Holder (Attorney General) calls Sikh temple shooting a hate crime
August 10, 2012by
Oak Creek, Wisconsin (CNN)-- In the strongest denunciation to date by a U.S. law enforcement official, Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday labeled the attack on a Sikh temple that killed six Sikhs "an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime."
Holder spoke at an emotional memorial service for the victims of the attack that emphasized healing and forgiveness instead of retribution for the shooting rampage by an Army veteran who killed himself after being wounded by police gunfire.
"In the recent past, too many Sikhs have been targeted, victimized simply because of how they looked and what they believed," Holder said Friday.
He called for a discussion on changing laws to prevent future shooting attacks, as well as looking at how to change hearts filled with hatred.
Holder also declared the attack at the Sikh gurdwara, or house of worship, in a Milwaukee suburb to be "an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime." Officials have previously called it a case of domestic terrorism, but said they were investigating the motive.
Earlier, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said the Sikh community lived the words of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. this week by responding with love to the attack.
Wearing an orange head covering in keeping with Sikh tradition, Walker quoted King's assertion that only love can overcome hate, and said he witnessed that truth in the aftermath of Sunday's attack at a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb.
"This week, our friends and neighbors in the Sikh community have shown us the best way to respond is with love," the Republican governor told the hundreds of mourners who filled the Oak Creek High School gymnasium for the service.
As Friday's service began, three Sikh musicians in dark turbans sat cross-legged on the ground next to a row of six coffins and large, framed photos of the dead.
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Mourners slowly walked past, including Sikhs in their traditional turbans and non-Sikhs using scarves and handkerchiefs to cover their heads in keeping with Sikh custom.
"You have taken this life. This is your will," a prayer leader said between hymns sung over somber music. "We accept your will. Please give us strength to bear this loss."
Overhead, a large video screen displayed projected photos of the dead and wounded in the attack, including police Lt. Brian Murphy, who remains hospitalized from multiple gunshot wounds after being the first responder to the temple on Sunday.
At one point, a group of seven uniformed police officers joined the line to pay their respects, with some embracing family members of the victims.
Killed were five men -- Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Suveg Singh, 84 -- and one woman, 41-year-old Paramjit Kaur.
Two other Sikhs wounded in the attack also remain hospitalized, while another was treated and released earlier this week.
On Thursday, temple members swept, scrubbed and painted over damage to their building after investigators allowed them back inside. A lone bullet hole remained in a metal door frame, which members say won't be repaired...
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who visited the gurdwara on Thursday, said more massacres will come unless the United States tightens up its gun laws.
"It's easy to be polite to say 'We're so sorry this happened' and give the same speech at the next killing a month from now," Jackson said, calling for a move from "politeness to a change in policy."
Jackson delivered the closing prayer at Friday's memorial service.
A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday indicates that the public remains divided on gun laws, with 50% saying they favor no restrictions or only minor restrictions on firearm ownership and 48% supporting major restrictions or a complete ban by individuals except police and other authorized personnel.
Those numbers are identical to where they were in 2011, and the number who support major restrictions or a complete ban has remained in the 48%-to-50% range for more than a decade.
The CNN survey was conducted by ORC International on Tuesday and Wednesday, after the attack on the Sikh temple.
Eric Holder Calls Sikh Temple Shooting a Hate Crime at Memorial
CHICAGO — US Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday declared the attack on a Sikh temple in the midwestern state of Wisconsin "an act of terrorism" in a speech at a ceremony honoring the victims.
Holder took part in a ceremony to commemorate the six Sikhs killed at the temple on Sunday by a neo-Nazi US military veteran who later took his own life during a shootout with police.
"Our resolve to prevent acts of terrorism and combat crimes motivated by hatred has never been stronger," Holder said before a crowd of thousands of Sikhs gathered at a gymnasium in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
"And that is precisely what happened here: an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a crime that is anathema to the founding principles of our nation."