“Neighborhood Safety Companions (NSC)” – Establishing a Practice for Community Safety and Self-Defense
In February and March of 2021 the nation watched in horror as vivid footage of frail elderly Asians being slashed with knives or kicked and beaten senseless was shown nightly. A mass murder at an Asian spa in Georgia by a white racist confirmed the primary role White Supremacy had taken to drive the violence but the attacks have continued to be carried out by other nationalities as well.
Thousands of Asian and Pacific Islander people held vigils, rallies and marches to protest and express their pain and outrage. There were calls for more reporting of hate crimes, more bilingual outreach, more police as well as less police and more mutual assistance efforts. The entire country became more aware of the long history of racism and anti-Asian violence which has continued for over 150 years with periodic spikes.
The current surge began when Trump started the “Wuhan virus” China bashing, performing a racist “dog whistling from a national stage about the “Kung-Flu Virus.” This xenophobic scapegoating was complimented by leading Democratic politicians such as CA Governor Gavin Newsom who tried to imply that the primary source of COVID-19 outbreaks were Vietnamese nail salons and by Joe Biden’s continued attempts to “out China bash” Trump during the Presidential election campaign and continuing following his subsequent election as President.
While Anti-Asian violence is nothing new to Asians in the U.S. and has been part and parcel of our history since arriving to this land in the 1800’s, along with racist violence towards other oppressed people, it has ebbed and flowed with various economic and global war cycles.
Spontaneously, a new generations of Asian Americans began to stand up across the country to oppose the racist violence and to take a stand to defend our elders and each other. Neighborhood Safety Companions (NSC), initiated by Progressive Asian Network for Action (PANA) in Los Angeles, was formed to provide a vehicle for people to take direct action in promoting community safety in our streets. NSC includes people who want to do something immediately for short term relief as well as those who have long term visions of building multi-national coalitions. There have been many neighborhood safety and community defense efforts, escort services and security watch programs that have been launched across the country, Asians with Attitudes, Compassion in San Gabriel Valley, @safewalksnyc, noharmktla, Compassion in Oakland and others to name a few, operating now in cities including San Francisco, Oakland, New York and Los Angeles.
NSC started walking in Koretown, Los Angeles in March 2021, following an incident where Korean-American U.S. Air Force veteran Denny Kim was assaulted and beaten on Kenmore between 6th Street and Wilshire Blvd. back in February 2021.
NSC demands and approach to fighting anti-Asian violence: https://safetywalks.org/what-is-needed-to-end-anti-asian-violence/
“We patrol and serve as good witnesses and a deterrent to street crime.”
– RG Wong, Volunteer Team Lead
•The area we walk-thru was chosen because Korean-American veteran Denny Kim was assaulted and beaten near the corner of Kenmore and 6th Street where we gather on Thursdays at 7pm.
•The SQUARE’s boundaries are: Wilshire Blvd on the south. 3rd St. north. Western Ave. is the west border and Vermont Blvd on the east.
•The SQUARE is a southeast section of Koreatown 14 blocks X 4 blocks, that is a densely populated working class area with 3 large senior facilities, one with over 300 residents.
•The diverse area has Koreans, other Asians, and a large Latinx population in blocks of multi-story apartment complexes stacked end to end.
•Crime averages per week: about 5 to 6 each of motor vehicle thefts, assaults, robberies and burglaries. [source: LAPD Crime Map]
•It has one of the densest concentrations of restaurants, small stores and street vendors in Los Angeles.
• It has approx. 700 un-housed Asian people among many more un-housed people.
Protocols for all volunteers
We are volunteer group to deter crime by visibility and to be a witness to help resolve crimes.
We do not accuse, enforce, report, pursue crimes or behave to “police” the area.
We will call police when absolutely needed for a life saving situation.
We try to build neighborhood familiarity and unity among all nationalities and oppose racism and
prejudice against poor and working people.
We keep visual contact as long as possible and talk with and get to know members of the community:
• Pedestrians. Especially lone pedestrians and seniors
• Street vendors
• Delivery workers
• Storefront staff
If we encounter an incident where an individual is being harmed by another (or more) in a one-sided, uneven physical conflict.
The team will collectively distract the perpetrator and document. However, no one is EXPECTED to intervene.
A person can volunteer to intervene in an emergency but must hold harmless all others by signing a legal waiver in advance. “Intervenors” are distributed among the teams if and when possible.