Richmond Hill Sikh community leaders and residents rally for peace in light of hate crime attacks

Sikh community leaders and residents speak at a rally denouncing the recent attacks against three Sikh men in Richmond Hill. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

In light of recent attacks against three Sikh men, community leaders and residents were gathered for a rally in Richmond Hill on Thursday, April 14, calling for justice, peace and unity. 

Rain couldn’t deter members of the Sikh community from praying for peace at the corner of 101st Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard, also known as Little Punjab. 

“We want to make sure that this hate is no more. This hate does not belong in our city, in our state and in our country,” said Japneet Singh, community leader and rally organizer. “We have people here from the Guyanese community, Trinidadian community, white, Black and Latino community supporting us. We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again to anyone!” 

The rally was held in response to two separate attacks on three Sikh men, who went for an early morning walk on 95th Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard nearby the Sikh Cultural Society. 

On April 3, a man approached Nirmal Singh, 70, and punched him from behind, leaving him with a broken nose. A week later, two men — Gulzar Singh and Sajjan Singh Ghotra — were attacked and their turbans were removed. On April 14, the NYPD arrested 19-year-old Vernon Douglas of Brooklyn, who is facing hate crime charges for the vicious attack on Nirmal. 

Gulzar Singh shares his story of the incident that took place on April 12. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

For the second case, police caught one of the two suspects and charged him with a hate crime robbery.

“I was confused as to why they attacked me,” one of the victims said at the rally.  

Harmin Singh, a local businessman who has been living in the community for over 20 years, said the attacks were unacceptable.

“We have contributed to this society like no one can imagine. Every morning I say hi to people passing by, and we have so much love. We work hard. We go to work. We don’t bother anyone. It is unbelievable what happened,” Singh said. 

The second victim, Sajjan Singh Ghotra, who was also attacked on April 12, speaks at the rally.  (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

“All lives matter,” said Sukhjinder Singh Nijjar of the Sikh Cultural Society. “We have red blood and different colored skin, but our skin color doesn’t matter. We live here and are protecting our community.”

Bronx community leader Clifford Temprosa, who immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S., cited the injustice, hate and xenophobia that has long plagued immigrant communities throughout the nation. 

“The Sikh community is my ally. We all need to look at each other as brothers and sisters walking down the street,” said Temprosa, who also helped organize the rally. 

District Leader Richard David called for resources and funding to help immigrant communities and local organizations on the ground in response to hate crime violence.

“This is a testament to the strength of our community. Despite the rain, we came with one message: hate has no place in Richmond Hill or New York City,” David said. 

According to community leader Albert Baldeo, they’re going to hold government officials accountable to ensure safety and equitable services in the community. 

“We have paid our taxes and have built this community. This is our home and we are not going to leave. We want to make sure that our community is safe, and our kids can grow up and live the American dream. That fight continues with each generation,” Baldeo said. 

Speaking on behalf of City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Jamal Wilkerson said the councilwoman stands with the Sikh community and is calling for everyone to stand together against hate and bigotry. 

“We can no longer be separated. We need to be together, move forward together, fight together and love together,” Wilkerson said. “The more we love and understand that we have so much more in common, the better our communities will be.”