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USA Lawmaker, D.A. Visit Sikh Temple In Oak Creek


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
State Rep. Josh Zepnick and District Attorney John Chisholm visited the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, 7512 S. Howell Ave., on Sunday to discuss public safety issues in the Sikh community.

Satwant Singh Kaleka, president of the Sikh Temple, requested the meeting after the July 4 melee in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood, according to a news release from Zepnick's office. Those incidents included the looting of at least one Sikh-owned business.

Singh Kaleka told local officials that what was seen in Riverwest has become too common at gas stations and convenience stores owned by members of the Sikh community. Many businesses and workers have been the victims of robberies and vandalism, he said.

Sikh Indians, because of religious tradition, wear turbans to cover their uncut hair and have longer beards. They are often mistaken for Muslims and have been the targets of racially-motivated crimes by anti-Muslim people and groups, as evidenced by the epithets shouted at them, according to the news release.

Chisholm and Zepnick spoke to the congregation on Sunday, expressing support of the Sikh community's concerns and pledging to work to improve safety.

"The Sikh community is a strong and positive force within Milwaukee's diverse ethnic population," Zepnick said. "It's unacceptable that they, or any law-abiding business owner, be the target of what appears to be an escalating pattern against certain businesses and segments of the population."

Zepnick, a Democrat from Milwaukee, also said he would introduce legislation that would increase penalties for crimes committed on the premises of gas stations. Oak Creek's state representative, Republican Mark Honadel, has also called for harsher penalties for perpetrators of mob-like attacks.

"My hope is that this just the beginning of an open dialogue that will ... help make our neighborhoods and streets safer," Zepnick said, "as well as ensure the safety of people working in any public-serving business."


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