Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and several US lawmakers have joined the Sikh community to remember the victims of the 2012 tragic Oak Creek gurdwara shootout, urging the people to reduce gun violence and give hate no safe harbour.
On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist opened fire inside the Oak Creek gurdwara in Winconsin, killing six people.
A Sikh priest, who received injuries in the shootout that left him paralysed, passed away in March this year.
"Eight years ago, a white supremacist targeted a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI - ultimately taking seven lives in an unspeakable act of terror," Biden, the former vice president, said in a statement on Thursday.
"To truly honour those we lost, it's up to all of us to stand up to bigotry in our lives, give hate no safe harbour, and reduce gun violence," Biden said as several US lawmakers joined the Sikh community in remembering the victims on the 8th anniversary of the attack.
The six victims killed included one woman: Paramjit Kaur, 41; and five men: Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the founder of the gurdwara; Prakash Singh, 39; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; and Suveg Singh Khattra, 84. All of the male victims wore turbans as part of their Sikh faith.
"Eight years ago today a white supremacist walked into a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI, fatally shooting 6 people. We just honoured El Paso and next week is the anniversary of Charlottesville. How much longer will the rising threat of white supremacy go virtually unaddressed?" Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris said in a tweet.
Congresswoman Judy Chu said, "eight years after the horrific murder of six Sikh Americans in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, we continue to remember the lives that were needlessly lost due to white supremacy and gun violence."
"Today, as our nation continues to grapple with systemic racism and inequality, it is more important than ever that we recommit ourselves to rejecting hate and intolerance in all forms.
"Whether it is a gurdwara in Oak Creek, a church in Charleston, a synagogue in Pittsburgh, or a Walmart in El Paso, an attack on any racial or religious community is an attack on us all. These acts of domestic terrorism do not reflect our values as a nation, and we must denounce violence and hatred wherever they arise," she said.
Congresswoman Grace Meng said this reminds of the everlasting impact of that day, as Sikh priest Baba Punjab Singh who passed away in March, rightly ruled a homicide due to his paralysing injuries from the Oak Creek shooting.
"On this anniversary, let us honour the- now seven-lives lost and come together to reject bigotry, hate, racism, and xenophobia, to ensure that all Americans, regardless of their race, religion, or country of origin, feel safe in the country we call home," she said.
According to Congressman Ted Lieu, this was a despicable act of hatred and violence.
"The dual epidemics of white supremacism and gun violence have torn apart families and communities across this country. 8 years ago today, the Sikh community was ravaged by that pain in Oak Creek, Wisconsin," said Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna.
"As we continue to stand up against bigotry and racism today, we remember the tragedy at Oak Creek Gurdwara eight years ago. That day we lost six Sikh-Americans to a senseless act of violence as they prayed together as a community. We remember their lives as we strive to make the United States a better, more tolerant and accepting society," said Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.
"Especially, as we currently face a global pandemic and economic crisis, we must never let our fears or prejudices cloud our judgement and actions. We are in this together. The United States is proud to be a diverse nation where the kind of religious intolerance that took place at Oak Creek gurdwara has no place. By remembering the anniversary of Oak Creek gurdwara shooting, we recommit ourselves to the ideals of acceptance, equality, and mutual respect," he said.
"As we remember the victims of this horrific attack motivated by hate and bigotry, we must recommit ourselves to the fight against racism, xenophobia, and gun violence in our country," said congresswoman Barbara Lee.
Rajwant Singh, co-founder and senior adviser of the National Sikh Campaign, said the community is grateful that Biden took time from his busy campaign schedule to remind all Americans about the tragedy.
"Sikh community will remain indebted to the Oak Creek Police Department, Mayor of Oak Creek, Governor Scott Walker, US Department of Justice and President Barack Obama for their support to the community during this very difficult time. America lowered its flags in honour of these victims. Millions of Americans poured love and support to the Sikhs, for which the community will always remain grateful," he said.
In a statement, United Sikhs said that Sikh Americans continue to be the victims of hate crimes.
This year alone, there have been incidents of vandalism and hate. To name a few, on January 13 vandals painted a swastika. They wrote "white power" on a sign in front of Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Sahib on Walnut Avenue in Orangevale, Sacramento County, California.
In a recent incident, on July 25, a Sikh community leader Amit Pal Singh, chairman of the Sikh Society of Central Florida, was a victim of hate language sprayed across his car, it said.