Hundreds remember 10-year anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death

  • Article by: LORA PABST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2008 - 11:50 PM

Hundreds gathered at Loring Park on Monday evening to remember the 10-year anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death.

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A candlelight procession followed two bagpipers from Loring Park to the reading of “The Laramie Project” at the Woman’s Club Theatre in Minneapolis. Judy Shepard talked about how difficult it’s been to cope since her son, Matthew, died 10 years ago. “As my husband, Dennis, says, 'It’s been 10 years of change, but no progress.’”

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Ten years after the beating death of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, a gay college student from Wyoming, his mother, Judy Shepard, spoke to a crowd of hundreds at a candlelight vigil in Minneapolis' Loring Park on Monday.

"Things are going to get better," she said. "As my husband, Dennis, says, 'It's been 10 years of change, but no progress.'"

Matthew Shepard's death drew international media attention and became a rallying cry for tolerance toward the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

The group that gathered in Loring Park was mostly silent, surrounded by a handful of people dressed as angels with towering wings.

The group, called Angel Action, was organized to block hateful protesters at the trials of Shepard's killers.

On Oct. 7, 1998, Shepard was taken to a remote location outside of Laramie, Wyo., where he was beaten, pistol-whipped, tied to a fence post and left to die.

He wasn't found for 18 hours, and he died on Oct. 12 at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colo. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were convicted in his murder and are serving life sentences.

Shepard's family set up the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which aims to provide safe, supportive environments for young people and to end hatred toward gays and lesbians.

Supporters who gathered in Minneapolis said it was an honor to host the 10-year anniversary vigil.

"It could have been held anywhere," said Brent Nelson of St. Paul. "It pays tribute to the community we have here."

The circumstances around Shepard's death also inspired a play, "The Laramie Project," which chronicles that town's reaction to the attack. The award-winning play was turned into a film.

After the vigil, bagpipers led a processional of supporters slowly out of the park to the Woman's Club Theatre for a reading of "The Laramie Project." One of the scheduled readers was former Guthrie Theater actor T.R. Knight, who is featured on ABC-TV's "Grey's Anatomy."

Lora Pabst • 612-673-4628

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