Tag Archives: hate crimes

San Francisco mayor vows to remain sanctuary city

A large crowd cheered earlier this week as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee vowed that the city will remain a sanctuary for immigrants, gays and lesbians and religious minorities despite the election of a president who strikes fear into many of those communities.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to cancel federal funding for sanctuary cities such as San Francisco that decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. He also said he plans to deport millions of criminals who are living in the country illegally.

“We will always be San Francisco,” said Lee from the rotunda of city hall as dozens of people roared with approval at an event that featured the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and a host of public elected officials.

“I know that there are a lot of people who are angry and frustrated and fearful, but our city’s never been about that. We have been, and always have been, a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love.”

San Francisco receives roughly $480 million directly from the federal government and more than $900 million from the state, much of it pass-through federal money, city Controller Ben Rosenfield said.

The largest share goes toward health care, but federal dollars also fund public assistance and infrastructure, he said. The city’s budget is $9.6 billion.

It’s uncertain how the city would recoup that money should Trump make good on his promise to cut off sanctuary cities.

Also reacting to Trump’s statements on deportations, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said his officers will stay out of immigration issues as they have for decades. “I don’t intend on doing anything different,” Beck told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

“We are not going to engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status. We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts. That is not our job, nor will I make it our job,” Beck said.

Trump excoriated San Francisco last year when 32-year-old Kate Steinle was shot and killed by a Mexican native who said he had found a gun and it accidentally fired.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez had a federal detainer on him, but he was released from San Francisco’s jail after the district attorney declined to prosecute a decades-old marijuana sales charge. The sheriff at the time freed Lopez-Sanchez in keeping with city laws not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, which was tweaked and re-affirmed earlier this year, bars city employees from cooperating with federal immigration officials in deportation efforts except in rare situations. The law dates to 1989.

The current sheriff, Vicki Hennessy, also supports sanctuary policy as a public safety tool. Sanctuary advocates say people who live in the country illegally are more likely to report crimes to local police if they know they won’t be deported.

She said Monday that she’s concerned but taking a wait-and-see approach to a Trump presidency

“I’m following Hillary Clinton’s advice in her concession speech, which was to give the new president a chance to lead, and hopefully he’ll lead with compassion and understanding, as well as making sure our cities are safe for everybody,” Hennessy said.

Schooling an intelligence: acting in the wake of Orlando

When, on June 13, a handful of Democratic Congressmen and Congresswomen walked off the floor of the House of Representatives and several others remained to challenge vocally the failure of the Congress to consider and enact firearms-related legislation, they ignited much more than a collateral skirmish in America about the meaning, the solemnity, and the purpose of moments of silence. To be sure, their actions animated, at least in part, the legislative goings-on of the following days — including the 14-hour filibuster on the June 15 and 16, initiated by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, on the floor of the other deliberative chamber on Capitol Hill, and the 26-hour sit-in, led by Georgia Congressman John Lewis back in the House on the June 22 and 23 — all organized to rally the spirit of America in movement toward that day when rational, balanced, and effective federal laws are codified among other common sense mechanisms to reduce if not stop outright the types of cataclysmic violence that most recently and savagely ripped 49 of us from our national life and brutally injured hundreds of others, both physically and emotionally, in the common pursuit of livelihood.

But in his public explanation of why he chose to leave the People’s House during the moment of silence on June 13, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Connecticut, was on to something much more: Among other unsettling aspects of the impotence that infects the work of the women and the men we send to Washington, Himes bemoaned the “torrent of hate, threats and anger worthy of Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell (directed) toward elected officials who speak out for reform.” Understanding and articulating the indivisible connections between the hearts and the minds of men and women of all times, it was the 14th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri who told us that “(t)he hottest places … are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” It is thus in this abiding time of pain and trouble and suffering that our hearts must school our intelligence — away from the inertia, the indifference, and, yes, the neutrality of inaction and toward an aggressive, targeted set of behaviors that genuinely mean something, that generate forward industry, and that change practically the life and the livelihood of our nation.

So what precisely is it that thoughtful, caring, and engaged Wisconsinites — including but not limited to those who proudly count themselves among the cherished and valued members of our LGBT community — should be about in the wake of Orlando, in pursuit of the finest, most genuine memorial to those who were martyred at the Pulse nightclub? There are, of course, the often-touted recommendations, frequently advanced because they do, in fact, make sense: Among them is advocacy for the candidacies of those people who understand that, while legislation and the enforcement of those laws is not a panacea, things like universal background checks in all venues and all exchanges, prohibitions on sales to persons with convictions for violent misdemeanors, judicial processes for protective orders restraining lethally violent family members, and measured changes in the coverage and the penalties of laws prohibiting so-called “straw” purchasing and preventing certain categories of offenders like those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining concealed carried permits — all of these and other reasonable proposals would make cognizable differences — for, yes, the LGBT community and also for the partnered communities of every race and national origin, each faith and religious affiliation, and all abilities and disabilities.

Recognition of that sisterhood and brotherhood among our neighbors in Wisconsin and throughout the country should also prompt a renewed and reinvigorated engagement by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender men and women in the leadership and policy-making, the programming and presentations, the education and training, and the public events and gatherings of our area’s many, diverse associations, councils, alliances, and coalitions — both formal and informal, public and private — that are committed to addressing the civil rights issues and wrestle with the human dignity challenges that affect all of us. Consistent with this commission (already pursued activity and effectively by many), members of the Milwaukee-based LGBT community will find their welcoming places and invest resourceful time in the human rights and other life-affirming initiatives of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, of Independence First and Disability Rights Wisconsin, of the Milwaukee Urban League and the Milwaukee Chapter of the NAACP, of El Centro Hispano and Voces de la Frontera, of the Running Rebels and Urban Underground, of the Boys and Girls Clubs and COA Youth & Family Centers, of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, MICAH, Pastors United, and virtually all venues of our faith congregations — an illustrative (and wildly incomplete) list of civic invitations.

