Sikh educational bus shelter panels vandalized in Norwich
Norwich — Three bus stop shelters with panels describing Sikh heritage, origins and customs were vandalized earlier this week, including one at the entrance to the Walmart-Big Y plaza that was damaged twice.
Glass was shattered at the Walmart shelter and at a shelter on West Main Street across from the shopping plaza with Shop Rite, TJ Maxx and Moe’s restaurant. The display panel was bent at the West Main Street location.
After the Walmart shelter glass was replaced by outdoor billboard company Lamar, purple and yellow paint was sprayed on the glass, with an X through the word Punjab, the Sikh homeland. There also was written what appears to be “Jan 7” followed by an M and a W.
The Lamar sign company has removed the Sikh panel from the Walmart shelter but the graffiti painted on the glass remains.
At a third shelter, in front of the Moe’s restaurant on West Main Street, purple spray paint was scrawled onto the turban of the man pictured in the panel and purple and yellow paint partially covered a list of Sikh values and pillars of faith.
Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, whose Sikh Art Gallery sponsored the signs, reported the vandalism to Norwich police and filed online reports with the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League in case it proves to be part of a larger pattern. He also alerted local Sikhs to be “more vigilant” in the coming weeks. He said he especially is concerned about the apparent vague reference to Jan. 7.
Norwich police Chief Patrick Daley said police are investigating the incidents. Police will contact local businesses along West Main Street and Salem Turnpike to see if any security cameras have views of the bus shelters.
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact Norwich police Officer Michael Krodel at (860) 886-5561, ext. 6.
Eight panels, each featuring a different theme of Sikh history, religion or culture, were erected at bus shelters throughout Norwich in October as part of a public education and awareness campaign on Sikhism.
Khalsa, a Sikh community leader who was elected to the City Council in November, said he was disappointed in the vandalism that apparently targeted the Sikh education panels, but added he does not believe it reflects on the Norwich community at large.
“I don’t personally believe it’s a racist town,” Khalsa said while pointing out the damage at one of the West Main Street bus shelters, “because they voted for me.”
Khalsa was the second highest vote-getter among the six aldermen elected Nov. 2. A Norwich business owner, he has led education efforts for the past several years, participating in Norwich Rotary diversity celebrations, donating several “welcome” signs written in 24 languages and opening the Sikh Art Gallery at 7 Clinic Drive last February.
Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz recently visited the gallery on different days.
The gallery will host an open house from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5.
“We have done these educational billboard campaign several times in the past," Khalsa said, and vandalism like this has never happened before. “But I am not going to get demoralized, and will continue my efforts to combat hate and bigotry.”