Intervention on a train

Another train intervention video crossed my desk about a week ago. (Link)

An apparently intoxicated white man was insulting an Asian man. When the Asian man didn’t take the bait, the white man slapped him. After the second slap, the Asian man verbally responded, then got up to fight with him.

Several bystanders activated to keep the younger (probably stronger) and not intoxicated Asian man from fighting back.

What went wrong on that train?

  • White man sitting next to the Asian man left the scene.
  • Asian man remained in his seat, where he could have been trapped and hurt badly.

What went right?

  • The Asian man tried to ignore the aggressive man. When he spoke, the first time, he was respectful. It took more than one physical contact to get him to lose his temper.
  • Several people responded. The people who intervened did so in coalition. We could not see whether they communicated or acted naturally in unison.
  • Several people voiced support for the Asian man, while ignoring the white man. They encouraged the Asian man not to fight back.
  • Disrespect for the harassing man was spoken, but not rudely. “Don’t do it” (Don’t fight with that man.) “He’s not worth it.”
  • Fight avoided.
  • Someone videoed the whole thing.

Lessons learned:

  • The intoxicated white man learned that he did not have allies on the train. He was the only person voicing hate towards the Asian man. He could not start a fight with a stranger because people intervened.
  • Other people (who did not help) saw how to shut down a drunk and aggressive man on a train with no one getting hurt.

Principles employed: 

The people who intervened used the two most successful tactics of the “5 D’s” that I teach: Delegate and Distance.

  • Delegate means get as many people involved as possible.
  • Distance means get as much distance between the aggressive person and the target as you can.

What we don’t know:

  • Did the aggressive man get off the train at the next stop? He seemed poised to do so. If he did, did someone alert the authorities that he was drunk and disruptive?
  • When the incident was over, who checked with the Asian man? Is he OK, now that the shouting has stopped?

This happened in Freemont, CA, November 2017.

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