Our recent history of devastating violence in places like Charleston, Roseburg, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Binghamton, Newtown, Blacksburg, Killeen, Columbine, and Oak Creek, among many others, confirms both the chilling ferocity and the complex animation of people who — as human “cocktails” of hate, disaffection, anger, delusion, failure, and malice — wage devastating wars on all of us. The sanguine lesson of each of those venues is equally clear: Not only must we address a society in which firearms are increasingly used as the mechanisms for conflict resolution but we need also, desperately, to confront the voices, the instruction, the encouragement of those who fail or simply refuse to understand the abundant benefits and transcendent values in diversity — of color, creed, homeland, heritage, capacity, ability, orientation, and identity — in education, housing, public access, commerce, the arts, religion, employment, transportation, voting, neighborhood, and family.

And the initiatives and programs, existing and forthcoming, to accomplish all of that must be designed and implemented cross-community — invoking the vested intelligence, the practical experience, and the animated spirit of every interest group and individual body in ways and means that are operationally coordinated in vision, in communication, and in action with each other. The interests and challenges, the needs and aspirations of the LGBT community are those of every community of women and men in Wisconsin and throughout our nation that is similarly committed to fair treatment, equal protection, just administration of the law, and lives lived with dignity, compassion, nobility, and pride in what it means to be human.

That can and will be accomplished when the boards of directors, the executive leadership, the active members, the volunteer staff, and the served constituents of all of our civil rights leagues are populated with representation by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women and men — along with equally invested men and committed women of every race, nationality, disability, ability, religion, and faith affiliation who are straight. Human rights to jobs, to schooling, to accommodations, to movement — in short, to be free from bias and discrimination in all of the adventures of our lives — are rights shared across communities, and the successes routinely witnessed when LGBT voices and energies are embedded in the missions of anti-violence, faith, youth opportunity, business, disability rights, arts, voting rights, charitable, and neighborhood safety groups, for instance, are many and borderline miraculous.

Finally, those same area voices and local energies must be re-committed, not only in the immediate aftermath of Orlando but for all time, to ensure that instances of hate crimes, from the unmistakable to the uncertain, are fully and timely reported to law enforcement. In Milwaukee, in the surrounding communities, and in virtually every region of our state, we benefit from an educated, sensitive, responsive, and professional cadre of police officers and leaders who genuinely “get this” — that is, that physical violence visited on our residents and motivated by actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability is in violation of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by the President in October of 2009. The civil rights units of the Federal Bureau of Investigation throughout Wisconsin and every other state are not only committed to investigate hate crimes and to present the results of those inquiries for possible prosecution but are also commissioned to record, maintain, track, and report on hate crimes in all categories of offense so that law enforcement resources may be appropriately allocated and, arguably just as important, to ensure that the Congress and all United States citizens appreciate the nature, the frequency, the location, and the severity of the conduct — along with the remedial actions of law enforcement to it.

The hate crime committed against the patrons of the Pulse night club on June 12 now takes its rightful but hideous place in those annals of law enforcement, of Congressional reporting, and, most significantly, of the wounds to our nation’s spirit and enduring history. In abiding honor and vested memory of those who died, those who were injured, and those who will similarly suffer throughout their lives from the terror of that early morning, all residents of Wisconsin and of our country—not only members of our LGBT family — are suitably prompted to identity perceived hate crimes, to facilitate timely communications to first responders, to support victims and witnesses in difficult but critical investigations, and to educate fellow citizens on their obligations under the law and on the delivery of justice and resurrection to survivors of hate.

As we observe and celebrate the 240th year of our glorious American nation, we also pause in contemplative acknowledgment that our history includes pains and troubles — times and places, indeed, where our hearts have suffered in a thousand and diverse ways. But it is from the hornbooks of our hearts, from the terrible experiences of this month and many others, that we grow in our intelligence, that we take our true identity, and that we reveal our soul in peace, in fellowship, and in aspiration.

James L. Santelle is the immediate past presidentially-appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in which capacity he also served on the Civil Rights component of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. He has been a regular supporter of area LGBT organizations, including Fair Wisconsin, Diverse & Resilient, the Cream City Foundation, and the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.

 

Homo-hatred a lethal illness

The Orlando massacre would be shocking at any time, but it was especially hurtful at the beginning of LGBT Pride Month.

Orlando was completing a week of gay events and PrideFest had opened to warm weather and happy crowds along Milwaukee’s lakefront.

The color and camaraderie of annual Pride events are legendary.

Young parents with babies in strollers mix with bikers, leather men and drag queens. Old married couples, ripped guys, shy newbies, lesbians, merchants, politicos and clergy all sport rainbow-colored accoutrements. There is much open affection — handholding and kissing — and a gentle acceptance of others’ playful and sometimes outrageous personal styles.

Spending a day drinking in all that diversity and positive energy only to learn the next day that someone has mowed down your people was terribly painful.

Through decades of covering hate crimes in Milwaukee, I’ve often thought about the vulnerability of our LGBT community. Attacks on gay and transgender individuals are often unusually vicious. The crimes are committed by perpetrators with deep animus toward the victims’ sexual variance. They can involve serious injuries and, in the case of murder, show evidence of “overkill.”

That appears to be the case with Omar Mateen, who sprayed gunfire through the crowded Pulse nightclub in the early hours of June 12. His father said Mateen had been enraged by the sight of two men showing affection toward each other in public just weeks before the attack. Mateen was outraged that his 3-year-old son witnessed the scene.

Given that the boy’s father is now a reviled mass murderer, Mateen’s son is going to have a lot more to deal with than witnessing a fleeting PDA.

As if we didn’t know before, Mateen’s rage proves that homo-hatred is a lethal mental illness. Purveyed by religious fanatics who cling to poisonous, centuries-old texts, homo-hatred leads some parents to reject their children and to justify murder in the name of God.

If nail-biting and internet addiction are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, why not the far more damaging scourge of homo-hatred?

