Public officials, faith leaders and community members came together Tuesday morning to support Inderjit Singh Mukker, who was brutally attacked in an assault last week.
The juvenile suspect was charged Friday with five counts of felony aggravated battery. Before Tuesday’s press conference and rally, the DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin announced that the suspect would now also face a hate crime charge. This shift came after the Sikh Coalition and other advocates pushed officials to acknowledge the reported bias that motivated the attack.
“You cannot address the problem of hate in this nation if you refuse to acknowledge its existence,” said the Sikh Coalition’s Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur.
The teen is accused of shouting slurs such as “terrorist” and “Bin Laden” at Mukker before assaulting the 53-year-old in his car in Darrien, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Standing just steps from where the attack took place on Sept. 8, Mukker told the crowd “I am an American–and no American should be judged or attacked because of the color of their skin or their religion.”
He added: “Hate and bigotry are alive and well in America, but so are love and kindness.”
Representatives from the Sikh Coalition also spoke at the event along with community supporters including Rev. Otis Moss Jr. of the Chicago-based Trinity United Church and Marty Castro, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Many attendees held signs that said “Educate. End Hate.” and “Justice 4 Mr. Mukker.” They also wore buttons that said “Take on Hate.” In a nod to the campaign with the same name, Moss told the crowd and the press: “I am here to take on hate.” Referring to his large, most African American congregants on Chicago’s south side, he said “We stand with the Sikh community.”