Cops Monitoring Hate Groups In Wake Of Sikh Temple Shooting
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CHICAGO (CBS) – In the wake of the deadly shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, by a man with ties to neo-Nazis and white supremacists, Chicago police have been keeping a vigilant watch on hate groups.
On Sunday, Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh gurdwara in suburban Milwaukee, killing six worshippers and wounding three other people, including a police officer responding to the shooting. Police then killed Page in a shootout outside the gurdwara.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley went to find out if a hate group linked to Page, and other similar groups are active in Illinois.
Chicago police have been keeping a closer watch on the city’s only Sikh temple on Devon Avenue after the shooting in Wisconsin.
The temple’s president now thinks police must be present for all their services.
Balvinder Singh, president of Gurdwara Sahib of Chicago, said, “Most of the temples, or mosques, they have one or two days service; and their services are only for a couple of hours. And there’s a lot of people together, and these kind of attackers, they can kill a lot of people.”
Authorities have said Page belonged to a skinhead group called Hammerskin Nation, fervent proponents of white power.
Lonnie Nasatir, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said “they are really known as probably the most violent and racist skinhead group in the country.”
Nasatir said the Hammerskins, along with the National Socialist Movement – the biggest neo-Nazi group in the region — and Volksfront International are all active in Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri, but not in Chicago.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy agrees with that assessment, even though some monitoring groups have seen a nationwide rise in crimes by hate groups.
“We have not noticed an uptick [in Chicago or Illinois],” McCarthy said.
In 1999, former Northwestern basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong was killed in Skokie by white supremacist Benjamin Smith. That killing, and the Sikh temple murders, show the danger posed by hate groups is real, and so is the fear they can spark.
“The kids are most scared, and I heard from some people, they said, ‘Well, we’re not going to go to temple,’” Singh said.
With the economic downturn, the Anti-Defamation League feared a rise in hate group activity in Chicago, but they haven’t seen it. They believe the more diverse population and more tolerant attitudes makes Chicago a less fervent recruiting ground for hate groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks hate groups across the nation, and it has a state-by-state map of active groups. They count 28 hate groups active in Illinois.
The Gurdwara Sahib on Devon Avenue is expecting an outpouring of multi-faith support when it opens its doors for services Wednesday night.