Customer who assaulted turbaned Sikh Uber driver in Bellingham charged with hate crime

Photo: Sikh Coalition

THE Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in the state of Washington has announced that it will bring hate crime charges in the case of an Uber passenger who physically attacked and verbally abused his observant Sikh American driver on Thursday, December 5.

The driver, who retained the Sikh Coalition for pro bono legal consultation and remains anonymous as he recovers from the attack, expressed his relief at this positive development.

“We are grateful to the Bellingham Police Department for recognizing the influence of bias in this case from the beginning, and we applaud the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for reaching the right decision,” said Amrith Kaur, Sikh Coalition Legal Director. “The attacker’s racist rants regarding the driver’s skin color, Indian heritage, turban, and beard leading up to and during the assault left little doubt that this was a hate crime.”

The attacker, Grifin Levi Sayers, will be arraigned at the Whatcom County Superior Court on Friday, December 13, at 9 a.m. Members of the Bellingham and greater Washington congregation are planning to gather at the arraignment to express their gratitude for the prompt and appropriate response to this hate crime case.

“Charging these kinds of malicious attacks as hate crimes sends a clear message that it is unacceptable to target others for their heritage, religion, or any other aspect of their identity,” said Dr. Jasmit Singh, a Sikh community leader in the greater Seattle area. “Recognizing the influence of bias–and then taking these incidents seriously and addressing them with the proper legal mechanisms–is the first step to making our communities safer.”

The Sikh Coalition said: “We are grateful to the Sikh Uber driver for sharing his incident with the police. Only through that brave act has this step toward justice been taken, and the awareness around the continued threat of hate and violence been increased.”

In light of this incident, the Sikh Coalition has updated its ‘Know Your Rights’ resource for taxi and rideshare drivers. It also continues to provide free and confidential legal assistance to Sikhs who have been discriminated against or targeted for their religious beliefs or identity. If you believe you or somebody you know has experienced bias, bigotry, or backlash, fill out its confidential legal intake form or call (212) 655-3095 to speak with someone in English or Punjabi.