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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-30-12-2006-00.htm
Press Release: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 16th Poh, Samvat 538
New York City, New York: UNITED SIKHS International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy Directorate met police officials in New York towards the end of December to pursue the case of Avtar Singh Dhanjal, a 60-year-old taxi cab driver, was attacked 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. The meeting with police officials took place to seek assurance that Avtar Singh’s case was being dealt with, and were assured that the offender shall soon be arrested on assault charges.
On the day of the plane crash, Avtar Singh Dhanjal was stuck in a traffic jam on East 63 Street, close to the impact of the plane crash, when the driver of a BMW started to verbally abuse him 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 the taxi, including breaking the passenger’s side-view mirror and kicking the taxi, after singling out Avtar Singh due to his visible appearance and the offender’s mistaken association of this with terrorist groups, presuming the plane crash that day was in fact a terrorist attack.
Mr. Dhanjal then contacted UNITED SIKHS on the 17th of October for assistance in this case as no arrests had been made despite a case having been registered by the 19th Precinct Police Division. Numerous phone calls were exchanged between Detective Michael Ahearne and UNITED SIKHS Legal Advisor Attorney Tejindar Singh to consider the case not as road rage but to register it as a Bias Crime, thereby booking the offender under serious charges. UNITED SIKHS regrets that more than two months after the incident, the authorities had not followed up the case as a bias crime.
Left: Avtar Singh, who contacted UNITED SIKHS to help pursue his case with the police after he was attacked.
“UNITED SIKHS takes very seriously and endeavours to tackle the concern of the non-availability of the police, as in the case of Avtar Singh, especially during natural or man-made disasters where Sikhs may become targets of bias crime with possibility of damage to property, religious centers, and loss of life, due to their highly visible appearance,” said Tejindar Singh, UNITED SIKHS Legal Advisor.
On Monday, 18th of Dec. 2006, UNITED SIKHS International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA) office-bearers had a prolonged discussion with police officials at the 19th precinct on East 67th St., New York, pertaining to the case of Avtar Singh Dhanjal. They had a meeting, first with Detective Michael A Hearne, which was followed by a discussion with Cap. William Pla, Deputy Inspector Michael J. Osgood (Commanding Officer of the Hate Crime Task Force) assisted by Detective Ms. Elena Donnell (Larceny Division) told the UNITED SIKHS team that the offender shall soon be arrested on assault charges.
Commanding Officer Osgood assisted the earlier investigation of the serious physical-assault on Rajinder Singh Khalsa in Richmond Hill area, and the officer played a decisive role in determining that this case was definitely a hate crime.
UNITED SIKHS expects that the Hate and Bias Crime Task Force Division will pursue the case rather than book the case under the less serious charge of assault.
(For more information on the case of Rajinder Singh Khalsa, please click here: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-29-12-2005-01.htm)
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