On September 25, 2016, Maan Singh Khalsa — a father and IT specialist — was brutally assaulted in Richmond, California because of his actual or perceived religious identity.
While Mr. Khalsa was stopped in his car at an intersection, men got out of their truck and assaulted Mr. Khalsa through his open car window, knocking off his turban and hitting his face repeatedly. The assailants shouted, “cut his fucking hair,” pulled Mr. Khalsa’s head out of the window, and forcibly cut his hair with a knife. As a result of the attack, Mr. Khalsa sustained a swollen black eye, dental injuries, and an infected finger that required amputation.
The Sikh Coalition responded to the attack, providing direct legal and advocacy support to Mr. Khalsa. We sent a letter to the Richmond Police Department and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, urging these offices to investigate and prosecute the attack on Mr. Khalsa as a hate crime, and nearly 30 advocacy organizations endorsed our call. In addition, we brought widespread media attention to Mr. Khalsa’s case, which further ensured appropriate action and accountability.
On October 14, 2016, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office filed hate crime charges against two men. On May 18, 2017, the defendants pled no contest to felony aggravated assault and hate crime charges. Judge Patricia Scanlon regarded these pleas as guilty pleas, and sentenced the men to three-year terms in California state prison with a requirement to pay restitution to Mr. Khalsa. In accordance with the California penal code, the men who attacked Mr. Khalsa were given credit for the time they were incarcerated, which ended with release in May 2018 as a full resolution to their cases. Hate crime charges are not about enforcing a harsher criminal penalty, but rather confronting the impact that hate has on Sikhs and other communities in America.
“It will take me many years, maybe the rest of my life to heal from this attack. But the recognition of the attack as a hate crime – as harm to my dignity and my entire community – is the first step in the process. I am deeply thankful to the Sikh Coalition for working with local authorities to ensure that this happened.”
Maan Singh Khalsa
Why It Matters
Violent crimes damage the lives of victims, their families, and the communities in which they live. Hate crimes, in particular, can have deep, lasting effects on victims and targeted communities. In order to develop effective policy solutions to combat hate crimes, policymakers must first understand the scope of the problem. Thus, when Sikhs are targeted because of hate, it is imperative that law enforcement authorities document these attacks as hate crimes and prosecutors pursue hate crime charges. This designation is the first step towards systemic change.