3rd Dec, 2016

Sikh groups demanding apology from police

Leamington Editorial 24th Sep, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE SIKH community are demanding an apology from police for their ‘disproportionate’ reaction to a protest at the Leamington Gudwara.

Armed officers were called to the temple on Tachbrook Park Drive next to Leamington Shopping Park just before 7am on Sunday (September 11).

It followed reports up to 30 men had burst into the temple – some supposedly armed with swords – unhappy at an interfaith marriage which was set to take place.

Police arrested 55 men on suspicion of aggravated trespass while a number of weapons – subsequently found to be Kirpans or ceremonial swords – were also seized.

Following the incident, the Sikh Federation, the Sikh Council, Sikh Youth UK and other groups have come together to discuss the way the protest was handled by police.

In a meeting with Supt David Gardner, Chief Insp Faz Chishty and Insp Daf Goddard, representatives stressed the damage and hurt the incident had caused to their community.

They argued ‘poor’ police statements had resulted in over-dramatic headlines in the national press.

A statement from the Sikh Federation also said the representatives were ‘totally unconvinced’ by the use of armed officers and the need for riot response units saying the police actions were ‘disproportionate.’

Jas Singh, from the Sikh Federation told The Observer: “There is huge unrest in the Sikh community because we feel we have been defamed and received negative press for what was a peaceful protest.

“It was irresponsible of the police to react in the way they did, especially given that the protest happened on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

“The community are now demanding an apology from Warwickshire Police and an investigation into how the protest was handled.”

The incident also saw the police come under fire from the group Sikh 2 Inspire over the force’s armed response.

A statement on the group’s Facebook page read: “Our sacred Kirpan has been repeatedly described as a bladed weapon and armed police have been called out on peaceful protestors.”

A spokesman for Warwickshire Police confirmed meetings had taken place between the force and the Sikh community, however he was unable to say anything further on the issue.