Georgia Makes History as Trump Supporters Invade the Capitol


As of Jan. 13, Donald Trump has become the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice by the House, after being charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol. A Senate impeachment trial awaits.

Georgians, who came out not once but twice to vote during the pandemic, witnessed history being made when Democrats took two Senate seats on Jan. 5, 2021. Jon Ossoff, the son of a Jewish immigrant, and Reverend Ralph Warnock, Georgia’s first Black Senator, were declared winners with 99 percent of the vote counted. However, the Democrats’ day of celebration was quickly overshadowed by the news of an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol the very next day. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), an organization that mobilized thousands of people in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, condemned the violence as a white supremacist attempted coup.

Despite President Donald Trump’s continued efforts to attack the electoral process, lawmakers initiated the routine process to count Electoral College votes to officially certify Joe Biden as President-Elect on Jan. 6. Earlier that day, Trump encouraged the rioters to “walk down to the Capitol,” adding, “You will never take back our country with weakness.” Further riling up the crowd, Trump roused the mob to “take the country back.” Trump and his supporters’ motivations were clear — to overturn the election.

As a result, Trump supporters stormed into the Capitol building, which halted the vote count. Staffers and lawmakers alike were forced into a five-hour lockdown. The insurrection drew international attention, bringing into question the strength of America’s democracy. For many, it brought back grim memories. 

“My family left Fiji because of a coup,” Nandini Narayan, a Legislative Assistant for former Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA 21st District), told Brown Girl Magazine, comparing the day’s events to how her Fijian-Indian family fled Fiji to find refuge in the U.S. Washington, D.C. had been preparing for protests since the beginning of January, as Narayan noted, “I have worked here for four years, but this past year I had never seen such a heightened sense of security. There was an increased police presence, closed off roads, barricades and cones, all set up around the city.”

[Read Related: Why Racial Injustice and the Climate Crisis are Intertwined Emergencies]

Still, many wondered how the Capital of the world’s largest military power could be penetrated so easily. The infamous image of Republican Sen. Josh Hawley fist-pumping the mob, videos of Capitol police taking selfies with Trump supporters and Trump’s delay in deploying the National Guard despite Mayor Muriel Bowser’s requests all show that there was active encouragement to break in.

Despite this week’s events, Georgia is still in the national spotlight. With a majority Democratic Senate, Narayan indicated that there is both enthusiasm and readiness to be productive at the Capitol. “There were people on the Hill that never thought both seats would flip. But we got a 33-year-old Jewish man elected and the first Black Senator from Georgia. First, I felt a wave of relief when I saw the results; then I thought, ‘It’s time to get to work!’”

The impact of the Asian vote in swinging Georgia to the left has been understated. With a shift in demographics and grassroots organizing by forces like Stacey Abrams, Georgia has been inching towards swing status since 2016.

The AAPI vote, in particular, helped flip both Senate seats. The Asian vote increased by 120 percent during the November 2020 election compared to the 2016 election, according to Vyanti Joseph in her interview with Brown Girl Magazine. Tapping into the potential of an organized Asian population, Georgia Democratic campaigns sought to integrate AAPI populations’ needs, which had historically remained unheard of. 

According to Joseph, the Asian American Pacific Island (AAPI) Constituency Director for the Warnock Campaign and Co-Founder of They See Blue in Georgia, the Warnock Campaign made significant efforts by going into each community by visiting Chinese and Indian grocery stores, working with Korean pastors, holding events with the Muslim and Hindu communities, holding small business roundtables with AAPI business owners, running ads in various languages, displaying real community members in campaign materials, and more. 

Joseph is a fourth-generation Indo-Caribbean who immigrated to Georgia at the age of 19 from Trinidad and Tobago. She joined the Ossoff Campaign in 2017, the Stacy Abrams campaign in 2018 and served on the Georgia AAPI Council for the Biden-Harris Campaign before joining the Warnock Campaign. Joseph especially noticed South Asian communities’ hunger to be heard in Georgia politics when she hosted her first phone bank for Stacey Abrams. Scores of suburban moms of all backgrounds flocked to her house, speaking to other South Asians on the phone in their own languages. 

[Read Related: #BlackLivesMatter: a Guide to Supporting the Movement Through South Asian Allyship]

Never done so before, organizing the diverse AAPI community was not short of its challenges. “We were constantly fighting the Republican narrative and really the myth that all Asians are all Republican.” But a big turning point was the Black Lives Matter protest that mobilized South Asian voters and increased voter education around anti-racism in society and politics. “It allowed us to debunk that model minority myth,” Joseph said. The runoff election stands as another example of Black leadership in the American progressive movement. 

