Powerful play helps in battle with hate crime

Craigavon’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) hosted a powerful and emotive play last week which aimed to highlight and tackle hate crime.

The ‘Laramie Project’ was presented as part of the Brownlow Festival line-up.

Based on a tragic true event it tells the story of the aftermath of the 1998 murder of Matthew Sheppard, a young gay man, in Laramie, Wyoming.

Craigavon PCSP chair, Councillor Gemma McKenna, said, “The Laramie Project is just one way in which the PCSP will try to raise awareness of hate crime and address the concerns of theesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Hate crime in any form is unacceptable and we hope that this event will raise awareness of not just homophobic hate crime but of all hate crime. It is important that we provide platforms not just for exposing hate crime in all of its various formats but also for creating debate and discussion on this serious issue.”

Community group representatives, members of the Brownlow Festival Committee, the PSNI and the YEP project watched the cast of ‘Bigger Than Us Productions’ play out the shocking background to the crime. This horrific event became one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history and spawned an activist movement that, more than a decade later, would result in passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law against bias crimes directed at LGBT people.

The play forms part of the PCSP’s Action Plan 2013 – 2015 for raising awareness of and encouraging the reporting of hate crime. It was followed by a discussion with a panel.

Anthony McNally, PSNI Area Commander said, “Whilst hate crime figures in Craigavon are low, one hate crime is one too many. In order for us all to fully eradicate hate crime however it is important we know about it, and any person – whether the victim or someone who witnesses a hate crime should report it to the PSNI. Once reported, the PSNI are committed to working with the victim and our partners in order to provide the best service we can to the victim, but also to take steps to remove this unacceptable behaviour.”