Redwood City offering course on bystander intervention to help combat hate crime

The Redwood City Public Library offers a range of courses, including one on bystander intervention.

Bystander intervention training teaches citizens how to de-escalate hate crimes. The course is in response to a growing number of incidents throughout the Bay Area and residents' desire to take action.

The stories are all too common: victims of hate crimes hurt or harassed in public.

Now at the Redwood City Public Library bystanders are taught how to intervene.

"People were interested in learning how they could get involved, how they could make a difference but keep themselves safe. And that's exactly what this training offers," said the library's director Derek Wolfgram.

The two-hour course is put on by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR teaches the course to about 2,000 people a year and said it's needed now more than ever.

"We know from the numbers, from real people's experiences, the power other people stepping in can have," said Noor Traina of CAIR SF Bay Area.

The lessons include how to assess a scene, record a crime, and comfort a victim. CAIR also teaches how not to antagonize an attacker as the primary goal is de-escalation.

"We're encouraging people to act not as saviors but as allies in any given situation," said Traina.

Some law enforcement had concerns. They advise bystanders to wait for police. But organizers said the focus is about what to do in those pivotal moments before help arrives.

"If somebody has pulled a knife on somebody else, they don't train you to jump in the middle and separate the people. It's really about how you can provide support to the person without putting yourself at risk," said Wolfgram.

Pavitra Balasubramanian witnessed a hate crime in an elevator once and felt powerless. She likes the idea of this course.

"We all were talking about it in our group, but we didn't know what to do about it. So I think a training like this would help," she said/

The bystander intervention training runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 22nd and is open to everyone.