LOS ANGELES (Feb. 1, 2016) — In November 2015, a Los Angeles County Metro bus driver named Balwinder Jit Singh was attacked during his regular route by a passenger who repeatedly called Mr. Singh a “suicide bomber” and a “terrorist”. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) failed initially to investigate the attack as a hate crime and has classified it instead as a misdemeanor assault. Under pressure from the Sikh Coalition, the LASD has re-opened the investigation. On Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles and eight other organizations sent a joint letter to the LASD and other state and county officials demanding a full hate crime investigation and urging the agencies to publicly condemn the attack.
Following terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino in late 2015, hate crimes against Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA) community members are at their highest level since September 11, 2001. Like many Sikh men, Mr. Singh wears a turban and keeps his hair and beard unshorn. His attacker appears to have targeted Mr. Singh because of his ethnicity and religion, yelling “suicide bomber” and “terrorist” while repeatedly punching Mr. Singh, who suffered injuries to his eyes and face. More than two months later, he still experiences pain and blurry vision.
“As advocates for civil rights, we are outraged and saddened by this assault and troubled it took place in our diverse Southern California community,” said Karin Wang, Vice-President of Programs and Communications for Advancing Justice-LA. “We demand that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department investigate this attack as a hate crime and we further urge the LASD to condemn all such attacks on Sikhs and other South Asians and Muslims, to reassure the community that law enforcement will protect them from such hateful attacks.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles is the nation’s largest Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) legal and civil rights organization and serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Founded in 1983 as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Advancing Justice – LA’s mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. Through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, leadership development and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA seeks to serve the most vulnerable members of the AANHPI community while also building a strong AANHPI voice for civil rights and social justice.