Hundreds of Sikhs and community leaders joined together at the Turlock Sikh Temple on Friday to remember the six Sikhs killed when a white supremacist opened fire in an Oak Creek, Wis. temple on Sunday.
“Today, we have gathered here to pay respect to those who lost their lives,” said Dr. Ram Sani, a Sikh community leader, shortly before a candlelight vigil.
The vigil was attended by Turlock Mayor John Lazar, council members Amy Bublak and Forrest White, Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson, Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden, representatives from the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, and a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock).
All expressed sadness that the gunman targeted Sikhs, a people who wear turbans and uncut beards and are known for their peaceful, accepting ways. Sikhs have been mistaken for Arab Muslims in the past, especially in the days following 9/11.
“I’m hopeful that more people will want to know what the Sikh community is all about,” Jackson said.
The gunman, Wade Michael Page, 40, entered the Oak Creek Sikh temple shortly before 10:30 a.m. Sunday, where he opened fire with a 9mm handgun, killing or fatally wounding six people. He later took aim at an Oak Creek police officer, who was in the process of helping a victim.
Page was reportedly an Army veteran, a neo-Nazi, and the front man for a white-supremacist hardcore rock band. He was shot dead by police following the shooting rampage.
Though the shooting was a tragedy, many expressed hope that the event would help others learn about the Sikh community.
“You cannot, with evil, destroy good,” Wasden said. “We will always stand together.”