The subject of Mateen’s anti-gay animus has become secondary to the search for his connection to jihadi groups. It’s likely to be submerged in a new debate about the easy availability of assault rifles. But no LGBT people will ever forget what happened in Orlando and why.

News coverage was generally sensitive and informative. The world got to see very clearly that the gay victims and survivors of Orlando have devoted families and friends. There were long lines to donate blood and many offers of assistance from police and medical agencies nationwide.

Some media outlets published timelines of hate incidents that the LGBT community has endured over the decades. The press interviewed LGBT leaders and previewed upcoming Pride events around the country, with special attention to security concerns.

Identifying would-be gunmen and preventing terrorist attacks is going to be a continual challenge in our open society. In this presidential election year, the debate is likely to be fierce. Get involved and let candidates know what you think.

Meanwhile, we can honor the dead in Orlando and stand up to the haters by continuing to observe Pride month. We’re gay and proud and American, and we’re not going back to the closet.

Before Orlando: A look at violence targeting LGBT venues

At least 50 people were killed and at least 53 were wounded at the Pulse gay nightclub June 12 in Orlando, Florida. The shooter died during a shootout with SWAT team members. A look at prior incidents of violence at LGBT venues since 1973.

• Dec. 31, 2013: About 750 people were celebrating New Year’s Eve at a popular gay nightclub in Seattle when Musab Mohammed Masmari poured gasoline on a carpeted stairway and set it ablaze. No one was injured. Masmari was arrested a month later as he prepared to leave the country. He apologized in a statement to the court and said he didn’t remember his actions because he blacked out after drinking a bottle of cheap whiskey. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for arson.

• March 1, 2009: Three men threw rocks into a gay bar in Galveston, Texas, injuring two male patrons. Brothers Lawrence Lewis III, 20 and Lawrneil Lewis, 18, along with their cousin Sam Gray, 17, were charged with a hate crime for throwing the rocks, which were apparently being used as doorstops, into Robert’s Lafitte bar.

• Sept 22, 2000: Ronald Gay walked into the Backstreet Cafe, a gay bar in Roanoke, Virginia, and opened fire, killing one man and wounding six other patrons, two of them seriously. Gay, a 55-year-old drifter who told police he was upset over the slang connotation of his last name, pleaded guilty to the murder of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet and was sentenced to four life terms.

• Feb. 21, 1997: A nail-laden device exploded in a back room of the Otherside Lounge, a nightclub in Atlanta with a mostly gay and lesbian clientele. The lounge was crowded with about 150 people when the device went off on a rear patio. Five people were wounded. Eric Rudolph was later convicted for the bombing as well as bombings at Centennial Olympic Park and abortion clinics in suburban Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama. The 1996 Olympics bombing killed one person and wounded 111, and the Birmingham bombing killed a police officer and maimed a nurse. Rudolph is serving four life sentences in federal prison.

– June 24, 1973: The Upstairs Lounge fire in New Orleans’ French Quarter killed 32 people. Most of those killed were trapped by burglar bars on three front windows. A survivor said he believed someone dashed an inflammable liquid on the wooden stairway to the crowded second-floor lounge and lit it. The arsonist was never caught.

Not included here are the many acts of violence targeting LGBT individuals.

Pro-Palestinian campaign divides Jewish community

As Jewish college students headed home to celebrate Passover with their families on April 21, there was one topic on many of their minds with the potential to disrupt the joyous mood around their Seder tables: the BDS movement.

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions — against Israel. It’s a growing movement on college campuses, where students are stepping up protests of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, as well as the nation’s continued occupation of land that BDS supporters say belongs to Palestinians.

BDS as proxy

The BDS movement — although focused primarily on human rights — has become a proxy for disagreements over a much wider and longer-standing set of issues. As such, the movement has pitted Jews against Jews, pro-Israelis versus anti-Israelis, and pro-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supporters versus Netanyahu critics. It’s also created rifts in the progressive movement, which attracts Jewish followers because of the faith’s culture of tolerance and identification with the underdog.

Reform Judaism — the largest branch of Judaism — was the first major religious denomination to support same-sex marriage, and Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that recognizes same-sex marriages. It also is the most progressive nation in the region by far. Arab countries stone adulterers to death, throw gays off skyscrapers to their deaths and some do not allow women to drive or even show their faces.

Given the human rights abuses of other countries in the region, a lot of Jews believe Israel is singled out due to anti-Semitism, and they’re blaming the BDS movement for anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. While the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks and fights anti-Semitic hate crimes, said it hasn’t seen a dramatic rise in such crimes on campuses, a spokesman said, “The BDS movement does fuel anti-Semitism. We have some serious concerns about BDS.”

He noted that anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States routinely exceed anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said part of the problem she has with BDS is that “when we talk about Israel being grounded on injustice, we’re applying different standards to Israel than every other nation.”

The University of California-Davis held a hearing last month to consider divesting university holdings from companies that do business with Israel. After the meeting, the school’s Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi had its house defaced with swastikas. Fraternity leaders said they believed they had been targeted over their support for Israel. However, the coalition of student groups that supported divestment condemned the vandalism.

Fighting anti-Semitism on campus

The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a report last year titled “Anti-Semitism on Campus: A clear–and-present danger.” The report called the growing rate of anti-Semitism on campuses “alarming” and “getting worse.” It referenced “grim examples of Jewish students being blocked from participation in student government and being harassed.”

Last month, the University of California’s Board of Regents became the first to adopt a “Principles Against Intolerance” policy in response to a series of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents — including swastikas found on Jewish fraternities and the attempted exclusion of a student government candidate because of her Jewish faith.

The document, which took months to prepare due to the charged political environment, states, “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

But to many Jews, especially older ones, anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic. “The well-being of Israel is really a critical part of what it means to be a Jew today,” said Rabbi Mendel Matusof, director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at UW-Madison.

