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Badgered by hate crimes: University of Wisconsin students are "dying" to make a point.

ON THE ROLLING LAWNS of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Bascom Hill, 200 students recently staged their own deaths--tombstones included. Equal parts demonstration and performance art, the protest brought attention to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, better known as the Matthew Shepard Act, which, as of mid June, was struggling to clear the U.S.-Senate. Nearly 500,000 college students across the country are targets of bias crimes each year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Such "die-ins" have deep roots at the university: Decades ago, lifeless bodies were strewn about campus to protest nuclear technology. Political demonstrations remain a common occurrence in liberal Madison, but the purpose of this one seemed to elude some. Hoping to disrupt the die-in, a group of students tried unsuccessfully to play football in the middle of Bascom Hill, according to Kate Siberine, communications specialist for school's LGBT center, which helped stage the demonstration.

Sadly, the die-in presaged the need for federal legislation. Two weeks later, a 21-year-old student's nose was broken at an off-campus party, allegedly because he was perceived to be gay, according to the police report. The suspect has been charged with battery but not with a hate-crime enhancement, even though Wisconsin state law includes such protections.


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Title Annotation:ADVANCE: News; college students' protest for their safety
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2009
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