Sikhs Praised By Governor for Responding to Temple Shooting 'With Love'

Thousands, including Gov. Walker, attend memorial service for Sikh victims.

OAK CREEK, Wisc. Aug. 10, 2012 -- Gov. Scott Walker told a memorial service today for six Sikh men gunned down by a white supremacist that the Sikh community has "shown us that the best way to respond is with love."

The memorial service began five days after the shocking attack on the Sikh temple and long lines of Sikhs and other mourners lined up for the service.

"Today, we mourn with you, we pray with you and we support you," Walker told the mourners packed into the Oak Creek High School gymnasium.

He praised the Sikh community's response to the massacre.

"This week our friends and neighbors in the Sikh community have shown us that the best way to respond is with love," the governor said.

Walker was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder at the memorial service and this afternoon the Sikh temple will open for prayer as the Sikhs take turns reading over a thousand pages of their holy book until Sunday morning. Three funerals will be held today and three more on Saturday.

One of the day's more personal speeches came from Pardeep Kaleka, whose father died in last Sunday's attack, and asked, "How can we look into the eye of a horrific tragedy like the Sikh temple shooting last Sunday and find a blessing?"

But he added, "We must not fight hate with hate. My father used to say you could not put out a fire by putting gasoline on it."

It was last Sunday when white supremacist Wade Michael Page went on a shooting rampage that killed six and wounded others. Page then took his own life after being shot by an officer.

The people wounded in the attack, including the police officer who was shot eight or nine times, are progressing in their recoveries. According to the hospital where they are recuperating, Lt. Brian Murphy is now in satisfactory condition. Punjab Singh, 65, is still in critical condition, requiring mechanical support to breathe, after suffering a gunshot wound to the face. The hospital said Singh may also have subsequently suffered a stroke. Santokh Singh, 50, is in serious condition after he had surgery for a gunshot wound to the chest.

Long lines formed this morning to enter school gymnasium, and inside the packed gym images of the victim were shown on a screen. Chanting music was played over loudspeakers and all of the men, Sikhs and non-Sikhs, wore the distinctive turbans called patkas.

Barinderpal Sandhu and three of his friends, Sikhs who live in Toronto, drove 10 hours through the night to attend today's memorial service. All four were in their 20s and wore patkas.

"Ten straight hours just to show love and support for the community, basically to show no matter where you're from we stand for the same reasons and we're here to prove that," Sandhu said. "Today is a day of being united no matter where you're from. It's for standing up for a cause and for a good reason."

Thousands of other attendees are expected at today's service, taking place on a chilly, rainy day here in this suburb south of Milwaukee.

On Thursday, under pouring rain and gray skies here, the Sikh temple re-opened to members for the first time since the shooting.

"It's only open right now currently to those people who are volunteering to clean it up and to the cleaning agencies getting in there and fixing the things up," said temple spokesman Amardeep Singh Kaleka.

Later in the day people came together for a community meeting that included an appearance by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who warned that the threat to the Sikh community still remains.

"The Sikhs are such peace-loving people and so caring and the power of their innocence in the temple touches us in a different kind of way. But they are no less safe than they were a week ago because those who hated them then, hate them now," Jackson said.

In addition to the appearances by Jackson and Holder, other prominent public officials such as Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan have also come to Oak Creek this week to support the Sikhs.

At an emotional candlelight vigil Tuesday night in a downtown park, Ryan said that "the Sikhs have been a great part of our community for a long time."