Underlying the historical shift in Georgia’s politics was grassroots organizing — everyday people, including Joseph, who comes from a corporate Business Intelligence background, coming together to get out the vote. In 2020, increased police violence against Black people, Trump’s marginalizing tweets and the Black Lives Matter movement all forced immigrant communities to grapple with America’s white supremacist legacy and their role in it. And this time, Asian communities joined the fight against the long-standing Georgia Republican political apparatus.

Underscoring the unique role of South Asian women in this election, Joseph stated, “We have a strong powerful voice, and Georgia is just a start of what we can do.” Those watching election results unfold in Georgia may have been surprised to watch a strongly Republican state swing to the left, but for those on the ground, it has been in the works for decades. Both the Hill and Georgia will be battlegrounds once again in 2022 when Georgia’s senate seats are up for re-election. If Georgia is any indication, then South Asian communities, and AAPI communities in general, will be pivotal in elections to come.

By Angeli Patel

Angeli Patel is an Associate at Jones Day, and a 2020 graduate from UC Berkeley School of Law. She served … Read more ›

Op-Ed: An Open Letter to President Biden in Light of Prime Minister Modi’s Visit to the States

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit
The following open letter is written by Hindus for Human Rights, an organization advocating for pluralism, civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, rooted in the values of Hindu faith: shanti (peace), nyaya (justice) and satya (truth). They provide a Hindu voice of resistance to caste, Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), racism, and all forms of bigotry and oppression.

Dear President Biden,

As Indian-Americans, human rights organizations, and concerned allies, we are writing to urge you to engage publicly and meaningfully to push back against the Indian government’s escalating attacks on human rights and democracy, especially ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States.

Despite objective evidence that India’s democracy is under critical attack, you have not spoken out about this crisis. In early 2023, Indian authorities conducted retaliatory raids on the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices for releasing a documentary about Prime Minister Modi. The week before the Summit for Democracy, the Indian government made three successive attacks on Indian democracy. First, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party expelled Rahul Gandhi from Parliament. Second, the Indian government shut the internet down in Punjab, severely impacting the rights for Sikhs to peacefully organize and protest. And third, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Indians can be found guilty by association for terrorism. And yet, not one representative from the Biden Administration said anything about even one of these developments. Instead, while Islamophobic violence gripped India in late March, you invited Prime Minister Modi to speak at the Summit for Democracy. Mr. Modi visits DC at a time when the state of Manipur has experienced heavy communal and anti-Christian violence after Modi’s ruling party pushed an initiative to undermine Indigenous rights in the state.

Even when confronted with questions by Indian reporters about human rights in India, your administration has only had private two-way conversations about how both of our governments can always improve. Quite frankly, we find it unacceptable to see such equivocation on Indian democracy from an administration that has been strident in its defense of American democracy and the rule of law. 

India is one of the fastest autocratizing nations in the world, mostly thanks to the current government. Freedom House has rated India as a “partly-free” country for the past three years, and has blamed Prime Minister Modi’s government for a rise in discriminatory policies, including persecution against Muslims and caste-based violence against Dalit and Adivasi communities; harassment of civil society, protestors, academia and the media, and the targeting of political opponents. It has also rated Indian-administered Kashmir as “not free,” citing violations of human, civil, and political rights after the Modi government revoked the territory’s autonomous status. In Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, India has dropped to 161 out of 180 countries in 2023. India has appeared in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Indexwhich examines accountability for unsolved journalists’ murders — every year for the past 15 years and currently ranks in 11th place worldwide. According to PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, in 2022, India was one of the top 10 countries that jailed writers globally. The Varieties of Democracy Institute characterizes India as an “electoral autocracy” and blames India’s descent into autocracy on Prime Minister Modi. And the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has said India has been one of the top 15 countries at risk for a mass atrocity event every year since 2017, which reflects the toxicity of Indian politics under Modi. 

Given the magnitude of this crisis, we ask you to engage directly with Indian-American and human rights civil society leaders to explore solutions to address India’s human rights crisis. We also ask you to employ the tools at your disposal to ensure that the Indian government cannot attack Indians’ human rights with impunity. As the 2022 Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor report details, several government individuals have committed human rights violations that, under U.S. law, would qualify them to be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. Indian security forces that have engaged in human rights violations should have security assistance rescinded, under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. 