The reality is that living in peace in the Middle East is impossible in these times, said Matusof. As WiG was preparing this story, the terrorist bombing of a bus in Jerusalem injured 21 people, two of them critically. And, the same day, an Israeli military court charged a soldier with manslaughter after he was caught on video by an Israeli human rights group fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker.

“Israel doesn’t live in a friendly neighborhood,” Matusof said.

“What frustrates me now is the way we talk about Israel these days in America,” Kahn said. “We eliminate complexity. The problem is that real life is more complex than these really simple reductive narratives that people are drawing. They’re drawing cartoon characters. There’s good on one side and bad on the other. I would challenge people to find a place in their heart to care about Palestinians and Israeli Jews at the same time.”

While Kahn doesn’t believe the BDS movement is inherently anti-Semitic, she believes it’s “a magnet for people who hold Jews in great disdain.”

Jews against Israel

Most Jews, especially older ones, want a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. But many who support the BDS movement, including members of groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace, want Jews to abdicate their control of Israel. They reject the notion of Zionism, which guarantees a Jewish state in perpetuity.

“Anti-Zionism, non-Zionism is more common in Jewish history than Zionism,” said Rachel Ida Buff, faculty adviser to a recently formed JVP chapter on the UW-Milwaukee campus.

JVP is a pro-Palestinian campus group whose supporters believe the conditions that led to the creation of a Jewish state no longer exist and do not justify what JVP national media coordinator Naomi Dann called a situation that “privileges Jews at the expense of Palestinian lives.”

“The impact of Zionism … has been wide-scale displacement, dispossession of millions of Palestinians and nearly 50 years of a brutal military occupation,” Dann wrote to WiG in an email. She said her group values the fundamental equality of all people and cannot support Zionism because it devalues Palestinian lives.”

“This is a generational issue that I think is reaching the fever pitch that it is because the Zionists are beginning to be scared of it,” Buff said.

Buff said there’s a kind of McCarthyism in the Jewish community that stigmatizes and disavows Jews who speak out against Israeli military and social atrocities, as she does.

She said she’s stepped on the equivalent of a “third rail.” But she said she will not be silenced for her beliefs.

“It is up to me to decide what my government does with its tax dollars,” she said. “Stop arming the occupation. The Zionists are being played by Netanyahu. American Jews are a little bit mistaken if they think the State Department is supportive of Jews. Israel is on the brink of (becoming) a pariah state. American geopolitical involvement is not going to make the world safe for Jews.”

Progressive roots

The BDS movement in the United States is emerging “from the heart of the American left,” according to Cary Nelson, a retired English professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He’s co-editor of the book, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.

BDS is the current cause célèbre of the left, and its presence can be seen at rallies and protests for virtually every grievance on the progressive agenda. Advocates for Palestinians have linked divestment to social justice movements against racism, militarization, globalization and other issues that are important to many college students.

Campus divestment advocates often come to student government hearings with the backing of student associations for blacks, South Asians, Mexican-Americans, gays and others. Last year, anti-Israeli protesters unraveled a sign several yards long behind speakers at a Black Lives Matter rally in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park. The rally was intended to draw attention to the April 14, 2014, police shooting of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man.

The BDS sign was by far the largest at the rally. Jody Hirsh, a world-renown Jewish educator and WiG contributor who attended the rally, left because of it.

“I went to the rally because I really feel (police shootings) are an American problem that needs to be dealt with and the first thing I saw was a sign that said, “Milwaukee, Ferguson, Palestine. Resistance to occupation is heroism,’” he said.

“I was so upset, because it’s not the same thing at all,” he continued. “I felt that this very important American issue was hijacked by something different and I felt that I couldn’t participate in the rally.”

Nevertheless, the BDS movement is growing on the backs of other issues.

“Drawing these connections cross-struggle has been huge for our movement,” said Tory Smith, a 2012 Earlham College graduate and member of National Students for Justice in Palestine.

UW students’ experience

While BDS activism is taking a toll on Jewish life on some campuses, that’s not happening on campuses in Wisconsin, multiple sources told WiG.

At UW-Madison, which reportedly has the nation’s eighth largest number of Jewish students — a statistic that Matusof questions — BDS is a very visible movement. Nonetheless, Jewish life on campus is thriving.

UW-Madison offers a major in Jewish Studies and it has a number of active Jewish organizations, including fraternities and sororities.

UW-Milwaukee has a small Jewish population of around 200, said Marc Cohen, interim executive director of Hillel Milwaukee. Hillel International supports Jewish life on campuses throughout the world. Cohen described Hillel in Milwaukee as a kind of “Switzerland,” where pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians can talk freely and openly in a neutral, non-threatening environment.

Hilary Miller, a Milwaukeean enrolled in Jewish Studies at UW-Madison, contrasts the Wisconsin experience with that at other schools. She has attended conferences at UC-Berkeley and UC-Irvine, and she’s felt the tension on those campuses. There, she said, some people in the BDS movement are “absolutely using this as a wedge against Jews. … Sometimes it reminds me of what I’ve studied about anti-Jewish propaganda in Nazi Germany.”

Indeed, critics of Israel often complain that Jews have all the power, money and influence in the region. The re-emergence of what sounds similar to the myth of Jewish wealth and secret control of society frightens older Jews, because it echoes Nazi propaganda.

But Miller said she’s encountered nothing like that sort of extremism at UW-Madison, which she described as a very comfortable environment for Jews. In fact, she’s highly engaged in Jewish activities.

Miller founded the independent group Student Alliance for Israel, which she said is apolitical and promotes understanding of Israel’s traditions and culture. She attends pro-Palestinian events and rallies because she “wants to understand the other side,” she said.

Miller identifies politically with progressives, but she feels almost apologetic at times in progressive circles about her involvement in Jewish activities. She knows Jewish students who are afraid to put such involvements on their resumes out of fear it might affect their job prospects, she said.

And, based on what she witnessed in California, she’s afraid the situation on campus could deteriorate if BDS becomes a stronger force at UW–Madison.

