The gathering begins at 7 p.m. on the western steps of City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza, with a vigil to follow at the Sikh temple at 11157 W. Clover Road at about 8 p.m., according to Jass Sangha.
Everyone in the community is welcome, said Sangha, who is a member of the Tracy Planning Commission and the city’s Sikh community.
The gathering is a chance for residents to come together and learn about one another in the wake of the temple attack, she said.
“We live here. We have our roots here,” she said. “For me, it’s very important that we have a close community.”
She said local members of the Sikh faith — a monotheistic religion with roots in 15th-century India — were stunned by the news of the Sunday, Aug. 5, shooting in which a lone gunman entered an Oak Creek, Wis., temple and fatally shot six people and severely wounded a police officer before apparently shooting himself, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigations announcement Wednesday.
“I was at temple (Sunday) when I found out (about the shooting),” Sangha said. “It was unbelievable. You can’t believe someone could do that at a place of worship.”
There are two Sikh temples in the Tracy area, Sangha said — the West Clover Road location, and another at 1601 W. Grant Line Road, west of the city limits. Sangha described local Sikhs as a close-knit community of about 4,500 followers.
But it was an outpouring of support from non-Sikhs after the shooting, Sangha said, that made her want to thank her neighbors. She also expressed thanks to Oak Creek police Lt. Brian Murphy, who was reportedly shot nine times while responding to the shooting.
“Words cannot really express it,” she said.
Mercedes Silveira is an activist who has been involved in several local efforts, including the South Side Community Organization and United Way Tracy Community Council. She was saddened by the Wisconsin attack, and called the Sikhs an “exemplary community.”
“(My husband) and I have been to the Sikh temple many times, and they’ve welcomed us with open arms,” Silveira said.
The FBI is investigating whether the Wisconsin shooter, identified as Wade Michael Page, targeted Sikhs because of their religion or appearance. Males often wear turbans and grow beards as a sign of their faith. That could make it a hate crime or case of domestic terrorism, according to the FBI.
Phyllis Gerstenfeld, head of the criminal justice Department of California State University, Stanislaus, specializes in hate crime studies. She said the Sikh community has been targeted, especially after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
They are often mistaken for Muslims, she said.
“It wouldn’t have been OK if he’d have gone into a Mosque and killed all those people, either,” Gerstenfeld said.
She said that events such as the one planned by the local Sikhs are essential for building a more inclusive and understanding community, and hopefully can help prevent future violence.
“The more that people can interact with people who are different than them, the better,” Gerstenfeld said. “Especially young people, because biases tend to begin when they’re seven or eight.”
• Contact Jon Mendelson at 831-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.