A 26-year-old man in New York City has been arrested and charged with hate crime assault following a shocking attack on a Sikh teen aboard a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus. The assailant, identified as Christopher Philippeaux from East Harlem, targeted 19-year-old Mani Sandhu, physically assaulting him and attempting to remove his turban. The incident has raised concerns about hate-motivated violence and discrimination in the city.
The attack occurred on the morning of October 15 when both Sandhu and Philippeaux were passengers on a shuttle bus near 118th Street and Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill. Sandhu, on his way to a Sikh temple in Queens, was preparing to disembark near Liberty Avenue and 118th Street when he was confronted by the assailant.
According to Sandhu’s account, Philippeaux approached him and demanded that he remove his turban. The assailant expressed hostile sentiments, stating, “Take off your mask. We don’t wear this in our America.” The verbal confrontation quickly escalated as Philippeaux began physically assaulting Sandhu, delivering multiple punches to the young Sikh’s head and neck. Surveillance photos captured Philippeaux exiting the bus momentarily before reboarding, attempting to forcibly remove Sandhu’s turban.
During the altercation, Sandhu employed self-defense measures to protect his turban. Recalling the ordeal, he described how Philippeaux targeted the back of his neck in an attempt to dislodge the religious headwear. The Sikh turban holds deep cultural and religious significance and is a symbol of identity and spirituality for Sikhs.
Mani Sandhu, who arrived in the United States from India just 10 months ago, expressed his deep disappointment and insecurity following the attack. He had envisioned the United States as a safe and welcoming place but was shaken by the unprovoked assault.
The incident has sparked outrage and condemnation from advocacy groups, including the Sikh Coalition. The organization expressed its deep concern about the apparent hate-motivated attack on a Sikh teen and commended the New York Police Department (NYPD) Hate Crimes Unit for investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Amreen Partap Singh Bhasin, Staff Attorney at the Sikh Coalition, stated that the targeting of the Sikh teen’s turban during the attack underscored the need for the incident to be classified as a hate crime. The Sikh Coalition emphasized the importance of combating hate-motivated violence and discrimination while advocating for the right of every individual to move about in public without fear of assault or harassment based on their appearance.
The attack left Sandhu emotionally shaken and angry, but he courageously emphasized the need to ensure that no one is subjected to assault or harassment due to their appearance. In the diverse and multicultural city of New York, incidents like this highlight the importance of promoting understanding, tolerance, and inclusivity. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenge of hate crimes and the need for continued efforts to address prejudice and discrimination in society.