BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — On Tuesday, over 600 people gathered to watch a movie telling the story of one of the deadliest hate crimes in recent U.S. history. The screening, which was held at Dore Theater on the CSU Bakersfield campus, was followed by a discussion between representatives from law enforcement agencies and community leaders, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
The acclaimed film, “Waking in Oak Creek,” tells the empowering story of how the community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin responded when six worshipers at a Sikh Temple were killed by a white supremacist during prayer services in 2012. The entire community and law enforcement worked together to overcome tragedy and stand up to hate.
U.S. Attorney Talbert stated: “In the aftermath of the deadly attack on the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the entire community rallied together to turn tragedy into an opportunity to unite against hate. The community found positive and inclusive ways to commemorate the victims, which included Sikh worshippers as well as law enforcement officers, and to raise awareness about hate crimes, particularly those directed at Sikhs. I am proud that my office could host a screening of the film that documents that community’s inspiring response to hate and facilitate a discussion about how our community can work together to prevent these crimes from happening in our district.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office organized this event in partnership with the FBI; the Bakersfield Sikh Community; Sikh Riders of America; Islamic Shoura Council of Bakersfield; California State University Bakersfield, including the School of Social Sciences and Education, the Departments of Criminal Justice, Political Science, and Sociology, the University Police Department, and the Kegley Institute of Ethics; Bakersfield Police Department; Kern County Sheriff’s Office; and the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.
After the screening of the 33-minute film, Kirk Sheriff, chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fresno, moderated a panel discussion where law enforcement officials and Sikh and Muslim Community leaders offered their perspectives on identifying opportunities and strategies to collaborate in the fight against hate. The panel members were FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan, Sikh community representative Mandeep Singh Chahal, President of the Islamic Shoura Council of Bakersfield Ollie Zachary, Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin, Kern County Undersheriff Brian Wheeler, and Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green.
The panel discussion was followed by a lively and collaborative question and answer session that gave attendees the opportunity to engage with panelists and have their voices heard on this important issue.