As it happens, once the police arrived I learned that they were in fact who they purported to be: plainclothes private security for the local dollar store. And the terrified man they had chased for several blocks had indeed stolen some items: a few pairs of socks and a couple of cheap brimmed caps. But had I not followed them all up that side-street to witness their apprehension of the man, would they have stopped at holding him down and yelling?
Had I not
called the police, would they have done so only much later? Rapidly
advancing and flashing a laminated card at me for a couple of seconds
after I expressed my concern does not prove anything. And why were they
so disturbed by my presence as to warn me off vociferously, and so
threatened by the one photo I took with my phone to show the police,
that one of them approached again to chest-bump, shove me and threaten
me, desisting only when I offered to charge him with assault?
was not, as they put it, “hindering their apprehension of the thief.”
I was merely acting as a witness, not willing to risk allowing someone
who was clearly frightened enough to risk running into traffic to be
beaten, or worse, simply because, as many others muttered as I went by
enlisting their attention, “it’s none of my business.”
I am very grateful to several other young men who responded to my
requests to stay near when I said that I was not comfortable waiting
there alone with the first three for the police to arrive and asked them
to stand by calmly without escalating the already volatile and
potentially violent situation.
I learned a few things
yesterday afternoon on my way to an appointment in one of the less
well-appointed neighbourhoods of Toronto.
1. You cannot run, nor even walk rapidly, in flip flops.
There is more chivalry among the young men of that neighbourhood than
we might, from our stereotyped prejudices, assume. In ignoring such
assumptions, I found allies who were polite and helpful in a potentially
dangerous situation. And by treating them with respect, I earned
3. I am in fact my brother’s keeper. We all
are. And in these times ,when more than ever we are being made to feel
disempowered and separate and fearful, we need to override those
impulses and follow our truer instincts. The only way we will make this
world the better place we want it to be is through a willingness to act
according to our conscience.
I am also pondering one
more thing: what sort of circumstances would make a person risk arrest
or worse to steal some socks and hats from a dollar store. But that’s a
question for another time.
"We must become the change we want to see in the world" ~ Mohandas 'Mahatma' Gandhi