If someone threatened you with a knife, how would you react?
That question has been on the minds of many since the deadly attack on the MAX line in Portland on May 26.
"You've got to prepare yourself for the unknown," says Kit Crumb, owner of Ashland Fitness Studio.
Crumb plans to hold a question-and-answer session at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, at 415 Williamson Way, No. 3, in Ashland. He hopes to line up a police officer and other members of the community to discuss ways to deal with potentially violent situations as well as demonstrate how to fend off an attacker with a knife. A $10 fee is being charged for the session, which will continue for as long as people have questions, he says.
On May 26, two men were fatally stabbed and another man was injured when they tried to help two African-American women who were being verbally harassed on a MAX light rail train. One of the women was wearing a Muslim head covering.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was arrested shortly afterward and has been charged in the slayings.
The victims who died were Portland residents Rick Best, 53, a veteran, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, who grew up in Ashland and graduated from Ashland High School. The third victim was 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, a student at Portland State University.
Crumb says he and others will discuss ways to avoid potentially volatile situations and talk about possible repercussions if someone decides to take action. He hopes to get enough members of the community together to stimulate lengthy discussions.
He says he wants to get people to think about their own abilities to deal with an attacker and to prepare for a measured but quick response.
Even if a situation seems to warrant an intervention, Crumb cautions bystanders to make sure they don't become the trigger that escalates it.
In some cases, he says, the best option may be to allow someone to hurl insults and try to ignore the threats. If a weapon is visible, however, that might require a different level of response, he says.
A martial arts instructor, Crumb is no stranger to confrontations. He prefers to try to calm the other person down, but he did experience one situation that turned violent.
When he was in his 30s, he worked as a pantomime on the streets of San Francisco. Taking a break at a park where children were playing, he saw a guy flashing a knife and screaming about something that happened during the Vietnam War.
When the man threatened Crumb, Crumb wrestled him to the ground but got nicked by the knife. He held him down until police arrested the man.
During Crumb's presentation, he and another martial artist, Nancy Soares, will use a rubber knife to show how a small amount of training could potentially help fend off an attacker.
Ashland police Chief Tighe O'Meara, who has heard about Crumb's presentation, says it's difficult for him to describe how an average citizen should respond to a threat similar to the one on the MAX line.
"It's such a quagmire of a situation," he says. "Beyond that, people have to make their own good-faith judgments."
While some have suggested carrying firearms for protection, O'Meara would only say it is a Second Amendment issue and a matter of personal choice.
Waleed Almotaery, a 22-year-old on a student visa at Southern Oregon University who may be participating in Crumb's session, says people assume that because he is from the Middle East that he must be a Muslim.
"I used to be a Muslim, and I grew up in an Islamic environment," he says. "My parents are Muslim. Like any other minority, I get harassed."
Born in Saudi Arabia, Almotaery has lived in Yemen, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries with his father, who is a diplomat.
If Almotaery hears a derogatory remark while walking on a street, he tries to ignore it.
If he's talking to a professor or someone he knows who says something that he doesn't think is true about the Middle East, he tries to dispel it.
One of the remarks he's been confronted with is: "You killed gays and stoned them."
"I say, 'No, I've never seen that.' I tell them it's not as stereotypical as they may think," he says.
Almotaery says he takes certain steps to avoid being noticed as someone from the Middle East, including refraining from speaking Arabic in public.
Some of his Muslim friends have decided not to pray in public, a common practice in the Middle East, he says.
However, for Muslim women, it can be difficult to avoid standing out, particularly if they wear a hijab.
Because of the way he looks, Aomotaery says people sometimes mistake him as being from other cultures as well.
"I've been mistaken many times for being a Mexican," he says.
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.