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Nationwide Candlelight Vigil Against Hate and Violence to be Held Friday

Sikh leaders across the country are inviting the public to join a vigil to be held Friday at 7 p.m. at the steps of city halls in 101 cities nationwide, including the Tri-Cities. A vigil will also be held tonight in Fremont.

With the nation still reeling from a violent rampage at a Wisconsin Sikh temple, leaders are calling for communities across the country to take a stand against hate and violence.

Rallied by Punjabi Radio USA, various community leaders and volunteers plan to unite Friday at 7 p.m. at city halls in 101 cities nationwide, including Newark, Union City, Fremont, Hayward, San Jose, Chicago and New York.

“The reason we’re holding these at city halls instead of the gurdwara is because we want to come out to different communities to show that we are members of the community, too,” said Harpal Mann, a Union City planning commissioner who is spearheading the local vigil.

Though the motive of Sunday's mass shooting is uncertain, the suspect was identified as Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old army veteran and known white supremacist. Wade entered the parking lot of a Sikh house of worship in the town of near Milwaukee at about 10:30 a.m., opening fire outside, then entering the house of worship. At the end of Wade's spree, he had taken the lives of six innocent people before he was killed in a shootout with a police officer.

Mann said the Friday night vigil will not only serve as a memorial for those victims, but those lives claimed during .

Mann, who said he’s advised CNN on its coverage of the Wisconsin rampage, hopes the nationwide vigils will send a message of peace and tolerance.

“What happened in Wisconsin could happen anywhere. There are mad people everywhere,” Mann said. “These hate groups don’t like anyone who does not look like them, who does not have the same names as them, who does not practice the same religion as them.”

California is home to 84 hate groups — the most in the country — according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

According to religious leaders, Sikhs, who wear turbans and head scarves, are frequent victims of discrimination and hate crimes, often because they are mistaken for Muslims, who became a national target of "Islamaphobia" after 9/11.

“Since 9/11, we’ve been on the receiving end, from the government and airports’ racial profiling to innocent victims in Wisconsin who had nothing to do with 9/11,” Mann said.

Mann hopes the vigils will bring greater awareness, tolerance and racial and religious harmony. As of Tuesday evening, 35 cities had agreed to participate in the Friday night vigils.

The events are open to the entire community, and anyone is invited to speak out against hate and violence, Mann said.

Local events to be held weeklong

The Gurdwara Sahib of Fremont — one of the largest Sikh worship centers in the nation with a membership of more than 12,000 — is also holding special services throughout the week.

Tonight, members of the Gurdwara Sahib and other faith groups are holding a candlelight vigil at Lake Elizabeth at Central Park in Fremont at 7 p.m. Originally planned to be held at the Fremont Hall of Justice, the location was moved due to a large expectancy.

Lake Elizabeth is located at 40000 Paseo Padre Pkwy. in Fremont. The vigil will be held at the park's pavilion, which is located close to the park community center near Mission View Drive and Paseo Padre Pkwy. For more information about the event, visit the Facebook event page.

Local community members are also invited so join the Sikh community for its Sunday prayer service. Held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Gurdwara Sahib of Fremont, the special service will be dedicated to the Wisconsin victims, marking one week since the shooting. Free food will be provided.

Gudwara Sahib of Fremont is located at 300 Gudwara Rd. in Fremont.

Vigils are also being held throughout the week and month at various locations across the U.S. To see a full list of events, visit http://bit.ly/OakCreekVigils.

For detailed reports on the Wisconsin shooting, visit .

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