Ongoing internal conflict

There will always be Jews who say that precisely because of their history of persecution, Israel should be more compassionate.

But Jews such as Matusof and Kahn are alarmed “that the Jewish community is not seen anymore as a minority deserving of the same sensitivities that the progressive community really holds strong,” Matusof said. “Jews in America,” he added, “are seen as a white privileged class, while we still are a minority and there still is discrimination.”

At any rate, analyzing and arguing are essential elements in Jewish theology and culture. There’s an old joke that goes, “If you ask 10 Jews for advice, you’ll get 11 opinions.”

The number is probably higher.

Was the Planned Parenthood shooting an act of political terrorism?

The man accused of killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic brought several guns, ammunition and propane tanks that officials say he assembled around a car.

For hours, he holed up inside the clinic, unleashing a fusillade that wounded nine people and sent shoppers scattering inside surrounding buildings during a standoff with police.

To some in the community, the attack resembled an act of domestic terrorism, sparking a debate over what to call Robert Lewis Dear’s rampage even before he was taken into custody.

But the legal system may not resolve that question.

Dear faces state charges of first-degree murder, and the federal criminal code has no specific, catchall charge for acts of domestic terrorism. That means federal prosecutors pursuing charges for ideologically motivated violence often turn to other statutes — such as those for firearms, explosives, hate crimes or murder — to cover offenses that could arguably be labeled as terror. The punishment may be the same, but generally without the branding more often associated with international terrorism.

“There has long been some interest in defining acts of domestic terrorism as terrorism. It’s become quite a partisan issue,” said William Yeomans, a former high-ranking official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

But given the number of laws already available to federal prosecutors, he added, “Whether it’s domestic terrorism or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

Police have not yet detailed a motive in the killings of one police officer and two civilians at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, though a law enforcement official said Dear said “no more baby parts” during rambling comments after his arrest.

Dear used a rifle in the shooting and also brought other firearms and ammunition, according to an official familiar with the case who was not authorized to talk publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has called the killings a “form of terrorism,” and Planned Parenthood has said witnesses believe the gunman was motivated by opposition to abortion. But Dear also has been described by acquaintances as a loner who once gave neighbors anti-Obama literature but never any indication he would target a clinic.

A coalition of advocacy groups is calling on the Justice Department, which is reviewing the case, to investigate violence against abortion clinics as domestic terrorism. Federal authorities have the option of filing their own charges but haven’t yet said whether they will do so. Among the federal government’s potential avenues is a 1994 law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to injure or intimidate abortion clinic patients and employees.

Federal law defines domestic terrorism as dangerous acts that take place inside the U.S. that are intended to intimidate the public or coerce government policy or conduct — a description meant to encompass, among others, anti-government anarchists, white supremacists and animal-rights activists.

But without one all-encompassing statute, the actual charges can vary.

In the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, for instance, Timothy McVeigh faced charges including conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, malicious destruction of federal property and the murders of law enforcement officials. A Florida man in 2012 was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of arson and damaging a reproductive health facility after firebombing an abortion clinic.

While the Justice Department consistently charges individuals who look to join organizations like the Islamic State with providing material support for a foreign terror organization, there’s no comparable statute for prosecuting domestic crimes motivated by extremist ideologies and no catchall “domestic terrorism” charge or offense in the federal criminal code.

That lack of clarity can make it hard to count the number of domestic terror prosecutions, or differentiate that crime from other illegal activity, according to a 2013 Congressional Research Service report.

“Individuals considered to be domestic terrorists by federal law enforcement may be charged under nonterrorism statutes, making it difficult to grasp from the public record exactly how extensive this threat is,” the report said.

The issue arose in July when the Justice Department brought federal hate crime charges against Dylann Roof in the massacre a month earlier at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Asked at a news conference about the absence of domestic terrorism charges, Attorney General Loretta Lynch replied, “Well, as you know, there is no specific domestic terrorism statute.” But she did describe hate crimes as “the original domestic terrorism.”

The Justice Department in the last year has paid added public attention to the domestic terrorism threat. Last year, it revived a domestic terrorism executive committee that had fallen into disuse after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as the government shifted focus to international terrorism. More recently, officials appointed a domestic terrorism counsel to coordinate the flow of information.

Heidi Beirich, director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Dear “should be charged with crimes that take him away forever” and that the federal government has many tools to do just that.

But, she added, “I think it’s very important for the government to call a terrorist, a terrorist. I think a reluctance to do that is a terrible thing.”

Gay couples celebrate civil unions for first time in Chile

Dozens of same-sex couples in Chile began celebrating civil unions earlier this week, taking advantage of a new law that gay advocates say is a clear sign of change in a country long regarded as one of Latin America’s most socially conservative.

The civil union law was debated in Congress for over a decade until it was passed and signed into law by the president in April. As it went into effect, couples began arriving at civil registry offices early to officially validate their unions.

“It was beautiful. It was such a nice ceremony. It was all very emotional. Our families were here, everyone was shedding tears,” Virginia Gomez told reporters after she registered her union with her partner, Roxana Ortiz.

“History changes today,” Ortiz said, showing the blue passport-like document that validates their union. The couple had married in Spain but their union was not recognized in Chile. “Now we can make decisions together like a couple. We’re thrilled.”

Civil union gives same-sex and unmarried couples many of the rights granted to married couples. Partners can inherit each other’s property, join one another’s health plans and receive pension benefits. They have been recognized in several South American countries, though only Argentina and Uruguay allow formal gay marriage. Gay advocates in Chile are celebrating the right to same-sex civil unions as a step toward full rights.

“The civil union doesn’t end our struggle. We’re demanding same-sex marriage. We’re going to request for the measures stuck in congress to be revived,” said Rolando Jimenez, president of the Gay Liberation and Integration Movement.

Chile decriminalized gay sex in 1999 and it was one of the last countries in the world to legalize divorce, in 2004.

