Sikh Community Wants Long-Term Solutions
Sikhs spoke to community leaders and government officials Thursday evening about how to move forward after Sunday's attacks and asked for help to increase acceptance and awareness of Sikhs by members of the greater community.
To Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, this country has a long way to go to erase hatred among certain people.
During a community meeting Thursday night at Oak Creek High School, Kaleka relayed the story of a taxi driver who is a member of the Sikh Temple. On Wednesday, someone made a gun gesture with their hands and told the taxi driver, "This is not over," according to Kaleka.
It was just three days after the attacks in the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek that killed six people and injured three others.
"This hate will continue," said Kaleka, whose uncle, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was among those killed Sunday at the temple. "And we have to do everything possible to make sure that these incidents don't happen.
"These people who hate people are out there. And we need to figure out how to reach them. We need to figure out how to show them we are human."
Kaleka was among many in the Sikh community who spoke at Thursday's meeting, designed for Sikhs to speak directly to local government and law enforcement agencies about their needs going forward.
Also in the audience was Rev. Jesse Jackson. In a short speech, Jackson gave kudos to Mayor Steve Scaffidi and the Oak Creek Police Department, and he renewed a call for tougher gun laws.
"These semi-automatic weapons and these assault weapons have no place in civilized society," Jackson said to applause.
"This hate will continue, and we have to do everything possible to make sure that these incidents don't happen."
The gun control issue was mentioned by many Sikhs as well, along with the need for greater education in schools about religion and how people can be different from one another. Two speakers called on President Barack Obama to meet with Sikh community members.
Jasjit Singh noted that in addition to the Oak Creek tragedy, two mosques recently burned down.
"This is indicative of some sort of undertone," he said.
"What I'm interested in learning is how can we address the long-term issue here, which is of education? Not only about who we are, but creating an appreciation for the diversity that many communities have."
U.S. Attorney James Santelle said federal officials know the problems go beyond investigations and agreed that education is a big key.
Santelle's commitment is "to make sure we do that education. We'll do it in small ways, we'll do it in large ways, we'll do it in the school, we'll do it in the community groups ... wherever we are invited, wherever the door is open."
Santelle was among 10 people on a panel representing various levels of government and other organizations. The panel included Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi and Police Chief John Edwards.
Edwards said he has learned a lot about the Sikh community this week and was "ashamed" it took an event like Sunday for that to happen.
It's not the actions of shooter Wade Michael Page that's representative of the community, Edwards added.
"The coward was not from my community or your community," Edwards said.
"What you saw Tuesday was this community."
Scaffidi said he plans to set up a liaison between the city and the Sikh community to better incorporate Sikhs into Oak Creek. He and Edwards also plan to attend temple at some point.
"I will constantly ask them for feedback because that's what I promised I would do," he said. "If I'm not doing what I'm saying I'm doing, challenge me on it."