Feelings of anxiety and concern for safety motivated members of Dublin's Indian community to pursue a dialogue with city representatives, resulting in a community discussion the evening of April 13 in the Dublin Community Recreation Center.
A discussion panel that proceeded roundtable discussions included City Manager Dana McDaniel; Mayor Greg Peterson; Vineet Goel, representing a local chapter of national non-profit organization Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh; Dublin Police Chief Heinz von Eckartsberg; Federation of Indian Associations President Ram Kasarla; Dublin City Schools Superintendent Todd Hoadley; Asian Indian American Business Group President Dilip Mehta; and Supervising Special Agent of the FBI Brett Schwelgin.
Goel said a partial motivator for the Indian community's request for the gathering was a viral online video recorded last year by a man in Ted Kaltenbach Park, 5985 Cara Road. Goel said the video was about 25 to 30 minutes in length and was derogatory in nature.
"It shows very bad light for the Indian community," he said.
Dublin was first made aware of the video in August, said von Eckartsberg. A Virginia man filmed the video and recorded mostly Indians in Kaltenbach Park, he said.
"The gist of the video was basically that he feels that the government's policies are taking jobs away from Americans," he said.
The video eventually was picked up by Indian media, and parents back home began calling their families in central Ohio out of concern, Goel said.
Each year the Indian community in March recognizes Holi, a Hindu festival of color celebration, in Kaltenbach Park, Goel said. This year attendance was down, he said, because people didn't want to celebrate openly.
Some in the community also feel a general unease, he said.
Goel said he has noticed some in the Indian community have stopped wearing their Indian dress outside of their homes because they feel anxious and concerned.
"They don't feel empowered; they don't feel safe," he said.
The goal of the community conversation, Goel said, was to help instill confidence in the Indian community and help its members overcome feelings of anxiety.
The dialogue is part of a broader initiative, said Kasarla, who met last week with officials at the state level in a panel discussion.
Kasarla said he has received a couple of emails and calls from people reporting complaints.
Some have said they have had people following them in their cars, coming onto their personal property or otherwise coming into their personal space.
Dublin resident Shiv Mishra said he wants to connect with city officials to communicate that the Indian community is an integral part of life nationwide and in Dublin in areas including education, sports and information technology.
"We want to create brotherhood and universal peace," he said.
About 70 to 80 people attended the community conversation, von Eckartsberg said.
Roundtable discussions included prompts inquiring whether responders felt safe meeting in groups and if they knew the procedure to report racial incidents or crimes.
In response to the online video, Dublin police paid special attention to public parks regularly frequented by the Indian community as well as events representing Indian culture, von Eckartsberg said.
Some members of the community have anecdotally shared incidents where they have been confronted or have been the subject of derogatory remarks, von Eckartsberg said.
Still, he said he has heard a very small amount of reports of bigotry.
The Dublin Police Department and its officers want to make sure community members understand they can reach out to officers anytime they feel unsafe, Eckartsberg said.
"We are encouraging them to come to events like this and speak to us," he said, as well as visit the police department or contact officers via email or phone.