapiti 1

Imagine that... the 21st century finds its way into Park County!

Atlas McClain

What will the people do if these allegations prove to be a hoax and publicity stunt? Print stickers that say "Hoaxing - not acceptable here"??? Will one of the mean girls offer refunds on those current stickers then sell hoax signs? So far, no charges have been filed and it appears that this was a minor skirmish over an illegally built garage vs. some "hate crime"

Cornwoman

This was not a hoax

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