de Toledo Wears White

Justice Class Commemorates 20 Year Anniversary of Young Gay Man’s Murder


Jaxon N '19

This fence represents the fence where Matthew Shephard was found after being brutally beaten in 1998. Shephard died from his injuries.

Sarah Ritter, Arts and Entertainment Editor

On October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard, an openly gay twenty-one-year-old, was beaten violently to the point where his own mother couldn’t recognize his face. This attack started after he accepted a ride from two men who were also around twenty-one who pretended to be gay in order to gain Shepard’s trust. Once they had him in their car they started beating him and drove a mile out of the town of Laramie, Wyo. They drove down a dirt pathway to a field where Shepard was tied to the fence and beaten with the end of a large revolver. He was struck 19-21 times in the head and suffered severe head injuries. He remained tied to the fence for around eighteen hours in freezing weather, until a teenager found him and alerted the police. Once at the hospital, it was discovered Shepard had sustained a crushed brain stem and many brain fractures from the beating.

Matthew Shepard died five days after the attack. Shepard’s brutal murder opened peoples’ eyes to the unfair and cruel way the LGBTQ+ community is treated. A play entitled The Laramie Project came out to not only keep Matthew’s memory alive but to also show the effect this event had on the town of Laramie.

This week the Justice class at de Toledo is putting on the Matthew Shepard Legacy Project. A fence was built and  placed in the quad to resembles the buck fence that Shepard had been tied to  that cold October night 20 years ago. Heart shaped cards were passed around for students and teachers to write notes of love and compassion which will hang from the fence.“The Justice Class felt that in our current societal atmosphere, we needed to promote love over hate,” Jewish Studies Teacher Rabbi J. B. Sacks stated in an email. The project asked everyone to wear white on Friday to represent angels, because “at Matthew Shepard’s funeral, the Westboro Baptist Church protested Matthew’s parents’ right to have a funeral for a gay person–and shouted horrible things. Matthew’s friends knew that they were planning this and dressed up as angels and surrounded the parents in support.”