Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Students Assemble to Protest Network

Students representing Washington, D.C., universities gathered in front of ABC’s television studios on Monday to honor the memory of murdered University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard and protest 20/20’s recent reporting on the crime.

Shepard died on Oct. 4, 1999, five days after Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney robbed and brutally beat him in Laramie, Wyo., allegedly because Shepard was gay. Henderson and McKinney were subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

ABC aired an hour-long program on national newsmagazine 20/20 on onday, suggesting that Shepard’s death was motivated by the prospect of robbery and not by hate.

Even before the ABC piece aired, the Student Equal Rights Campaign, a network of District LGBTQ groups, had planned a vigil to protest ABC’s decision to broadcast the program.

In a SERC press release, GUSA Vice President Luis Torres (COL ’05), expressed frustration that ABC had aired the program at all.

“ABC is making a mistake and threatening the memory of atthew Shepherd by allowing his murderers to define his death,” he said.

The show concluded that the case was not necessarily connected with homophobia, but may have had roots in money and drug use.

Henderson claimed that he did not actually participate in Shepard’s murder other than to tie him up. When he tried to stop McKinney from beating Shepard, McKinney struck him, Henderson alleged.

McKinney said the incident had nothing to do with homophobia but rather with a desire for drugs and to steal Shepard’s money.

SERC’s founder Graham Murphy said that he is not convinced the participants’ consumption of drugs removed the possibility of homophobia as a motive in the murder. He cited studies which found that perpetrators often abuse drugs before engaging in hate crimes.

At the Monday event, George Washington University sophomore Jason Hipp questioned the timing of the program. Suggesting that the television network may have had political motives for airing the report, Hipp characterized the program as “gay bashing to gain more power.”

During the rally, participants handed out flyers that expressed their view that ABC had dishonored Shepard’s memory.

Describing how “anti-gay violence occurs all too often in America,” one flyer said that “Matthew is unfortunately one of the many victims of this type of violence.”

A member of the vigil read a statement by Judy Shepard, Matthew Shephard’s mother.

“My remarks were reduced to a few very personal maternal comments taken out of context to make it appear as if I agreed with 20/20’s theories. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said in the statement.

ABC News spokesman, Jeffrey Schneider explained that the report was made after a thorough six month investigation.

“Our report in no way diminishes the important conversation about violence, hate and homophobia in the nation,” he said. “Having done substantial reporting in the days and months after the murder, it’s our responsibility as journalists to continue to follow story wherever the truth may take us.”

Schneider said ABC welcomes feedback from anyone.

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