Sometime between January 12–13, 2020, the Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Sahib in Orangevale, CA was vandalized with white nationalist graffiti. The graffiti included the phrase “WHITE POWER” and depicted a swastika on a concrete slab that was to serve as the sign in front of the newly-opened gurdwara.

The graffiti was discovered early morning on the 13th by a neighbor, and gurdwara leadership and law enforcement were immediately alerted. The gurdwara also quickly retained the Sikh Coalition to assist in the case. As of now, there has been no arrest, but our organization continues to engage with the community and law enforcement to ensure that state and federal agencies are taking every appropriate action, including investigating this act of vandalism as a hate crime given the clear white nationalist rhetoric and discussing the broader safety and security concerns.

In the aftermath of the discovery, the Sikh Coalition also provided rapid communications support to raise awareness in local and national media outlets and ensure respectful and responsible reporting. This work resulted in successful media coverage in local FOX, CBS, ABC, and NBC affiliates, in addition to the Sacramento Bee and Newsweek. Additionally, our outreach to state- and national-level elected officials resulted in the bipartisan condemnation of this bigotry.

IMPACT

On the heels of rising white nationalism across the country, the Sikh Coalition worked in coordination with leadership at Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Sahib to organize an interfaith solidarity event on January 25, 2020, where hundreds of people learned about and celebrated the Sikh tradition in a day-long open house. Proactive media outreach by our communications team resulted in coverage of the event in the Sacramento Bee, NBC, ABC, FOX, and CBS. Elected officials, faith and community leaders, and partner organizations also showed solidarity with the Sikh community–see the full album of photos here. In addition, the Sikh Coalition positioned Orangevale Sikh community members to make advocacy asks that will further address anti-Sikh hate in the state of California, including via an op-ed piece in the Sacramento Bee.

The Sikh Coalition is continuing discussions with state and federal law enforcement agencies about these issues. We will provide more updates on this case as they become available.

“We were shocked and saddened to discover this hateful message this morning, because no group should ever be the target of this kind of bigotry. The Sikh community has been an integral part of California for 125 years, and we won’t let this divide us now.”

–Dimple Bhullar, Orangevale Sikh community leader

WHY IT MATTERS

Hate crimes damage the lives of survivors, their families, and the communities in which they live. Thus, when Sikhs are targeted because of hate, including in cases of vandalism, it is imperative that law enforcement authorities have the cultural competency to investigate these incidents and document them as hate crimes, and prosecutors pursue hate crime charges. This is especially true in California, which the Sikh Coalition judges to be the most dangerous state for Sikh Americans (on the basis of reported hate crime data, private reporting, and anecdotal evidence from sangat members since 2015).

No community should ever be the target of bigotry, and no house of worship should ever feel unsafe. The Sikh Coalition will continue to provide free legal support to the Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Sahib in this case and other gurdwaras that are targeted in bias-related incidents.