SAN FRANSISCO, California—A Sikh couple who were singled out for questioning and required to leave an Emeryville, California AMC movie theater on June 22, for wearing their kirpans which are religious articles of faith worn by baptized and initiated Sikhs, have retained legal counsel and demanded that the company preserve and turn over the surveillance video from the incident, apologize to the couple and change its discriminatory policies targeting Sikhs.
Attorney Harmeet Kaur Dhillon of San Francisco-based Dhillon & Smith LLP, along with co-counsel Manmeet Singh, Staff Attorney of United Sikhs, an advocacy organization, represent the Sikh couple, Manjot Singh and his wife Ikman Kaur.
Dhillon says that if AMC – which has made several inaccurate and self-serving public statements about the incident – is unwilling to preserve and display the video demonstrating the circumstances in question, they will need to prepare for legal action.
On behalf of her clients, Dhillon disputes claims made by the theater chain in recent Huffington Post, Daily Mail and a local ABC News stories about the incident.
“AMC has made a statement claiming that Singh was asked to leave after brandishing his kirpan in the lobby, which is absurd,” Dhillon said. “Singh and a vast majority of Sikhs wear their kirpan underneath their clothes, and the staff never saw Singh’s kirpan. He was singled out by the staff merely because of his appearance as a turban-wearing, bearded Sikh who apparently made the theater manager uncomfortable.”
Dhillon said that theater management admitted to the couple that they do not screen most patrons or make any attempt to systematically enforce their supposed policy.
Discriminatory application of a policy is illegal under state and federal law.
Singh said that he is not pursuing his rights for any financial benefit and that he is simply looking for an apology and a changed AMC policy regarding equal treatment of all patrons consistent with their civil rights.
“My wife and I were publicly shamed by a racist and discriminatory act,” Singh said. “We were publicly humiliated and made to look like terrorists while going about our business like other Americans and trying to enjoy an evening out. If AMC forces this matter to litigation or if it is settled, I will donate any proceeds to charity. We just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to other Sikhs.”
The couple was forced to depart the theater, after over ten humiliating minutes of being made to stand in the lobby and after the manager went out of his way to enter the theater, find Ms. Kaur and bring her out, saying “your husband is waiting for you.” At no time did Manjot Singh ever display his kirpan, sheathed or unsheathed.
Manjot Singh, while seeing Man of Steel on a “date night” with his wife, went to buy his wife a beverage. After waiting in line for ten minutes, buying the soda, and chatting with the concession employee, he was approached by several AMC staff. They asked him if he was “carrying a weapon” because he was a Sikh and the staff purported to “know about Sikhs.” When Singh responded that he was carrying a modest kirpan, a small spiritual sword that baptized Sikhs are required to wear just as many Christians wear a crucifix, the theater manager ordered him to remove it or leave.
Another example of not knowing the difference between a sikh and a Muslim. Shameful.