WASHINGTON, D.C. — A man set a Green Bay convenience store owned by a Sikh American on fire in an effort “to get them the hell out of Wisconsin”. The Brown County District Attorney has charged him with a hate crime.
“On the seven month anniversary of the mass shooting at the Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, hate once again raised its head in Wisconsin,” said Jasjit Singh, Executive Director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF). “We must come together in a spirit of tolerance and community to prevent further acts of hate in Wisconsin and across the nation.”
On March 5, 2013, in the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, James Parrish, walked into the Dollar Land on North Avenue, poured gasoline on the register, and then set the register on fire. Dollar Land is owned by Mr. Gurnek S. Basanti, a Sikh American.
According to law enforcement, Parrish stated that he was going to “burn [the] place down.” His stated motive was “to get them the hell out of Wisconsin.” In the weeks leading up to the incident, Parrish had called himself a “freedom fighter” and made comments about his desire to “round up terrorists and torture them.”
SALDEF thanks the members of the community who came forward, the Green Bay Police Department, and the Brown County District Attorney for recognizing the severity of the incident and charging the defendant with a hate crime.
“This is the second apparent hate crime targeting Sikh Americans being investigated by law enforcement in the past two weeks,” said Jasjit Singh. “It is important to the victims of such crimes, to the Sikh American community, and to all Americans who value freedom and diversity, that the perpetrators of hate crimes are charged accordingly and brought to justice. We thank the Green Bay Police Department and the Brown County District Attorney’s Office for their diligence and look forward to seeing justice done in this case.”
On February 23, 2013, a Sikh American was shot and injured while driving in Port Orange, Florida. On August 5, 2012, a gunman opened fire on the Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six and injuring others.
The Sikh religion was founded in South Asia over 500 years ago by Guru Nanak. There are more than 25 million Sikhs throughout the world and approximately 700,000 adherents of the Sikh religion in the United States. Observant Sikhs are distinguished by dastaars (Sikh turbans), uncut hair, and other articles of faith.
Founded in 1996, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) is the oldest Sikh American civil rights and educational organization in the country. SALDEF’s mission is to protect the civil rights of all Americans and ensure a fostering environment in the United States for Sikh Americans. SALDEF empowers Sikh Americans through educational outreach, media relations, leadership development and legal and legislative advocacy. More at www.saldef.org.