Remembering Matthew Shepard

Moment of silence, candlelight vigil honored anniversary

Last night, a group of students marched down McKinley Avenue with lit candles in memory of Matthew Shepard and hoped that it will have an effect on how the world views the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual community.

The members of Spectrum led the march, after the play "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later," from Pruis Hall to the University Green where they held the Matthew Shepard Vigil.

"At the candlelit vigil people speak about ‘The Laramie Project' or how they feel about Matthew Shepard's murder," Jacinta Yanders, Spectrum secretary, said.

It has been 11 years since Shepard's death. He was tied to a fence and brutally beaten because of his sexual orientation on Oct. 7, 1998, in Laramie, Wyo. The two men, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, who robbed and beat him were convicted of a hate crime and sent to prison.

"Spectrum wants people to remember Matthew and be aware that stuff like that is still happening," Yanders said.

Pruis Hall was nearly packed at 7 p.m. when "Ten Years Later" began. The cast of the play read the interviews done by the original producers of the play, Techtonic Theater Company; the play writers had reinterviewed the citizens of Laramie about the effects of Shepard's murder 10 years after his death.

"This is the first time I ever heard about Matthew Shepard's death, and I just think it's crazy that these things are still going on," freshman Lakecia Harris said after attending the vigil.
Shepard's murder has had an effect on the way that the U.S. handles hate crimes. Last Thursday, a bill was passed including sexual orientation and gender identity in hate crime law.

"The U.S. is working on protection against hate crimes," Yanders said. "We are hoping that people will get punished for these acts."

Fifty students gathered at the University Green last night to commemorate the day of Shepard's murder. The vigil started out with a moment of silence and continued on for people to speak on the effect of his death on their lives.

"I am a very liberal, left-leaning Democrat and believe in civil liberties," Craig Prince said. "I think that people are born gay and they should not have limited rights."

Many people who are not homosexual came out to this vigil as allies to the GLBT community.

"I went ‘The Laramie Project' and the vigil tonight to support my friend, but these showed me that I need to be an ally," Harris said. "I truly believe that this hate needs to stop."

Students who have honored Matthew for years and students who just found out about his death both came out last night.

"It breaks my heart to hear of these things happening," an attendee of the vigil said, addressing the crowd. "There's so much love in this circle, I don't understand how there can be so much hate against these people. I will never forget this experience. I will never forget the faces here tonight."

The candlelit ceremony ended with the circle singing "This Little Light of Mine" and many students giving hugs of support.


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