Two Sikh men attacked in Central California, stirring concern in Kern County
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The Sikh community in Kern County is concerned for its safety after two Sikh men were attacked in Central California in recent weeks.
On Monday in Manteca, home surveillance video showed an elderly Sikh man wearing a turban, being beaten by two teenagers on a residential street. They approach him, shove him, and he falls to the ground. When he got back on his feet, one of the boys kicked him back down and and spit on him.
Police did not rule this a hate crime and believe it was an attempted robbery.
And, just days before that, on July 31, nearby in Turlock, another Sikh man wearing a turban was attacked by two men with a stick and a belt. They threw sand in his face, and vandalized his truck with the words, "Go back to your country."
"Here in Kern County, of course the reaction was of disbelief and shock," said Raji Brar, chief operating officer of Countryside Market & Restaurants and co-founder of the Bakersfield Sikh Women's Association.
"Whenever you hear of something close to home, it always strikes a different chord," Brar said. "Southwest Bakersfield has so many Sikhs and grandpas just like the individual who was attacked who walked to the park everyday. They have walking groups. And now it's just kind of scary, and we hope there's no copy cat effect."
Brar said she feels safe in Kern County, but would think twice about safety if she had a male family member who wore a turban.
In May, Brar saw a man disrupt the Sikh Women's Association walk, a major community fundraiser for scholarships.
He verbally harassed individuals at the event, calling Sikhs terrorist and "not to be trusted," Brar said. Police were on hand to control the situation.
"So sometimes these things happen, but it makes you shed light on how much it is so important to learn and to be together and stick up for one another," Brar said.