California man charged with hate crimes for attacking Hindu women wearing saree

Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at the United We Stand White House Summit against hate crime Sept. 15, 2022. Photo: videograb Twitter @VP

Santa Clara (California) : A California-based man, with criminal records, was charged with hate crimes after he allegedly attacked 14 Hindu women of Indian descent, during a two-month crime spree that started in June, ABC7 reported on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.

According to the officials, East Palo Alto resident, Lathan Johnson, 37, is being held in jail for targeting 14 Indian women, wearing traditional dress and jewellery. It is reportedly believed that the attacker broke women’s arms and beat their husbands for gold jewellery. District Attorney Jeff Rosen said, “Rips off their jewellery, drags them down the street breaks their writs, beats up their husband and terrorizing them is much worse than a property thief.”

ABC7’s reporter, Dion Lim, on her Twitter account wrote that Samir Karla of the Hindu American Foundation pointed out the women were just reportedly wearing a sari and bindis, frequenting temples and Hindu sites.

Gold jewellery is ceremonial and for many, a sacred part of Hindu culture. With a number of Indian holidays and festivals coming soon, spreading awareness, according to Samir Kalra of the Hindu American Foundation, is crucial.

“Our community feels vulnerable and fearful.”

Kalra applauded the DA’s actions and called for more counties to charge crimes targeting Asian Americans as hate crimes.

“We are facing an uptick in hate crimes and online Hindu phobia. Seeing that we’re making progress in prosecuting to the fullest sends a strong message,” he said, outside the courthouse.

In the internet space, Indian communities were posting various posts about the harassment they face in California. Shankar Kenkre, one of the victims, posted about his mother being targeted in an unrelated non-violent attack for her gold necklace several weeks ago in Foster City, ABC7 reported.

He posted it on Nextdoor and was flooded with comments from other Indians saying it had happened to them or a loved one. Kenkre is grateful his mother was not physically assaulted but chose to speak out to encourage others to warn their elders.

DA Rosen said that there may be more victims which is why they were sharing Johnson’s mugshot. They asked anyone with information to come forward.

Johnson remains in custody with no bail. He faces a maximum penalty of 63 years behind bars. His next court date is set for November 4, according to ABC7.

(This article appeared in ANI Oct. 8, 2022 online)



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