Both Sides Explain What Happened During Turlock Sikh Temple Brawl

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TURLOCK --

Grown men and women were punching, screaming, even wielding a sword.

"The old committee wants peace, we want peace, but there were a few member that would not let that happen," said Turlock Sikh temple new committee representative Harsimran Singh.

Chaos erupted last Sunday at the Turlock Sikh temple, after a two-yearlong battle for power.

Members say it all began in 2013, when a new group took over the temple and Punjabi school. The original, local members went to Stanislaus County court. Judgment was eventually handed down in their favor.

"What happened two and a half years ago, breaking the locks, taking over Sikh temple, forcefully, illegally... he said is illegal. It's written in that judgment," Old committee representative Dr. Harinder Grewal said.

The new committee has since filed for an appeal and remains in a leadership position.

At a press conference Sunday morning, the new committee explained what happened, releasing surveillance video of the entire incident.

"He's going to be patting his chest, and all of a sudden, the crowd runs in. This gentleman throws the first punch, and this guy has pepper spray," said a new committee member.

They said the brawl was pre-planned and instigated by members of the old faction. New committee members say someone even brought pepper spray to the temple.

"When they pepper sprayed, they didn't see who they were attacking, there were kids. There were babies, there were newborns in the temple. There were senior citizens," Administrator of the Turlock Punjabi School Reena Sidhu said.

"There was no pepper spray. If there was pepper spray, show me the medical report or medical record that there was any pepper spray," Grewal said.

The new group brought pictures of injured members to the press conference. They said dozens of people, including a 5-year-old boy were sprayed. Four people were hospitalized. Three people from the new group were arrested.

Although they may have their differences, both parties agree what happened last week was not representative of their peaceful Sikh religion.

"The one thing we teach is peace, but we failed as leaders to portray the concept of real Sikhism," Singh said.

"It was disappointing. It was embarrassing for all of us," Grewal said.

Both parties hope to find a peaceful resolution, so this barbaric behavior does not happen again.

"We want a peaceful solution that is acceptable to the local Sikh community," Grewal said.

Until then, Turlock police and private security will continue to monitor the temple.