The Republican congressman — whose signs a California man named Surjit Malhi was posting when he was violently attacked last week — has called the assault a “shameful” “act of hatred.”
“Hate crimes have no place in our society,” Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) said in a statement his campaign sent to TPM. “The people responsible for this reprehensible act of hatred must be brought to justice. Surjit is a respected leader in our community and a proud American.”
Malhi, a Sikh man who serves as the chair of the congressman’s Sikhs for Denham coalition, had just finished posting signs for Denham in Stanislaus County in California last week when he was approached by two men. The men reportedly threw sand in his eyes and hit Malhi in the head, shoulders and neck, while shouting “go back to your country!” according to local reports. The men also reportedly vandalized Malhi’s truck with hate symbols and the same “go back to your country” message.
Denham called Malhi while he was in the hospital, but the campaign waited about a week to release a statement out of “respect for the privacy of our friend and supporter,” campaign spokesperson Josh Whitfield said in a statement. The attack on Malhi is just one of several incidents where a member of Denham’s campaign has been threatened or their personal property vandalized in recent days.
“Inciting violence because of race, religion or political beliefs should never be tolerated,” Denham said in the statement. “This is the third incident in less than two weeks where a member of my team has been a target and it must come to an end. We will continue to foster a campaign of inclusiveness and advocate for a free and civil exchange of ideas. It’s shameful that there are those out there who seek to intimidate and commit acts of violence to achieve their goals.”
In the past five days, Whitfield said he has had his tires slashed twice, his lawn and front porch vandalized, Denham signs “tagged with expletives” and an American flag he had hanging from his roof “ripped down and cut up.”
“Tires and property can be replaced, but as a combat wounded veteran, it broke my heart to have my flag torn down from the roof of my house and shredded and left on the ground,” he told TPM.
At a Denham event for millennials last Thursday, just two days after Malhi was attacked, a middle aged woman verbally harassed and threatened a young person working for Denham’s campaign, according to Whitfield.
“It has been a challenging couple of weeks for our campaign in terms of being on the receiving end of this behavior,” he said. ” I would say that all we have to do is look at the direction civil discourse has taken over the last few years in this Country, reason and civility are fading and we have to see them returned. Obviously we hope, beyond hope, that this type of behavior against our campaign staff & volunteers will stop, but at this point and over the last week or so, it certainly feels like its escalating.”