The killing of a gay man in 2012 set off a national debate that prompted Congress to pass a hate crimes law.

Local anti-Semitic incidents reach 20-year high

Just days after the Milwaukee Jewish Federation reported a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents in southeast Wisconsin last year, a massive spree of vandalism in Madison included the spray-painting of property with anti-Semitic, Ku Klux Klan and Confederate imagery.

Thirty-nine acts of vandalism on Madison’s west side were reported to police during the Jewish Sabbath beginning after dark on Friday, Feb. 13, and continuing into Saturday, Feb. 14. Most of the incidents involved property damage such as smashed windshields and mailboxes, as well as spray-painted obscenities. But five were anti-Semitic or racist in nature, according to Dina Weinbach, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Madison.

A car belonging to federation president Jim Stein was vandalized during the rampage and an anti-Jewish slur was spray-painted on a garage door across the street from his home.

There also were swastikas painted on a garage door and a driveway in different neighborhoods. The letters KKK were spray-painted on the side of a house.

Attending the federation’s board meeting on Feb. 17, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval described a handful of the incidents as “hateful,” but said they do not necessarily qualify for hate-crime enhancements under Wisconsin law, according to Greg Steinberger, who attended the meeting. Steinberger is executive director of Hillel at the UW-Madison, which serves a community of 5,000 Jewish students. 

In May 2014, UW-Madison students rejected a resolution calling for the university to divest from Israeli companies. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a growing trend among far-left activists on campuses throughout the world, and it is becoming increasingly laced with anti-Semitism. Many proponents of the BDS movement perpetuate standard anti-Semitic myths, such as Jewish control of the media, banking and entertainment industries.

Steinberger was able to point to UW-Madison’s rejection of BDS to reassure concerned Jewish alumni and parents of Jewish students who called him after learning about the vandalism spree, he said. Many sought reassurance that Madison is a safe place for Jews. 

“I’ve been here for 15 years, and I’ve always felt Wisconsin is a particularly welcoming and hospitable campus,” Steinberger said.

Weinbach said she also received calls following the vandalism from people who were fearful, but added that she “received a lot of calls from people outside the Jewish community to show their support and their disappointment that this could happen.

“If one group is targeted, everyone is affected, and we all have to stand together to condemn acts of hatred,” she said.

“The Madison and Milwaukee Jewish communities are working closely with law enforcement officials, as they investigate these crimes,” the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation said in a statement. “We are thankful for their diligence and professionalism.”

But, the statement continued, “Problems of bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism cannot, however, be solved solely by law enforcement. Solutions must take place at all levels of a community, including elected officials, media professionals, co-workers and neighbors. Hateful speech is often the precursor to vandalism, harassment and violence.”

The Jewish community in southeastern Wisconsin, like Jewish communities across the globe, has been on edge following the recent surge in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, especially in France. The Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s audit of anti-Semitic incidents in southeastern Wisconsin during 2014 shows that local fears are well-founded: There were twice as many verified incidents in 2014 than were reported in any single year in the last two decades. 

Experts say that such audits represent only the tip of the iceberg, as most incidents go unreported. The federation corroborates and reviews each incident before it’s officially recorded. The federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council works collaboratively with schools, law enforcement and national agencies to address the incidents as well as the underlying contributing conditions.

Among the most common expressions of anti-Semitism recorded in the report were a record number of swastikas on public and private property. One possible cause for the alarming increase is the exploitation of anger toward Israel over ongoing hostilities with Palestine.

“We must recognize that sometimes such criticism of the state of Israel — or activism against its legitimacy — is a cloak for age-old Jew hatred,” said JCRC director Elana Kahn-Oren in a statement.

In recent years, the JCRC has focused increasingly on anti-Semitic harassment and verbal expressions among middle and high school students, which often takes the form of jokes, pranks, teasing and bullying.

“Kids hear it form their parents and take it out on their classmates,” Kahn-Oren told WiG. “They don’t have the filter their parents do. We should educate Jewish teens to recognize anti-Semitism when they hear it, understand what it means, understand the role of speech in creating hateful environments and help (teens) develop a kind of a tool box of ways to respond to things in ways that don’t cost them all their social capital.”

After a recent anti-Semitic incident at a suburban Milwaukee school — an incident that wasn’t included in the audit — the JCRC brought in a young person from the Anti-Defense League to facilitate a program for teens. Kahn-Oren said her group sponsored a similar program last year.

“They talk about the pyramid of hate and that you start with speech and move up through vandalism and threats to discrimination,” she said. “It gets young people talking about what they hear and how they respond to it and how they could have responded to it. So much (anti-Semitism) comes in the form of jokes. So how can you sort of appropriately take things out of the conversation?”

Kahn-Oren says that peer pressure is often a very effective way of calling out a person who’s using hateful language. 

“Jews will always speak up about anti-Semitism, but what we really need is others to also denounce bigoted language — against anybody,” Kahn-Oren said. “To me that’s really the call to action from this audit. We need to create a culture where we have friends and allies who stand up for each other.”

At home and abroad, rising tensions over Israel’s Gaza incursion spark acts of hate

Last month Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke asked for the public’s help in monitoring suspicious activity around religious sites. He had good reason.

“With the heightened tensions and military activity occurring in and around Israel and the Gaza strip, there is the potential that local agitators will seize upon the current climate to opportunistically attack religious sites, including synagogues, temples and mosques, and deface or vandalize them under the guise of legitimate protest,” Clarke wrote in a press release.

In Europe, and less frequently in the United States,  numerous such instances have occurred. Meanwhile, Arab World Fest returns to Milwaukee’s Summerfest Grounds on the weekend of Aug. 8–10, and the Jewish High Holidays, which routinely present heightened security challenges, begin on Sept. 24. This confluence of events raises concerns.

Adding to those concerns in Milwaukee is an unfortunate anniversary: On Aug. 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek. In other American cities, such attacks have been undertaken by racists who’ve confused Sikhs with Muslims, although there’s no evidence that’s what motivated Page. 