Finally, we urge you to publicly call on the Indian government to honor its commitments to human rights, including calling on Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet to halt the use of anti-terror laws to arbitrarily detain political critics. You can publicly denounce the rising numbers of political prisoners and the weaponization of the rule of law in India to shut down criticism. Even if you are not willing to personally criticize the Prime Minister, you have ample opportunity to criticize the Indian government’s misuse of public trust and public institutions to consolidate power and undermine the will of the Indian people.

As President of the United States of America, you hold a unique position to lead the fight against authoritarianism. Prime Minister Modi will listen to you when you speak. But he and his allies will only change if you take a stand publicly. We urge you to listen to those of us who care about India and ensure that one man cannot steal the futures and the rights of our loved ones in India.

— Signed by countless organizations and individuals leading the charge (linked here).

Oak Creek: A Story of Hate, Hope and Healing

Every year on August 5th, the Sikh American community remembers one of our community’s most devastating tragedies in recent memory — the Oak Creek massacre. On this day in 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where he shot and killed six worshippers and severely injured others. This violent attack was the deadliest mass shooting targeting Sikh Americans in U.S. history, and at the time, was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. house of worship in decades. Six worshippers — Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka — were killed on that horrific day. An additional community member, Baba Punjab Singh, was severely paralyzed and ultimately passed away from complications related to his injuries in 2020. Others, including Bhai Santokh Singh and responding police officer and hero, Lt. Brian Murphy, were seriously wounded during the shooting. 

[Read Related: Oak Creek Gurdwara Massacre’s 4th Anniversary: Young Sikhs Express Optimism for the Continued Struggle Against Hate and Ignorance]

In 2022, the community came together to demonstrate that we are undaunted. My organization, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) joined in supporting the anniversary observance at Oak Creek: a remembrance event centered around the theme of “Heal, Unite, Act.” The Oak Creek Sikh community hosted a series of in-person events, including the 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Remembrance Vigil on Friday, August 5, 2022. The program included a representative from the White House, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz, and representatives of the families who lost loved ones. Being there in Oak Creek 10 years after the tragedy was deeply meaningful — both to see the inspiring resilience of this community and to remember how much remains to be done.

In D.C., SALDEF continues to fight for policies that improve the lives of Sikh Americans. I had the honor of chairing the most recent iteration of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security, providing recommendations at the request of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. Consequently, the three subcommittees published a report that emphasized the importance of greater accessibility, greater equity, and greater transparency in counterterrorism efforts that for too long revolved around surveilling populations like the one that was senselessly attacked at the Oak Creek gurdwara in 2012. Leading the FBSAC as a Sikh woman, and representing a community that was highly targeted alongside Muslims by both white supremacists and in post-9/11 counterterrorism profiling, was an opportunity to push the Council to advocate more fiercely for further information-sharing between communities and law enforcement, extending grant opportunities for security for Gurdwaras and other houses of worship, and building trust between the government and Sikh communities. In addition, I advocated for accountability for the damage needlessly caused to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) communities by federal agencies historically pursuing “counterterrorism” objectives which has resulted in eroded trust rather than the development of strong partnerships. 

Although we have made great strides in this country, there is still more to do. Through our work we have partnered with many across the nation to come together and find solutions through tenets central to Sikhism and America — unity, love, and equality. SALDEF continues to strongly endorse the policy framework articulated across the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350 / S. 963); Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act; and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) Improvement Act (H.R. 6825). We believe strongly in mandating federal agencies to create dedicated offices to investigate domestic terrorism; allowing prosecutors to feasibly indict perpetrators of hate crimes; and allowing religious nonprofits to access federal funding to enhance their own security.

[Read Related: Anti-Sikh Hate is on the Rise: Here’s What we can Do]

While 11 years have passed, the effects of the Oak Creek shooting are never far from the minds of Sikh American advocates and the community we serve. SALDEF will not stop taking a stand against senseless violence and hate crimes. We continue to work in unity with our community and movement partners, and fight for better policies that will actively keep all of our communities safe. Through tragedy, we find hope. We know there can be a world where people from all backgrounds and cultures can practice their faith freely and, even though it has eluded the Sikh American community in the past, we still believe this world is possible.

Photo Courtesy of Amrita Kular

The opinions expressed by the writer of this piece, and those providing comments thereon (collectively, the “Writers”), are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Brown Girl Magazine, Inc., or any of its employees, directors, officers, affiliates, or assigns (collectively, “BGM”). BGM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Writers. It is not the intention of Brown Girl Magazine to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. If you have a complaint about this content, please email us at This post is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please follow the guidelines we’ve set forth here.
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By Kiran Kaur Gill

Kiran Kaur Gill is an accomplished professional with exemplary executive experience. In her role as Executive Director, she is responsible … Read more ›