Remembering 6 Shooting Deaths At Wisconsin Sikh Temple
One year ago Monday, Wade Michael Page, a gunman with links to neo-Nazi groups, went to a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and killed six worshippers. Family members, law enforcement and the larger community marked the anniversary over the weekend.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker praised the Sikh community for calling for greater understanding and peace.
"The brightest moment out of all this is that yet again, you've showed this community, this state, the country and the world that love can triumph," Walker said at a memorial service at the temple on Sunday.
At the temple, there's very little physical sign of the damage from the shootings. Temple official Dr. Harcharan Gill says the main exception is a small round hole on an inner door frame. Gill says that the bullet holes are there to "remind us of what happened on the fifth."
Temple officials have installed more security cameras, and a security guard is often on duty. WUVM's Erin Toner reported last week that some worshippers are fearful of violence, but others are "even more determined to confront prejudice against their faith."
The one-year anniversary events commemorating the victims have stressed openness and a much brighter theme, like the Sikh term Chardi Kala, which roughly translates to "relentless optimism."
"The love, the love that the community shows it [is] what's conquering the hate," Mandeep Kaur, a youth leader and member of the Sikh temple told Michel Martin, host of NPR's Tell Me More. "So I think that is the message. That if you conquer hate with love, that we don't leave any room for the hate."
Other area Sikh leaders are expanding an effort in the schools to reduce violence, but that may be a tall order. On a weekend when Sikhs and others gathered to remember six worshippers killed a year ago, police say at least two Milwaukee residents died in street violence and about a dozen local people were wounded.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
It was a year ago today that a gunman walked into a Sikh temple near Milwaukee and opened fire. It turned out the killer had links to Neo-Nazi groups. Over the weekend, family members, law enforcement and the larger community marked the anniversary with a series of events.
Chuck Quirmbach of Wisconsin Public Radio was there, and brings us this report.
CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: At the Sikh temple in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek, there's very little physical sign of the damage gunman Wade Michael Page caused on August 5th, 2012 when he killed six people, before being shot by police and then killing himself.
Temple official Dr. Harcharan Gill says the main exception is a small, round hole on an inner door frame.
HARCHARAN GILL: This is one of the bullet holes. It's indicating that it's always going to remind us what happened on the 5th.
QUIRMBACH: The temple has installed more security cameras, and a security guard is often on duty. But the anniversary events over the last few days have stressed openness and a much brighter theme, namely a Sikh term, Chardi Kala, which roughly translates to relentless optimism. At a memorial service yesterday at the temple, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker praised the Sikhs not calling for revenge, but for greater community understanding and peace.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER: The brightest moment out of all of this is that, yet again, you showed this community, this state, this country and the world that love can triumph.
QUIRMBACH: The Sikhs have taken their positive response to the federal courthouse in downtown Milwaukee.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
QUIRMBACH: Traditional Sikh music was performed in the courthouse's ceremonial courtroom on Friday, prior to a memorial service there. U.S. Attorney James Santelle read a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder, which declared that the Justice Department will now keep track of hate crimes against the Sikhs and six other religious or ethnic groups. Santelle, who sometimes now attends religious services at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, also declared the courthouse to be a temple, or the Sikh term gurdwara.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
JAMES SANTELLE: That by gathering here in this temple, in this place, in this gurdwara of justice, that our Sikh sisters and brothers are one with us, of us and always among us.
QUIRMBACH: Amardeep Kaleka, whose father was one of the people killed in the Oak Creek shootings, says the prosecutor was right to refer to the federal courthouse as a gurdwara.
AMARDEEP KALEKA: In our culture, anything can be a gurdwara. So you can have a closet in your house that's a gurdwara. But in addition, a courthouse, that's like, oh, that makes perfect sense. Gurdwaras are symbols of justice.
QUIRMBACH: The Sikhs also took their outreach to the streets of Oak Creek on Saturday with a six-kilometer run and walk to raise money for a community scholarship fund. Hundreds of runners and walkers stepped off to the sound of a traditional Sikh drum and cry.
(SOUNDBITE OF SIKH CRY)
QUIRMBACH: The event drew both Sikhs and non-Sikhs. Temple trustee Bensingh Voperi says he took part to promote unity and improve the world.
BENSINGH VOPERI: So if everybody get together, practice peace, and this planet can be heaven. So we are trying to make it the better place for everybody to live.
QUIRMBACH: Milwaukee-area police and FBI chaplain Greg Young, who provided crisis counseling after last year's Oak Creek shooting, says he ran partly for inner peace.
GREG YOUNG: I train a lot of law enforcement around the country, and one of the things I always talk about in terms of resilience is: How do you take care of yourself? How do you play? And so we need ways that we can unplug, that we can celebrate.
QUIRMBACH: Other Milwaukee Sikh leaders are expanding an effort in the schools to reduce violence. That may be a tall order. On a weekend when Sikhs and others gathered to remember six worshippers killed a year ago, police say at least two Milwaukee residents died in street violence, and about a dozen local people were wounded. For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach, in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.