LAST week, a religiously observant Sikh American Uber driver was physically assaulted and verbally berated by a customer in Bellingham, Washington.
The Sikh driver–who keeps his articles of faith, including his unshorn hair and turban–was attacked in the early morning hours of Thursday, December 5. Leading up to and during the attack, the assailant shouted racist accusations regarding the driver’s Indian heritage, skin color, turban, and beard before attempting to strangle him. The driver was ultimately able to escape his attacker on foot and called 911 immediately afterwards.
The Sikh driver wishes to remain anonymous, but he has retained the Sikh Coalition for pro bono legal consultation and to raise awareness around the incident. His alleged attacker, Grifin Levi Sayers, was arrested the same day and will be formally charged on Friday, December 13. According to the first reporting on the story, the Bellingham Police Department is already investigating the influence of bias on this incident and considering hate crime charges.
“This was very clearly a hate crime under the definition of the law,” said Amrith Kaur, Sikh Coalition Legal Director. “The attacker knew his Uber driver was Sikh, and he chose to both physically and verbally attack him because of it. We are thankful that the Bellingham Police Department are investigating bias as a motivator, and we trust that the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will appropriately charge him with a hate crime moving forward.”
The Sikh Coalition said it will continue to fight for restorative justice for the driver. It added: “We also continue to provide free and confidential legal assistance to Sikhs who have been discriminated against or targeted for their religious beliefs or identity. If you believe you or someone you know has experienced bias, bigotry, or backlash, please fill out our confidential legal intake form or call (212) 655-3095 to speak with someone in English or Punjabi.”