People in Madison came together Sunday to share their grief for those in Oak Creek and stress messages of acceptance and tolerance.
The group met right next to the capitol with conversations centered on the importance of education when it comes to other cultures and religions.
The vigil started with about five minutes of silence and reflection. About 80 people were in attendance. A number of those individuals, including a handful that practice Sikhism, shared their feelings on the Sunday morning shootings.
It’s been a particularly tough time for Manmeet Soin, who grew up a member of the Milwaukee Sikh community that experienced the tragedy. He was in touch with friends and family all day to make sure everyone he knows at the temple is OK.
“Just people getting closer and united and being able to just pray for and be, it's acceptance,” said Manmeet Soin. “Just understand that there are differences but you embrace the differences, you know, and learn to work together.”
Word of the vigil spread quickly on Facebook. Organizer Callen Harty thought people would be looking for a sense of peace, and saw the gathering as a way to do it.
“I felt we needed to gather and talk about peace and talk about compassion and understanding and a different way of looking at things in the world,” Harty said.
Some people, like Vivek Ramakrishnan, aren’t members of the Sikh community but feel personally threatened by Sunday’s shooting. As an Indian-American, Ramakrishnan says he doesn’t understand why this would happen to such a peaceful group of people.
“I can't see what anybody in that community did wrong to necessitate this or bring this about (in) their community,” Ramakrishnan said. “And it's just really disappointing to see.”
People at the vigil encouraged each other to research different religions. At the very least, there was a call to take any emotion and turn it into an educational opportunity.
As investigators in Oak Creek are now labeling the crime as an act of “domestic terrorism,” several at the vigil believe the Sikhs were in fact victims of a targeted attack. Some of those people referenced years of personal ridicule and intimidation, especially after the events of September 11th.