Police presence anticipated for Livingston's Sikh temples

08/06/2012 6:51 PM

08/07/2012 1:29 AM

LIVINGSTON -- Sunday's deadly attack against Sikhs at a temple in Wisconsin is creating concerns about similar displays of aggression locally.

Police patrols will be stepped up for upcoming services at two Sikh temples in Livingston -- the Gurdwara Sahib Temple on Peach Avenue and the Guru Nanak Temple on B Street.

The gunman in Sunday's attack, identified by authorities as 40-year-old Wade Michael Page, killed six people and wounded several others before he was shot and killed by police at the Wisconsin temple.

Livingston City Councilman Gurpal Samra, who worships at both temples here, said he met with Police Chief Ruben Chavez on Monday afternoon and asked him to take precautionary measures during upcoming services.

Sikhism is a religion that was founded in India. It has 27 million followers, with more than 5 million of them living outside India. Sikhs make up nearly 20 percent of the Livingston population.

Most of the Livingston Sikh community didn't hear about Sunday's shooting until after services ended that day and probably won't mobilize an effort to send aid until the weekend, Samra said.

The incident brings back "horrifying memories" of how Sikhs were mistaken for Muslims after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he noted. Besides retaliation against the Muslim community, Sikhs were also assaulted and sometimes killed because they dress similarly to Muslims.

Samra labeled Sunday's incident as "domestic terrorism" and said the shooter, who was reported to have been involved in a white- supremacisorganization, was probably associating Sikhs with Muslims when he committed the crime.

"There's no doubt in my mind that he lumped everyone together, just by his actions," Samra said.

Though Samra said there aren't any Sikhs in Livingston who have connections to those in Wisconsin, members of each temple plan on pulling together to see what assistance the Wisconsin temple needs.

"What happened over there is terrible, just a tragedy," Samra said.

Parwinder Samran, president of Livingston's Gurdwara Sahib Temple, said he and other members of his temple haven't talked about ways to support the Wisconsin victims' families, but confirmed that they will do so soon.

"It's kind of sad what happened," he said, adding that he'd also thought about the possibility of using security to ensure upcoming services are safe.

Chavez said his department will have extra patrols at both Livingston temples in coming weeks as a precaution. Officers will be keeping watch on the areas mainly during Sunday services.

He said the extra attention on the temples will remain until it becomes apparent the threat has eased.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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