The Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has announced that Grifin Levi Sayers, who physically assaulted and verbally abused a religiously observant Sikh American Uber driver last week, is charged with a hate crime and assault in the second degree. Sayers berated and attempted to strangle the driver on the morning of Thursday, December 5 after calling him for rideshare services.
The Sikh Coalition applauds the prosecutor’s choice to charge Sayers with a hate crime under Washington law, on account of his racist rants regarding the driver’s skin color, Indian heritage, turban, and beard leading up to and during the assault.
“We are grateful to the Bellingham Police Department for recognizing the clear influence of bias from the beginning of this case, and to the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for reaching the right decision,” said Amrith Kaur, Sikh Coalition Legal Director.
“Acknowledging the role of targeted hatred in acts of violence is the first step in combating further such incidents, and taking hate crimes seriously and prosecuting them with the right tools is the surest way forward to making our communities safer.”
The Sikh Uber driver, who continues to request anonymity as he recovers from the attack, retained the Sikh Coalition for pro bono legal support and was relieved to hear of the prosecutor’s decision.
Sayers was arrested after he attempted to strangle the driver in the early morning hours on December 5th. He will be arraigned at the Whatcom County Superior Court on Friday, December 13, at 9:00 AM; the Sikh community in Bellingham is expected to gather at the arraignment to express their gratitude for the prompt and capable handling of this hate crime case.
“Hate crimes are deeply traumatic for the individual, but they also send ripple effects through the entire community,” said Dr. Jasmit Singh, a Sikh community leader in the greater Seattle area. “A hate crime against one is an act of aggression against all--and likewise, the decision to prosecute this case represents a commitment to protecting all of Washington’s Sikh residents. We are grateful for that commitment.”
There are approximately 60,000 to 75,000 Sikhs and 15 gurdwaras (Sikh houses of worship) in Washington.
Per the Sikh Coalition’s monitoring of public media accounts, hate crimes reported to law enforcement, and private reporting since 2015, the Sikh Coalition estimates that Washington is the third most dangerous state in the nation for Sikhs despite the community’s presence in the area for more than 100 years. These charges are a critical step to further protecting Sikhs and other religious minorities from hate crimes in Washington.