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Tracy Press

Anti-Sikh violence in the US: Justice for Parmjit Singh

By:
Jeevan Sangha (@jeevanksangha)

Last week, a San Joaquin County judge dismissed charges against 22-year old Anthony-Kreiter Rhoads, accused of killing 64-year old Parmjit Singh at a park in Tracy, California. 

On Sunday August 25, 2019 Parmjit Singh was on his evening walk when he was stabbed in the neck, and left to bleed out in his local park. 

Singh was also found with knife wounds on his right hand, suggesting he tried to defend for himself. 

 According to his son-in-law, Singh typically works on Sundays but his shift was cancelled last minute so he decided to take a stroll. Singh and his wife moved to California three years prior to live with their daughter and son-in-law. 

Multiple videos from home surveillance cameras, a nearby school district, Tracy police patrol car camera (featuring a young white man fleeing the park) and GPS from Rhoads cell phone, placed him at the scene and led to a murder charge a week after the crime occured

In their search, the police also found multiple knives in Rhoads’ bedroom, and car. The weapon associated with the crime itself, however, has yet to be recovered. 

Last year, the Sikh Community in Tracy pushed for hate crime charges against Rhoads that did not see the light of day. 

According to Harsimran Kaur, an attorney working with the Sikh Coalition, police departments are hesitant to charge individuals with hate crimes because they rarely end in convictions. 

This difficulty is a result of the necessity to prove not only that the crime occured, but also that the crime occured as a result of hateful intention based on membership in a certain group. 

Last week’s court proceedings consisted of “about 10 hours of questioning over three days” from a total of 18 witnesses. 

The court ultimately ruled that the evidence compiled by the District Attorney’s office and Tracy Police Department was still insufficient. 

According to attorney Mark Reichel, a decision in a case like this does not happen often. 

“A preliminary examination resulting in the dismissal of murder charges is incredibly rare, ever in California,” Reichel said.


What does this decision mean for Singh’s case? 

Moving forward, the District Attorney’s office has the option of refiling and using this time to gather more evidence that will enable the charges to stick.

However, it’s important that the office compiles as much evidence as possible because this time, the stakes are much higher.  

“They are going to have the police department do more and more investigation because this time when they file it, if they lose in a prelim, it’s gone forever,” Reichel said. 

Since 9/11, anti-Sikh violence has made national headlines. According to a report by the Sikh Coalition, over 300 cases of violence and discrimination against Sikhs were documented in the first month after 9/11.

Sikhs across the United States have been victim to violent hate crimes including schoolyard bullying, workplace attacks and unprovoked brutality in public places.

One of the most horrifying instances of anti-Sikh violence was the 2012 Oak Creek Gurdwara Shooting. A white supremacist shot and killed 6 people, and critically wounded an additional 3 people inside the Gurdwara -- a place of worship, a place for our community, including our elders, to be safe. 

Many members of the Sikh community will never forget exactly where they were when they found out about Oak Creek, and now, the same can be said about Parmjit Singh. 

In addition, Sikh Americans claim that fears of being attacked and racially profiled have intensified in Trump’s America. 

For the Los Angeles Times, Balmeet Singh recounts the experience of being harassed and threatened at a burger shop in a strip mall in 2017. 

“It’s very similar to how I felt after 9/11,” Singh said. “It’s not enough to simply be who you are and exist. You have to go out of your way to prove you’re not a threat.”

Sikh activists in the U.S suggest that Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and blatant embrace of xenophobia have resulted in increased anxiety and fear of open attack based on their religion. 

In times of turmoil, the Sikh community comes together not only to mourn, but to mobilize and find ways to make their communities safer. Sikh communities across the country have brainstormed ways to keep eachother safe -- including keeping copies of identification on their cars and providing panic buttons to vulnerable members.

Just days after Parmjit Singh’s murder, Tracy came together for a vigil to honour the memory of a beloved elder in their community. 

In many Sikh-immigrant households, grandparents stay home to raise children while parents spend their days working to provide for their families. Elders are held sacred for the Sikh community, which makes these instances of violence that much more devastating to grapple with. 

In an interview after the incident, Singh’s son-in-law Karnek Singh Kang spoke openly to the media pleading for justice. After losing his own father a few years back, Kang treated Singh as his own father. 

“He’s such a wonderful person, such a loving, caring happy man. I spend from last three years we are living together, I cannot explain in words what I feel for him.” he said. 

In another interview, Kang echoed the sentiments of so many immigrants who leave their homes in search of brighter futures for their children, “These things are not supposed to be happen[ing] in this country” 

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