How do people stand up to bigotry and hate in The Laramie Project?

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When the members of the Tectonic Theater decided to work in Laramie, Wyoming,they did not know what to expect. They had heard that the city's residents were not only in shock over the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard but also overwhelmed by the invasion by the media anxious to cover the story. Because they were artists rather than press, they hoped that people would honestly share their thoughts.

As people in Laramie grew accustomed to having them there and introduced them to Matthew's friends,the townspeople gained confidence that their project would be honest and thoughtful rather than sensational. This accepting attitude of the strangers was one way the people showed their open-mindedness.

One of the crucial events that worried the community was Matthew's funeral. Especially his family and friends but also the larger community were very concerned about the publicity that hate groups were likely to seek. The Westboro Baptists already had a well established reputation for disrupting solemn occasions with their hate-filled rhetoric, and their presence at Matthew's funeral would be hurtful to his family.

The idea arose not to prevent the Westboro contingent from exercising free speech but to protect the funeral attendees from having to look at their slogans. Dozens of people showed up wearing large, handmade wings, which they held up alongside the church entrance so the Westboro demonstrators would remain out of sight and off-camera. The wings became a potent symbol of love and open-mindedness.

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