Eric Holder Calls Sikh Temple Shooting a Hate Crime at Memorial

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Holder speaking at today's memorial.Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

At a large memorial service for the victims of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Attorney General Eric Holder described the attack, which was carried out by white supremacist Wade Michael Page, as "an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime." Calling the incident "the very worst of human kind," he went on to say that, "In the recent past, too many Sikhs have been targeted, victimized simply because of how they looked and what they believed." All that aside, Holder, who said he was appearing on behalf of President Obama, stopped short of making a substantive statement on gun control, instead focusing on the more nebulous — and difficult, if not impossible — project of "changing the hearts" of those motivated to commit senseless crimes. 

“We should sensibly discuss if there is a need to change our laws, and we should certainly discuss how we might change the hearts of those so filled with hate that the despicable act we mourn today could ever have occurred,” Holder said during the service at Oak Creek High School. “For our nation’s law enforcement community, our resolve to prevent acts of terrorism and combat crimes motivated by hatred has never been stronger.”

Governor Scott Walker also addressed the crowd — gathered in a high school gym where the coffins of the six people killed were displayed alongside their photos — praising the Sikh community for "[showing] us the best way to respond is with love" — and Jesse Jackson led a closing prayer. Jackson also made a Thursday visit to the temple, after which he said, "It's easy to be polite to say 'We're so sorry this happened' and give the same speech at the next killing a month from now." He added that it was time to move from "politeness to a change in policy."