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USA Senate Leader Steinberg Urges Sikh Solidarity Day (slide Show)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
A top California lawmaker expressed outrage Sunday over the "cowardly and despicable" shootings of two Sikh men on an afternoon stroll and asked that a day be chosen for the community to demonstrate solidarity.

"Let us pick a day together when we are all Sikh Americans, we are all Californians and we all stand together," state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said before several hundred members of the Sikh Temple of Sacramento in West Sacramento.

"Any attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," the Sacramento Democrat said. He suggested that on a chosen day – which was quickly decided as April 13 – civic leaders and community members could wear either a man's turban or a woman's Punjabi suit with chunni, or headwear, as a symbol of support.

Darshan S. Mundy, who said he had discussed the idea with Steinberg before he made the suggestion, expressed gratitude on behalf of the Sikh community.

"We appreciate that Darrell came forward with this idea," Mundy, a Sikh civil rights leader, said in an interview. "We hope that this is a step toward understanding of the community and the religion."

Surinder Singh, 65, was shot to death March 4 as he strolled along a sidewalk in Elk Grove with his friend, Gurmej Atwal, 78. Both men were wearing dastars – turbans – representing their spirituality.

There have been no arrests in the case. But Elk Grove police said witnesses described a 1999 to 2003 beige or tan Ford F-150 pickup truck in the area of the shooting.

The reward, with contributions from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities as well as elsewhere, now exceeds $43,000.

More than 500 mourners honored the life of Singh at a funeral service on Saturday. On Sunday, Atwal's son, Kamaljit Atwal of Elk Grove, said his father remains in intensive care and is on a ventilator.

"It's emotionally upsetting and saddening," said the younger Atwal. But he said family members are humbled by the outpouring of support from diverse community members, and he voiced hope that whoever saw the shootings will come forward so prosecutors can do their jobs.

Other community leaders also spoke at the ceremony Sunday, including Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, who vowed that the crime "will be solved."

Other leaders, including West Sacramento City Councilman Mark Johannessen and Elk Grove Mayor Steve Detrick voiced their support, as did U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, who offered his condolences.

"This country was founded as a refuge for people fleeing religious persecution," Wagner said. He said his office and the U.S. Justice Department have a long tradition of prosecuting hate crimes.

"We are sparing no effort," Wagner said. "We are working closely with the FBI (and) the Elk Grove Police Department."

While there is no hard proof that the shootings were a hate crime, for many the conclusion is inescapable. Many Sikhs believe the men were targeted by someone who mistook them for radical Muslims.

Steinberg also said during the ceremony that the shootings appear to be a hate crime.

"Whatever the motives," he added, " it is a cowardly, despicable act."

Steinberg, who is Jewish, recalled the events of World War II, when Danish citizens from all walks of life worked in concert to prevent thousands of Jews from being sent to German-run concentration camps.

"Our community can only be safe when we stand together and we insist not just on tolerance but on acceptance," Steinberg said. "We stand with you as one."

Slide show at this link

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/14/3472884/senate-leader-steinberg-urges.html#ixzz1GbwZ5biA


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