MADISON, Wis. - A former white supremacist and the son of a man who died in 2012's Sikh temple shooting shared their messages of stopping hate and bigotry in front of a crowd of about 200 people in Madison on Sunday.
The event, held at the Monona Terrace, was called Moving Past Hate.
Arno Michaelis spent time in a Milwaukee white supremacist metal band during the late '80s and early '90s, but left the group and now preaches peace and anti-racism.
"I was literally a hatemonger for seven years of my life," Michaelis said. "I lived and breathed hate."
Pardeep Kaleka lost his father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, at the hands of a white supremacist. Satwant Singh Kaleka was one of six people gunned down in a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek in August 2012.
"We need action, we need commitment to action (against hate)," Pardeep Kaleka said.
Kaleka, a former Milwaukee police officer, founded the group Serve 2 Unite after the shooting and Michaelis is a member.
It exists "(i)n utter defiance of fear, ignorance, and hatred" and "cultivate(s) courage, wisdom, love, and human kinship on our Earth," according to its website.
Michaelis said he left white supremacy after growing "exhausted" of living in hate. He said he was motivated by small acts of kindness from people of different races and religions he believed he should hate.
"As I was attacking someone, as my fist was hitting someone, there was a voice inside me that said 'What the hell are you doing? What is wrong with you?" Michaelis said.
Calling hate a "willful denial of compassion," Michaelis said recent clashes among white supremacists and protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia show that white supremacy is as strong and violent as ever in 2017, but he doesn't believe that meeting white supremacists with aggression will change anything. Instead, he said, he believes it reinforces their views.
"It's very concerning to me that as voices of hate become more prominent in our society, sadly, the response to those voices is quite often more hate," Michaelis said. "If we respond to hate with more hate, there's no way we're going to produce anything but more hate in our society."
In addition to Michaelis and Kaleka, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin spoke at the event.
Moving Past Hate was a nonpartisan event and featured representatives from both the Dane County Republican Party and the Dane County Democratic Party.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups have reached record numbers across the U.S.
- Chasing the Dream: Local Olympian inspires future generations of speedskaters
- Attempted murder suspect uncooperative, not allowed in court at hearing
- Consumer Reports: So you got a drone - Now what?
- Waterloo School District cancels all classes, activities due to threat investigation
- Man detained after potentially explosive chemicals found in an apartment
- Fire officials help secure floating propane tanks in Milton