Wed October 10, 2001
Knife Case To Go Forward
By Martha Bebinger
Providence – Providence will not, for now, drop an illegal weapons charge against an Amtrak passenger who says he carries a knife as a religious symbol. Sher Singh, who practices the Sikh religion, was taken off a train and arrested the day after the terrorist attacks.
Singh?s lawyer, Mark Laroche claims police searched and arrested his client, because Sing wears a turban and has dark skin. The state?s concealed weapon law, says Laroche, violates Sikhs? right to practice their religion.
?This statute can and should be tailored and should be interpreted to be overly broad and a prohibition on their first amendment right to religion,? said Laroche.
Today?s decision to proceed with the case was a disappointment to Singh. ?I thought the public prosecutor would have an open mind coming to this. He didn?t try to interpret the law with sensitivity towards the Sikhs,? said Singh.
The prosecutor had no comment. Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. insists discrimination did not play a role in Singh?s arrest and that prosecutors are obliged to uphold the law. Cianci said, ?In this time I think that he was legitimately arrested, because he was violating the law. Now, if they want to pass a state statute that says you can carry a knife of that says if it?s part of your religion, then that?s okay with us. But we have to enforce the law as it exists.?
A pre-trial conference scheduled today was continued for three weeks.