Eye on the East Bay: Combative Richmond councilman tries to play peacemaker in Sikh Temple dispute
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 07/21/2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
THE PEACEMAKER?: The towering Sikh Temple nestled on a verdant hillside in El Sobrante is in "crisis," according to a breathless dispatch from unnamed authors. Over six pages and more than 2,500 words, the story recounted the dastardly events of June 23, when rival Sikh factions squared off, hoping to wrest control of the historic temple. Into the tinderbox of raw emotions and power politics strode none other than Richmond City Councilman Corky Boozé.
A YouTube video provides the proof. Boozé, wearing a turban and a tan blazer, addressed an assembly of the temple, many of them non-English speaking elders seated on the floor.
"The reason I'm here today is I don't want any violence. I don't want anybody to get hurt," he said. The councilman, known for his brassy and combative style, added that he had been working tirelessly to mediate the dispute between Sikh factions. Boozé said an attorney for one side called and asked him not to come to the temple.
"But I have to come because I want to keep the peace and this is America, and you should be able to speak anytime you want with no threat from anybody," he thundered. "Nobody is going to scare me, I don't care who they are."
Boozé is a longtime friend and political ally of Harpreet Sandhu, a former Richmond city councilman and a leader of one of the factions competing for leadership at the temple.
The brewing struggle ultimately drew both Richmond police and Contra Costa Sheriff's Office officials, as well as television cameras. Not surprisingly, church leaders opposed to Sandhu complained about Boozé's interference, wondering openly whether he misused his role as a city official to bully them.
Boozé, despite a history of high-volume arguments and even some public scuffles, won a Martin Luther King Jr. Peace award earlier this year. It is not yet clear whether the episode at the Sikh Temple burnishes or tarnishes his award plaque.
Staff writers Paul Burgarino and Robert Rogers contributed to this column.