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July 31, 2013 0

Remembering the Hate Crime Victims at Oak Creek – And Acting

Update — August 5, 2013: ADL has joined a coali­tion of groups urg­ing the White House to also take steps to address religious-based vio­lence and discrimination.

On August 5, 2012, six Sikh wor­ship­pers were killed, and four oth­ers wounded, by a white suprema­cist skin­head at their Gur­d­wara in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin.  The shooter then turned his gun on him­self.  Less than a week after the tragedy, US Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder. Jr.  par­tic­i­pated in a memo­r­ial ser­vice for the vic­tims, stat­ing that the crime was “an act of ter­ror­ism, an act of hatred, a hate crime.”  sikh-temple-shooting-oak-creek-anniversary

Now, one year later, we observe the anniver­sary of this tragedy, hon­or­ing the mem­ory of the vic­tims by ele­vat­ing the fight against dis­crim­i­na­tion and hate crimes – and by work­ing to ensure that all places of wor­ship will be safe.

In the after­math of the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist attacks, our nation has expe­ri­enced a dis­turb­ing num­ber of back­lash attacks against Mus­lim, Sikhs, Arabs, and South Asians.  In fact, the first bias-motivated mur­der after 9/11 was Bal­bir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas sta­tion owner in Mesa, Arizona. 

After the Oak Creek Gur­d­wara mur­ders, ADL Chicago/Upper Mid­west Regional Office Direc­tor Lon­nie Nasatir par­tic­i­pated in a pro­gram in Oak Creek with the US Attor­ney and FBI offi­cials to show sup­port for the com­mu­nity and ADL pro­fes­sion­als across the coun­try reached out to Sikh orga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide resources on how to keep their com­mu­nity insti­tu­tions safe.

ADL has been the national leader in pro­mot­ing improved hate crime data col­lec­tion by law enforce­ment author­i­ties.  Since 2008, the League has sup­ported requir­ing the FBI to col­lect and report spe­cific data on hate crimes directed against Sikhs, Arabs, and Hindus.  

The mur­ders at Oak Creek pro­vided addi­tional impe­tus to make this change.  And the issue was exam­ined and pro­moted in Sep­tem­ber 19 Sen­ate Judi­ciary Sub­com­mit­tee on the Con­sti­tu­tion, Civil Rights and Human Rights hear­ings on “Hate Crime and the Threat of Domes­tic Extrem­ism,” to which the League sub­mit­ted com­pre­hen­sive tes­ti­mony. 

Work­ing with Con­gres­sional cham­pi­ons, like Rep. Joseph Crow­ley, the League helped to coor­di­nate a coali­tion effort to urge the FBI to include these new hate crime data cat­e­gories as part of the Bureau’s annual hate crime report pre­pared under the 1990 Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics Act.   In May, an FBI Advi­sory Pol­icy Board rec­om­mended that the Bureau take this action.  

As we com­mem­o­rate the first anniver­sary of the tragedy at Oak Creek, we can take some solace in know­ing that our com­mu­ni­ties have done some­thing pos­i­tive to address that hor­rific inci­dent.  Col­lect­ing spe­cific data on hate crimes directed against indi­vid­u­als will increase pub­lic aware­ness, encour­age vic­tims to report these crimes, and expand exist­ing engage­ment and rela­tion­ships between law enforce­ment author­i­ties and these com­mu­ni­ties. ADL has joined a coali­tion of groups urg­ing the White House to also take steps to address religious-based vio­lence and discrimination. 

Our atten­tion now turns to work­ing with the FBI and local law enforce­ment offi­cials to pro­vide train­ing and edu­ca­tion on these crimes.

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