In Response To Anti-Asian Hate Incidents, Groups Step Up Trainings For Bystanders

What should you do if you witness harassment, or worse, an assault?

That question came into sharp focus this week following an attack on a 65-year old Filipino immigrant outside an apartment building in Midtown Manhattan.

Caught on surveillance video, the assault is disturbing to watch, but what appears to have happened inside the building is also prompting an outcry. The video shows a man in the lobby glancing up at what’s happening outside. He watches as the perpetrator stomps on the victim repeatedly. He appears to do nothing in response. A few moments later, another man inside the lobby approaches the glass door and shuts it.

“We don’t know the full story from the bystanders who were present,” says Dax Valdes, a senior trainer with the group Hollaback! “But I think the heartbreaking thing for me was seeing the door close.”

Valdes has been leading trainings offered by Hollaback! along with Asian Americans Advancing Justice/AAJC this past year. The idea is to give bystanders tools for intervening when they see someone being harassed or disrespected, with a focus on the person experiencing the conflict.

Asian-American community has been experiencing heightened anxiety and fear over the last– more than the last year,” says Marita Etcubañez, senior director of strategic initiatives at Asian Americans Advancing Justice/AAJC. “We recognized that there was a need for training, education, but also tactics that people could readily put to use.”

Through free webinar trainings, Valdes and Etcubañez lay out a number of tactics, which they call the Five Ds. They shared some of those tactics with NPR’s Ari Shapiro during an interview on All Things Considered.

“You could maybe walk by the people who are experiencing the conflict, and you could pretend to be clumsy and drop a bottle of water or drop a cup of coffee. Everybody’s going to back up because they don’t want to get wet,” says Valdes. “Or you could pretend you know the person who’s experiencing the conflict, walk up to them, [say] ‘Oh, my goodness. I’m so sorry I’m late.’ You’re just creating that safe space around them.”

“Maybe it is somebody who presents as physically bigger, who could step in and intervene on your behalf,” says Valdes.

“If you’re on public transit, it could be the bus driver, or transit security,” says Etcubañez. “Enlist others to help out. As you’re considering intervening, you wouldn’t be alone.”


Filming a conflict can be useful, especially if you can include street signs or other landmarks and note the date and time, but Hollaback! recommends only doing so from a safe distance and not posting any video footage online without the permission of the targeted person.

“This is where you would approach the person after the conflict has passed and check in to make sure they’re okay,” she says. “If they need help, get them help. Offer to sit with them.”

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