Mesa Gathering Marks 20 Years Since Sikh Man Killed In Post-9/11 Hate Crime
Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the first recorded case of post-9/11 retaliation. Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man profiled as Muslim, was killed outside his own gas station in Mesa.
The Sodhis remember their lost family member on Sept.15 every year. This year, interfaith leaders, elected officials and community members were in attendance to honor Sodhi’s memory.
Rama Singh Sodhi, the Balbir's brother, spoke at the memorial at the Chevron near 80th Avenue and University Drive. He has been telling his brother’s story, as well as discussing Sikh discrimination in the United States, for years.
“I think this is a big honor to my brother and his legacy. After 20 years, we’re still here together, remembering him, remembering all the hate crime victims,” said Sodhi.
Inderpreet Kaur is with the Sikh Coalition, which hosted the event. She says the group documented more than 300 cases of violence and discrimination against Sikh people in the month after 9/11.
“We saw pictures that looked very similar to our headdresses, our religious headdress. There were turbaned men on the screen with long beards, someone that almost resembles my father,” said Kaur.
Sodhi says the family’s purpose in inviting interfaith leaders to the event is to join in a unified prayer for not just Sodhi, but the victims of other hate crimes, as well as those killed in the 9/11 attacks.
After the 2001 attacks, Balbir Singh Sodhi was among the first of Sikhs, Arab Muslims and others targeted in hate crimes.
Airplane mechanic Frank Roque was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing and was sentenced to death before that was commuted to life imprisonment. Roque also was accused of drive-by shootings the same day at an Afghan family’s home and a Lebanese man’s convenience store, although no one was injured in those attacks.
Associated Press contributed to this report.