A 50-year-old Sikh man was attacked and beaten by two men while planting campaign signs for a Republican congressman in Stanislaus County, California, CBS Sacramento reported on Monday.
Surjit Malhi said the attackers were waiting for him when he returned to his truck last week and threw sand in his face. He also said the men yelled “Go back to your country” during the assault and spray-painted the same message, along with white supremacist symbols, on his truck. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Malhi told the local news station that his turban protected his head from serious injury. “My turban saved me,” he told CBS Sacramento. However, he is still recovering from the aftermath of the attack, and said he’s experiencing headaches and dizziness.
Malhi is an active member of the local community in Stanislaus County, and a supporter of the Republican Party. The night he was attacked, he had been putting up campaign signs for Republican Congressman Jeff Denham along the street.
“I’m American 100%, no doubt, so they say, go back to my country? This is my country,” he told the station. “If you are a real American and you love America, you should not do that. That is not the American way.”
The country has seen a study uptick in hate crimes reported over the last year. According to a May report by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, the rate of hate crimes this year has reached the highest level in more than a decade.