Rej Joo has taught online self-defense workshops many times, but he’s seen how the recent rise in anti-Asian attacks across the city has increased demand.
"It’s happening everywhere and anywhere" said Joo, program manager for the Center for Anti-Violence Education. "I think there’s an overarching sort of paranoia and fear, rightfully so, because these attacks are unwarranted."
Unprovoked assaults like the beating that relatives say left 61-year-old Yao Pan Ma in a coma last month. Police say he was jumped from behind with no warning while collecting cans in East Harlem.
Joo and other trainers at the CAE also work to teach people what to do if they witness a hate crime or even just verbal harassment. It's what’s called Upstander Training.
"It’s a fancy way of saying active bystander," Joo said. "We train people how to intervene or disrupt in a safe manner."
"In those situations, how do we just let people know this is not OK [and that] we care instead of doing this thing that I think it’s easy for New Yorkers to do and say, 'That’s not my business?'" said Donnay Edmund, who leads CAE's upstander training.
Organizations like CAE are finding ways to build on the movement for solidarity with the Asian American community, with community leaders and social justice groups like Black Lives Matter standing against Asian hate.
“That’s because we know the story of oppression, so we can identify with people who are exploited, who are attacked by white supremacy,” said Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York.
And with a number of Black suspects arrested in connection with some recent attacks, the effort also works to counter notions of division between the Black and Asian communities.
"There’s a lot of pain in various communities," Joo said. "So how do we hold that, but also think about on a community level that the real work is through solidarity?"
They're hoping that through education and by building the bond between allies, no community will be left vulnerable to hate.