May 27, 2019 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Salem, OR: On May 24, Andrew Ramsey was sentenced to 36 months of supervised probation, after pleading guilty to intimidation in the second degree and assault in the fourth degree in the January 14, 2019 assault of Harwinder Singh Dodd. Harwinder Singh is a Sikh American husband and father who owns a convenience store in Salem.
In addition, the sentencing judge, Judge Partridge, ruled Mr. Ramsey is required to seek drug and alcohol treatment along with mental health treatment. Judge Partridge also included restorative justice components as part of Mr. Ramsey’s probation, including a requirement that he obtain an awareness of Sikhism and report what he’s learned to the court, and spoke highly of Mr. Dodd’s character as a hard-working and valuable member of the Salem community.
Mr. Dodd, who maintains Sikh articles of faith, including unshorn hair and a turban, was working at his convenience store when Mr. Ramsey tried to purchase certain goods without an ID, as required by law. Mr. Dodd followed the law and refused to service Mr. Ramsey, who grew angry. Mr. Dodd then walked him outside, asking him to leave the premises. It was then that Mr. Ramsey got violent and brutally attacked Mr. Dodd and his articles of faith. He ran up to Mr. Dodd, grabbed and pulled his beard, punched him, threw him to the ground and kicked him. He also spat on Mr. Dodd and ripped his turban off his head.
Since January, the Sikh Coalition provided free legal support during court proceedings and acted as a liaison with the Marion County District Attorney’s office on Mr. Dodd’s behalf. In Mr. Dodd’s impact statement, he shared his own story, the significance of the Sikh faith and the impact the attack had on the Sikh community.
“I wanted the entire courtroom, including my attacker, to understand that my Sikh faith is a defining part of who I am,” said Mr. Dodd, referencing his written statement that was read aloud in court. “Every person should be able to live their life without fear of being targeted because of who they are, or how they practice their faith.”
In a statement the Sikh Coalition said that it worked with Mr. Dodd for over four months to make sure the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Marion County District Attorney’s office were properly investigating this incident, gathering the appropriate evidence and reviewing appropriate charges. From the beginning, law enforcement recognized a bias motivation behind the attack, and so, in addition to other charges, Mr. Ramsey was charged with intimidation in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor under Oregon’s hate crime laws.
“What happened to Harwinder should not happen to anyone regardless of their religion, race or background,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director Amrith Kaur. “We are glad that law enforcement acted quickly to investigate this case as a hate crime, and we will continue to ensure that, in every case, Sikhs who experience bigotry and violence have support.”
The Sikh Coalition said that it will continue working with Oregon law enforcement and officials to minimize the risk of future attacks.
“The Sikh Coalition has been in direct talks with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office regarding their newly-created hate crime task force to identify ways to support new hate crime legislation and law enforcement training measures that would better protect Sikh community members across the state. Recently, Senate Bill 577 was introduced to strengthen the state’s laws against hate crimes. This proposed bill renames crime of intimidation as bias crime, and it is currently sitting with the Oregon Senate to be raised in a full committee hearing before the legislative session ends this year”, the US based NGO said.
The Sikh Coalition said that it handles over 200 legal requests per year, working tirelessly to protect the rights of Sikhs who are targeted because of their beliefs or identity.