As WiG headed to press, Milwaukee Police Department spokesman Mark Stanmeyer said there have not been any reported crimes in the city related to the conflict in Gaza. But he said law enforcement authorities throughout the area remain vigilant.

“The Milwaukee Police Department, through its Southeastern Wisconsin Threat Analysis Center, works with federal partners to assess potential threats to special events,” Stanmeyer said via email. “I’m not aware of any planned increase in Milwaukee Police resources as a result of recent events.”

Vicious verbal attacks on both Jews and Muslims have spiked recently on local social media pages. “It’s the usual heartbreaking, hateful drivel” about Jews “running the media, controlling people, using power for deleterious ends, etc.,” said Elana Kahn-Oren, director of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council. “Thank goodness we’ve not experienced vandalism or physical attacks like other communities, including Chicago.”

In Chicago, anti-Semitic leaflets were left on cars in a North Side Jewish neighborhood on July 20. In Miami, a synagogue was vandalized with anti-Semitic slurs and cars owned by Jews have been egged. Vandals in Philadelphia spray-painted hate symbols on a local synagogue. 

In recent weeks, many Madison and Milwaukee-area Jewish congregations have held services and rallies to show solidarity with Israel. On July 27, a rally at Milwaukee’s Congregation Shalom drew 800 pro-Israel demonstrators and a group of about 200 counter protesters, who hurled anti-Semitic epithets at ralliers, according to the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. Protesters called the supporters of Israel “animals,” according to Kahn-Oren and others. They chanted, “Hey, Yid go home,” and, “Jews and Nazis are the same, the only difference is the name!”

Pro-Palestinian sympathizers have staged protests across the state as well, including in Appleton, Racine, Madison and Milwaukee. Participants have called on Israel to end its military incursion into Gaza, which has killed more than 1,000, including many children. Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian op-eds have flooded Wisconsin newspapers.

Like the local Jewish community, Milwaukee’s Arab community also have received taunts and insults, particularly as worshippers entered and exited area mosques during the holy month of Ramadan, which ended on July 28, said Othman Atta, executive director of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee.

“We’ve had a few eggs thrown at us and people calling (by phone) and shouting profanities and so forth, but that’s been the extent of it so far,” Atta said. “There hasn’t been any kind of direct attempt to attack the mosques.”

Atta said the local Arab-American community, composed largely of people of Palestinian descent, maintains tight security around mosques and other Muslim gathering places. “We’re very careful about who has access to the center, especially during times when we have a lot of attendees,” he added.

Milwaukee’s Muslims and Jews

Muslims began to establish roots in Milwaukee during the 1950s, and today the community is about 15,000 strong, according to the most recent estimates. Wisconsin is home to 23 mosques and Islamic centers.

Suspicions toward Muslims remain strong in Wisconsin, just as they have across the nation since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Late in 2007, Milwaukee’s first Arab-American police officer sued the city on charges he was taunted and discriminated against due to anger over 9/11. Public backlash against the opening of an Islamic center in Sheboygan County in 2010 exemplified anti-Muslim sentiment. 

The Jewish community has a much longer history in Wisconsin, and several high-profile Jews have lived in the state. Among them was Golda Meir, a Ukrainian refugee who immigrated to Milwaukee, where she taught school before going on to become Israel’s fourth prime minister.

The Jewish Community Study of Greater Milwaukee 2011 found that the Jewish population of the area is about 30,000 people, including a large Russian-Jewish community on the city’s North Side. But due to growth in interfaith marriages and the backlash toward religion in general among young people, Wisconsin’s Jewish community is struggling to maintain its size and identity. Many people believe the community is shrinking.

In general, Jews and Muslims in America have been cautiously supportive of one another. As minority religious groups in a politically Christian nation, they have worked together on shared interests involving religious freedom, civil rights and immigration policy.

Relations between the two communities, however, have become increasingly strained due to the global rise of Islamic terrorism and Israel’s political turn to the hard right, which resulted in territorial aggression toward Palestinian lands and the apartheid-style treatment of Palestinians living in Israel. Interfaith programs in Wisconsin and elsewhere have become strained, according to those involved.

Backlash

Around the nation and the world, the military campaign underway in Gaza has provoked a much stronger backlash than it has here in Wisconsin. In the United States, that backlash has primarily targeted Arab-Americans, while in Europe it has focused on Jews.

“The big backlash is not happening here, it’s happening in Europe, which we see every time there is trouble between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Anti-Semitism has been firmly entrenched for centuries in European societies. While many progressive Europeans oppose Israel’s treatment of Palestinians on the grounds of social injustice, many others use it as cover for anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League released a survey this year that found 34 percent of eastern Europeans and 24 of western Europeans hold anti-Semitic views. 

People in the U.S. view Israel more favorably. In the post-9/11 world, the Jewish nation is a strategic military ally in a region that’s otherwise hostile to American interests. In addition, evangelical Christians believe the second coming of Jesus is dependent on Jewish control of the Holy Land — and evangelism is far more widely embraced by Americans than Europeans.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted between July 18 and 20 found 57 percent support among Americans for Israel’s actions in Gaza. 

Europeans “don’t have the same tradition of supporting Israel that we do,” Andrew Kohut, founding director of the Pew Research Center, told The New York Times. “That area of the world is closer to them, and they get more exposure to Arabs and Muslims, and are more open to the Palestinian point of view.”

Anti-Semitic attacks in Europe have been rising precipitously for the past two decades. Since the Gaza conflict began, scores of European Jews have been attacked, synagogues have been firebombed, Jewish businesses, homes and neighborhoods have been vandalized and numerous demonstrations have called for “Death to the Jews,” despite the fact that a large proportion of Jews, even Israeli Jews, condemn what is occurring in Gaza. Israeli Jews have staged several large protests in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square condemning the attack on Gaza, and dozens of the protesters have been arrested.

