SACRAMENTO (AP) — California lawmakers struck a somber tone Monday when they eulogized the victims of the shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
The Assembly observed a moment of silence in honor of the six worshippers killed a day earlier at a suburban Milwaukee temple. Lawmakers in both houses praised the contributions Sikhs make to their communities.
California is believed to be home to the country’s largest population of Sikhs.
“This tragedy has shaken communities across the nation,” Democratic Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi said. “But while the Wisconsin gunmen tried to drive another wedge of hate in this country, events like this only make us work harder, stand stronger and bind us together.”
A priest in Hayashi’s Hayward district lost a cousin in the violence and led his congregation in prayer as news of the attacks trickled out.
“These are trying times that make us shake our heads and wonder how far humanity has come,” she said.
The attack came two weeks after a massacre at a Colorado movie theater and four months after an Oakland university shooting that killed seven.
California has seen a number of apparently racially motivated attacks on Sikh-Americans in recent years. Several lawmakers referenced the two Sikh men who were fatally shot last year during an afternoon walk in the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove. That crime remains unsolved.
“These tragedies hit close to home,” said Assemblyman Jim Nielson, R-Gerber, whose Central Valley district is home to the country’s largest Sikh temple in Yuba City. The first major temple in the U.S. was built in nearby Stockton.
Sikh men, readily identifiable by their turbans, are sometimes mistaken for Muslims.
Senator Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, expressed sorrow for the victims in comments on the house floor, and later praised the South Asian religion in a statement.
“As every American should know, the Sikh religion is a peaceful, loving religion that originated in India and its devotees are honorable, good-hearted people who strongly support core American values,” she said.