I was twenty years old, a young Christian, waiting to meet my friends in a Portland mall.
Four women rushing up to a fellow teenager didn’t trigger “fight!” in my head, even in a spot known for occasional gang violence.
“Maybe they’re running up to greet someone?” passed through my mind…
When the punching started it took a couple beats for me to realize what was going on. That delay cost the young woman several blows to the head.
I moved into the melee and shielded the girl with my arms and body. The aggressors backed off, then ran away.
And that was it, my first attempt at nonviolent intervention.
I stepped away from the victim, who had a bloody nose and tears running down her bruised face. I asked if she was okay, and an elderly man began comforting her. A security guard came and asked me whether I could identify the girls who had started it. We walked in the direction they had fled, but realized we wouldn’t find them and gave up.
Until that moment I had never intentionally used nonviolence to intervene in a violent situation. My inexperience led to hesitation,and she got hurt worse than she should have. But at least I did something. And because I realized that I should avoid violence towards the attackers, didn’t hit them, didn’t pile more fuel onto their own anger, there is a small possibility that they may have had reason to reconsider what they had done.
What do you think for a first try? Were there any other options that may have worked out as well or better? Have you ever entered a similar situation?