Originally published on Advocate.com October 18 2003 12:00 AM ET
Life-sized effigies with "Do not hate" signs painted on their chests were placed around the town of Jackson Hole, Wyo., to mark the five-year anniversary of the death of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. Effigies were placed sometime Sunday night along State Highway 22, near the U.S. Post Office, near Jackson Hole High School, near Jackson Hole Middle School, and in downtown Jackson Hole. Five years ago outside Laramie, Shepard was attacked by two men he had met in a bar. They talked him into getting in their pickup truck and drove him to the outskirts of town, where they tied him with clothesline to a log fence. Using their fists and the butt of a pistol, the assailants struck Shepard repeatedly, then robbed him of $20 and his shoes, so he couldn't walk back to town. He was found by a passer-by on October 7, 1998, but died five days later in a hospital. Many people believe his killers acted out of hatred for gay men, though they denied it in court.
Jackson Police Department sergeant Alan John said he saw one of the effigies affixed to the fence at the corner of High School Road and Middle School Road when he was dropping off his two adolescent children at school on Monday morning. "I explained to my kids what it meant," John said. "It caused me to explain things to my kids that they may not have known before. It's the anniversary of his death, and it was the method that was used in his death." John said the police were called on Sunday night by an alarmed passer-by who thought one of the effigies was real. After determining that the figure hanging on the fence was just clothing stuffed with newspaper, police took no action, John said. "It's probably just to raise awareness," John said. "If property owners called to complain, the sheriff's office would probably investigate. Other than that, I don't think it's worthy of criminal investigation." Jackson Hole resident Tatiana Maxwell, who attended school in Laramie herself, said she was moved by the display. "I think the message is a wonderful one," she said. "It's hard to go against 'Do not hate.' The mere thought of a human being left on a fence is highly emotional for me."