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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-19-09-2007-00.htm
Press Release: 19th Sept 2007, 5th Assu (Samvat 539 Nanakshahi )
New York City, New York: Anthony Bryant, a 36 year old New Yorker, was sentenced to do community service for 10 days and ordered to make restitution for damages caused to Mr Avtar Singh Dhanjal's car, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree as a Hate Crime. On completion of his community service, Mr Bryant, who had no previous convictions, had his conviction replaced with disorderly conduct, at a hearing at the Manhattan Criminal Courts (Court F) on August 17th .
Avtar Singh Dhanjal
The case, which was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Bernice Ordonez, arose from an incident when Mr Bryant verbally abused Avtar Singh with racial slurs, including comments about his turban, an article of faith worn by Sikhs to protect the sanctity of their uncut hair. The offender also damaged Avtar Singh's taxi by breaking the passenger's side-view mirror and kicking the taxi.
Avtar Singh, 60 years, was attacked by Anthony Bryant, at a traffic light in New York City on 11th October 2006 . This was the day Cory Lidle, a pitcher for the New York Yankees baseball team, was killed as his plane flew into a residential high-rise building on New York's Upper East Side , igniting several apartments before pieces of the aircraft crashed to the ground. Bryant had singled out Avtar Singh due to his appearance and he had mistakenly associated the latter with terrorist groups, presuming the plane crash that day was a terrorist attack.
Avtar Singh's complaint was initially not investigated by police even though he had provided the license plate number of the offender's vehicle. No arrests were made until UNITED SIKHS' International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy Directorate intervened. On investigating, police failed to treat the incident as a hate crime but as a criminal mischief arising from damage to property. However, with the help of Douglas Zeigler, Chief of Community Affairs, New York Police Department (NYPD) and Detective Michael Theogene (NYPD), who worked along side UNITED SIKHS, Mr Bryant, was brought to justice.
“People should come forward and report hate crimes, if they feel their voice is not being heard. Please contact us and we will do our best to help” said Mankanwal Singh, UNITED SIKHS director.
After the frightening ordeal, Avtar Singh has returned to work and is trying to return back to his usual life. “I hope that there will be an end to these hate incidents.
There is a need to highlight such incidents so that the community is aware of the problems we are facing” , he said. He also stressed on the need to educate people about the Sikh religion and stated, “It is important that people understand who we are.” He then went on say that he wished to thank UNITED SIKHS for helping in the case and he hopes the organization continues with such work as it is needed in the community.
Rajinder Singh Khalsa, a former victim of hate crime, was instrumental in coaxing Avtar Singh to report the incident. Mr Rajinder Singh said, “All hate crimes should be fully reported, if we do not, then this only encourages perpetrators to continue with such activities.” He added that he had approached several organizations regarding this incident and UNITED SIKHS was the first organization to come forward to help.
UNITED SIKHS advises Sikhs and all other minorities who suffer racial profiling and hate crimes not to treat such incidents lightly. Victims of hate crimes and racial profiling are advised to contact UNITED SIKHS to advocate on their behalf. You may report a hate/bias crime/incident to UNITED SIKHS at http://unitedsikhs.org/hatecrime/
Please also ensure that you report hate/bias-related crimes/incidents to the police, as they can only act if they are made aware of such incidents.
You may read our previous press release on hate crimes at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-20-03-2007-00.htm
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy
To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.
UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.
UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.
Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.
We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.