Exactly one week after a shooter opened fire at an Indianapolis FedEx facility, local and national vigils continue to honor the victims and support their families and friends.
On Thursday night, a national, virtual event organized by Faith In Action and the Revolutionary Love Project invited local and national groups to create a space for interfaith prayer, solidarity and healing.
Of the eight people who died in the shooting, four were members of Indianapolis’ Sikh community. Through testimonies from family members who lost loved ones last week, to those who have lost loved ones in previous attacks against the Sikh community, the event underscored a pattern of violence against the Sikh community in the United States.
“Whether or not this massacre is ever classified as a hate crime, the impact on the Sikh community is nearly identical,” said Valarie Kaur, founder of Revolutionary Love Project and one of the organizers behind the virtual vigil. “For Sikhs, not just in Indianapolis but across America, this shooting has opened the wound of all the racial violence we have survived, going back to 9/11 and long before.”
Komal Chohan, granddaughter of Amarjeet Johal, spoke of the ways elders in Indianapolis’ Sikh community are still hurting. Johal was one of the eight people who was killed last Thursday.
“Many individuals have called saying that they can’t eat, sleep, and are experiencing survivor’s guilt.” Chohan said. “It pains me to hear that our elderly are saying that they wish that they had died instead. They wish that they could take away everyone’s pain that had lost someone in this traumatic incident.”
The online vigil also featured performances from singers, poets and other artists. Mokhm Singh, an undergraduate student at Indiana University, played tabla compositions for attendees. Singh said the encouragement and support from the community and faith leaders who spoke at the vigil was powerful and uplifting in a dark time.
“This shooting hit me pretty hard,” Singh said. “In these terrible shootings that occur, it’s so easy to get bogged down and think about all the bad in the world. But, events like these, people who are doers and not just sayers, bring us so much unity [...] they bring us so much solidarity.”
Erika Moritsugu, who serves as Deputy Assistant to the President and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Senior Liaison, committed to continued support.
“My friends, we see you, we love you, and we grieve deeply with you and your community. It’s our community,” she said. “We intend to bring healing to this moment, but also beyond -- to offer safety, recognition and support for our Sikh family as a whole.”
Civil rights leaders in the central Indiana Sikh community also held a vigil Thursday evening in Greenwood.
An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Sikhs live in Indiana. Following news that the shooter had visited white supremacists websites, leaders of the national Sikh Coalition urged law enforcement and state and federal legislators to investigate a possible motivation of hate or bias in the crime.
The Sikh Coalition sent an open letter to IMPD Police Chief Randall Taylor and FBI Special Agent Paul Keenan. It stated, “The normalization of anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment, combined with the depiction of those wearing turbans and maintaining facial hair as terrorists, have created an environment in which Sikhs are systematically targeted for hate crimes and other forms of intolerance and discrimination.”
It also referenced an FBI report that found Sikhs were the fifth most targeted religious minority. And it said the organization has received “at least one e-mail” describing the shooter as a hero, specifically related to his murder of Sikhs. It said, “Law enforcement agencies cannot overlook the likelihood that these narratives played a role in Mr. Hole’s attack.”
As of Thursday evening, law enforcement has not yet ascribed a specific motive for the shooting.