On Saturday afternoon I was returning from a day of shopping with my wife and we took a detour home through Soho. Soho in London is a place with a seedy past, but today is a bright and vibrant center of London's West End. We practically had to shove our way throught crowded streets just to get closer to home. That's when we heard the scream.
At first my wife thought it was a movie production. Moving closer we saw a crowd staying far back from some hooligan and what appeared to be his girlfriend. We quickly realized that this was no harmless shoot, and that the woman really wanted to get away from the man, and he wasn't going to let her. She was sobbing "Please just leave me alone", and he was forcefully not allowing her to leave.
People were staying away from this, some watching with horror and other hurriedly walking the other direction, and I can understand why. The guy was about 6'1", 250lbs, and was sporting a short, bright-red mohawk. He looked like a guy who'd be comfortable in a bar-brawl, and in this sort of situation no one likes to be the first one to apporach. But my parents raised me well and I couldn't walk away from that sort of problem. So I walked up to the (not-a-) gentleman and said, calmly, from about 4 feet away "Sir, if she wants to go, you should really just let her go".
This is not the first time that I've intervened in this sort of situation, and typically at this point the guy will realize that he has an audience, mumble something, and walk away. Not our jackass, he looked at me with blood in his eyes, lunged at me and grabbed me by the front of my shirt. Screaming obscenities that would make a sailor blush, he threatened to "knock [me] the **** out", amongst other things.
I'm proud to say that I stayed relatively calm and simply told him politely that he needed to relax. At which he raised his other fist up to my face and repeated his threats. But by threatening me with his fists, he had to let go of the woman, and she started to walk away. He let me go and chased after her.
At this point it's worth pointing out that still no one has come to help either me or the woman. My wife is standing on the sidelines yelling at nearby men "That's my husband, please help!", and they would stare at her as if she were speaking Swahili.
To make a long story short, I again intervened, and when the guy let go of the girl to threaten me again she took off with a purpose. A minute later, the guy gave up threatening me to leave as well. I survived relatively unscathed.
I wonder if members of the crowd later went home and recounted the tale to their friends and family, ending it with a lament that the world is going to hell. I wonder if they even begin to realize that they are the problem! THEY are the reason that people like our hooligan can exist.
Jackasses like our mohawked-friend deserve to burn in hell, but they exist. It's simply a fact. What's really devastating is the sheer number of people who were unwilling to help. A woman was being abused right before their eyes, and they sat and watched. No one called the police. No one showed the slightest bit of outrage. They watched. They enabled that abuser.
I love London. I really do. But on saturday I was, for the first time, truly ashamed to consider myself a Londoner. Today, when I walked to work, I found myself wondering if the people I walked by were decent human beings, or spineless cowards. And I hated myself for wondering that.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I shouldn't have interfered. Maybe I should have sold popcorn to the speculators instead. Some people will tell you that you shouldn't get involved in that sort of situation. I say, if that woman was your daughter and she was being abused in public, you'd hope that there'd be at least one person like me in the crowd.
God I'm furious.
Parents, please teach your children to do the right thing. And that means having the courage to do it yourself.