Vigil at Wisconsin Sikh temple to mark anniversary of shooting attack

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 05, 2013 3:46 PM

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Hundreds of mourners are expected to gather on Monday for a candlelight vigil at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee where a white supremacist opened fire a year ago, killing six worshippers.

In that attack, Wade Michael Page walked into the temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin as worshippers prepared for Sunday services and began firing a semiautomatic handgun.

Satwant Singh Kaleka, the 65-year-old president of the congregation; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; and Suveg Singh, 84, died of wounds.

Four other people were wounded in the shooting, including Brian Murphy, a police officer whom Wade shot a dozen times. Page, 40, was shot by police in a temple parking lot before he fatally shot himself.

The vigil will conclude three days of memorials and events in the Milwaukee area to mark the anniversary of the shooting.

"The Sikh community showed us the best way to respond to the tragedy was with love," Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said in a statement. "It is amazing that in the midst of so much personal loss, the greatness of American character shines through."

The U.S. Justice Department said last week it would provide more than $512,000 to the Wisconsin Department of Justice to help pay for mental health and trauma services for the victims and survivors of the shooting.

The department also said it would begin to track hate crimes specifically against Sikhs along with individuals of the Hindu, Arab, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness and Orthodox Christian faiths.

"It's critical to remember that each American continues to bear the responsibility for understanding that acts of violence against minority faiths do not happen in a vacuum," said Amardeep Singh, co-founder of the Sikh Coalition.

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Sikhs, who wear turbans and have long beards, are sometimes victims of hate crimes by people who confuse them for Muslims.

There are 500,000 or more Sikhs in the United States. The Sikh faith is the fifth-largest in the world, with more than 30 million followers.

The rampage at the Sikh temple was one of several mass shootings that marred 2012, including one that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)