ICPJ teaches "bystander intervention"
From the January, 2017 issue
"Ever since the election, people have been calling our office saying 'What can I do?'" says Chuck Warpehoski, director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (and Ann Arbor city councilmember). The callers feared that immigrants and other minorities targeted in presidential campaign rhetoric might be subject to harassment.
When ICPJ held a meeting on the topic, more than 150 people showed up. One popular idea was "bystander intervention training." Thirty-two people slogged through a snowstorm to attend the first training session in December, so ICPJ set up another--and then scheduled two more, on January 8 and 28 (see icpj.org for details).
The $20 training sessions simulate potential conflicts, such as someone being taunted for speaking Spanish on a bus, or a transgender person denied access to the bathroom of their choice. The idea, says Warpehoski, is to teach "some ways you may be able to keep people safe--to de-escalate the situation." In discussions afterwards, he says, participants who played victims of harassment described their relief when someone "put their body between them and their aggressor ... It's very eye-opening."
Warpehoski has also seen an uptick in requests for "One Human Family" banners and signs the ICPJ started selling last March. In six weeks after the election, it sold 600 of the signs, which announce, "We support refugees and our Muslim neighbors."
As though someone wanted to make the point that they were needed, one in Chelsea was defaced.
[Originally published in January, 2017.]
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