Oak Creek (Wisconsin, USA), Aug.13 (ANI): Hundreds of people from around the country gathered on Sunday at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, for the first public service there since a white supremacist gunned down six people in the same place exactly a week earlier.
Participants prepared and ate a traditional meal and raised the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag, before the prayer service on the same grounds where Wade Michael Page, 40, went on a shooting rampage last Sunday before killing himself.
Page, a U.S. Army veteran with links to racist groups, killed Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; and Suveg Singh, 84. He injured four others, including a police officer who responded to the scene.
Investigators have not determined why Page targeted the Sikh gurdwara. Police believes that Page was driven by hate. The shooter also left a number of clues in his music and postings on Internet site for skinheads.
The ceremony began at about 10:30 a.m. (1530 GMT), the same time Page arrived with a 9mm handgun and started shooting on August 5.
The first part of the service involved raising the orange Sikh flag in a traditional ceremony that symbolizes rebirth.
Outside the temple, Sikhs washed the flagpole with their hands, rubbing a mixture of milk and yogurt onto the pole and rinsing it with buckets of water. Then the triangular flag was placed on the pole and raised toward the overcast sky.
A journalist who covered the incident said not much people at Wisconsin were familiar with the Sikh community but still a large number of people showed up for the funeral to express solidarity.
I was actually reporting the day, we received report that this shooting took place. It was shocking to say the least; I think a lot of people at Wisconsin were not totally familiar with the Sikh community. But looking at them and how they bonded, there were a lot of people on the other day in wake of the funeral that had never probably been to the temple or had never interacted with any members from the Sikh community. But they were there, they showed up and they are supporting those people, said a journalist, Todd Hicks.
Inside the temple, Sikhs were busy preparing a langar, a community meal traditional in the Sikh religion and open to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike.
Worshippers covered their heads with colourful scarves and turbans and removed their shoes before entering.
The procession into the temple's main room led worshippers past a bullet hole in a metal door jamb. Below it, a small plaque said, We Are One and 8-5-12.
The temple was decorated with flowers and pictures of the shooting victims. Walls were covered with posters signed by well-wishers from around the world. As the temple filled, one member taped up a flier notifying the congregation about where they can go for grief counselling.
Another journalist said the number of people gathered at the funeral showed the sign of 'Wisconsin weeps'.
Well honestly a lot people here at Wisconsin knew very little about the Sikh community here, until this happened but once it did, one of the common sayings that people were saying is that we are all Sikhs. And perhaps the nicest thing was that the night that it happened at Sunday, there was a memorial in downtown where walks of people of all races, of all ages came together and lit candles and people of all religions, all prayed, all felt the Sikh people in their hearts and there was a sign of Wisconsin weeps, said another journalist, A.J. Bayatpour.
Congregation members - and relatives who had travelled to Wisconsin from across the country - ate before the service, using paper plates and paper towels from the kitchen pantry in which a dozen Sikh women and children had hid for hours during and after the shooting.
In the temple's main room, worshippers sat with their legs crossed as priests led them in hymns and prayers.
The killings of six worshippers at a Sikh temple have thrust attention on white power music, a thrashing, punk-metal genre that sees the white race under siege. It was a movement fully embraced by shooter Wade Michael Page.
With a shaved head and tattoos, Page played guitar and sang for a number of white power bands with names like End Apathy and Definite Hate, espousing views on albums such as Violent Victory and encouraging others to act through his Internet postings.
Dozens of vigils for the victims have been held throughout the United States this week, organised by communities and by religious leaders of several faiths. By Ravinder Singh Robin (ANI)