The anti-Semitic backlash over Gaza has been the worst in France, which, in addition to its anti-Semitic tradition, also has Europe’s largest population of Muslim and Arab immigrants. But a July 29 Newsweek cover story titled “Exodus: Why Europe’s Jews Are Fleeing Once Again” reported that even Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city, recorded 60 anti-Semitic incidents from 2010 to 2012, including the bombing of the local Jewish community center.

Although Malmö’s mayor blamed the acts on Zionism rather than anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, the former U.S. special envoy for combating anti-Semitism, told Newsweek that the city exemplifies the “new anti-Semitism,” which uses anti-Zionism (opposition to Israel’s existence) as a disguise for hatred of Jews. (Rosenthal is currently president and CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, but she was unavailable for comment during the week that WiG prepared this story.)

For many Jews, the escalating anti-Semitic attacks in Europe are reminiscent of the 1930s, when most of the Jews who failed to flee wound up in Nazi gas chambers. “At what point do the Jews of America and the Jews of Israel tell the Jews of Europe that it might be time to get out?” American-Jewish journalist Jeffrey Goldberg asks in the Newsweek article. 

Demystifying Islam

In America, it’s the Arab community that faces the greatest threat of a widespread backlash over Gaza. So far, violence toward Arabs hasn’t resulted in serious injuries or deaths.  But Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, described incidents such as “an  old guy getting pelted with eggs coming out of a mosque in New York” as violent attacks.

There’s certainly a large enough reservoir of hatred to fuel violence toward Muslims. Hooper and his organization regularly receive emails that make Nazi propaganda read like Hallmark cards in comparison. Hooper forwarded WiG an email he received in which the writer called for the slaughter of Muslim babies in the most brutal terms possible.

Hooper said that CAIR, which many consider a radical organization, encourages open houses at mosques and cultural events to demystify Islam and “decrease suspicion (caused by) lack of knowledge.”

Atta said that’s exactly what Arab World Fest aims to accomplish. “People go to partake in the food, customs and music,” he said. “The people who go there are pretty open-minded, and they’re there because they’re willing to learn. It’s a social time. 

“There’s a good mix of people that come in. The people that go there, they go and enjoy themselves. It’s not political or anything of that sort. It’s more entertainment in nature. There are cultural and historic dimensions, but most people go for the food and the marketplace.”

Security at the Summerfest grounds is technologically advanced and reliable, Atta adds, so no one should hesitate about attending Arab World Fest, despite what’s happening elsewhere in the world.

Meanwhile, Clarke hopes to deter small acts of hate-motivated vandalism that could lead to escalated violence.

“Nationwide, the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ campaign has proven to be a simple and effective program to raise public awareness in helping to deter and report suspicious activity to local law enforcement authorities,” Clarke said in his press release. “Nowhere is this concept more applicable than in safeguarding our fellow citizens’ houses of assembly and worship.

“Any citizens observing suspicious activity in relation to these sites, and particularly activities occurring during off-worship times or under cover of darkness that may presage acts of vandalism, are asked to contact their local municipality’s law enforcement immediately.”
To report suspicious activity, call 414-278-4788. 

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Fraternity shuts Ole Miss chapter after noose-tying

A national fraternity group has closed its University of Mississippi chapter after three members were accused of tying a noose around the neck of a statue of the first black student to enroll in the Southern college that was all-white at the time.

The university announced this week that the national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon, based in Richmond, Va., had closed its Ole Miss chapter.

Besides the noose, someone draped a pre-2003 Georgia state flag with a Confederate battle emblem in its design on the face of the James Meredith statue in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 16. Meredith’s enrollment in 1962 set off a violent attack by anti-integration protesters on federal authorities, leaving two people dead and scores injured.

The names of the three students from Georgia haven’t been released. They were kicked out of the chapter, which itself had been suspended pending the review.

Ole Miss spokesman Tom Eppes said university disciplinary proceedings against the three students are ongoing. He also said the FBI is still investigating.

The Lafayette County district attorney has said state charges won’t be brought because no state laws were broken. Mississippi’s hate crime law requires an underlying crime for those additional charges. Because the statute itself wasn’t marred or broken, prosecutors say typical vandalism charges don’t apply.

After the noose was found, the university asked the national headquarters to review the 130-member chapter, which had been on campus since 1987.

“The closure is not a result of what happened with the Meredith statue, but the Meredith statue precipitated the intensive review of how they conduct business,” Blanton said.

Ole Miss and fraternity officials said they found a pattern of underage drinking and hazing which broke both university and Sigma Phi Epsilon rules. University officials said the national office had previously intervened in 2010 to fix similar problems.

“We are disappointed that a pattern of bad behavior and serious, inexcusable hazing occurred within the chapter,” Dean of Students Sparky Reardon said in a statement. “Periodic reports from and meetings with local alumni and national headquarters led us to believe that the chapter was improving.”

Sigma Phi Epsilon CEO Brian Warren said the group had “no choice” but to close the unit.

“Though it’s always painful to close a chapter, these students’ actions clearly illustrate a determination to perpetuate an experience based on risky and unconstructive behavior,” he said in a statement.

Blanton said students currently living in the Sigma Phi Epsilon house on campus would be allowed to stay and eat meals there through the end of the semester, but would not be allowed to have any social activities. After that, he said the university, which owns the land under the house, and the fraternity would discuss uses for the structure.

Sigma Phi officials said they would discuss a return to campus with the university. It’s not clear how long that might take. Blanton said that several years ago, the university did not reinstate the closed chapter of another fraternity until all the members at the time of the closure had graduated.

Administrators have fought against the university’s Old South image, banning Confederate battle flags from football games in 2003 and ditching its Colonel Reb mascot for a black bear in 2010.

But those efforts have been undermined by unflattering incidents, such as an election night disturbance in November 2012 when some students used racial slurs and profanity to protest President Barack Obama’s re-election, or an October 2013 performance of “The Laramie Project” where football players and other students used gay slurs to heckle the play about the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepherd, who was gay.