FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A suspected hate crime is hitting home in the Valley's Sikh community and elected leaders are stepping up to show support.
An increased reward and increased awareness are the goals of a town hall meeting Tuesday night. A big focus will also be on educating people to eliminate the stigma that seems to unfairly follow Sikhs.
A sling protects the broken collarbone Amrik Singh Bal suffered in an attack in west central Fresno over the weekend. The active 68-year-old now lies in bed, a symbol of the hate apparently misdirected at his faith.
"American Sikhs wish to promote greater understanding of their beliefs and reassure everyone that Sikhs are not members of ISIS, Al Qaeda, or the Taliban," says a commercial campaign airing in the Central Valley.
Sikhs are hoping to fix misconceptions with the ad campaign and public outreach. The town hall meeting is part of that effort. Fresno County supervisor Henry Perea will be there, trying to make sure Sikhs know they have support in the Central Valley.
But he worries the message coming from some national political candidates supporting discrimination could lead to more trouble. "It gives some of these people out of ignorance, in their mind, permission to go out and hurt people," Perea said. "You know, ironically in our community, they target the wrong people."
Fresno police say two men punched Bal several times and shouted "Why are you here?" during the attack. They're investigating it as a hate crime and brought in federal investigators to help.
Despite a $5,000 reward, police tell Action News they haven't made any significant progress as of Tuesday evening. That reward is about to get bigger, though, and Perea says that proves this community won't tolerate what happened. "You cannot commit a hate crime against any person based on the color of their skin or their religion," he said. "That's the underlying message."
New developments in Fresno Sikh attack