Victim Speaks Out About D.C. Subway Attack

The blogosphere continues to buzz about an online video showing the attack on Allen Haywood, a Washington, D.C., man who was assaulted by teenagers in a local subway station earlier this month. Host Michel Martin speaks to Haywood about the incident and why no one came to his aid. Tell Me More "digital media guy" Lee Hill also shares listener reaction to the video.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here with me, as he is most Fridays. Hi, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel, well, earlier this week in your commentary, you talked about a recent violent attack at a subway station here in Washington. And the moral dilemma that often arises when one witnesses public violence. Now, 47-year-old Allen Haywood was waiting for a train at the downtown underground metro station when he was jumped by a young man and a young woman who both appeared to be teenagers. The incident was captured on amateur video and uploaded to YouTube where it went viral, in part because no one stopped to offer assistance.

Listen closely. Here's a clip from the incident.

Unidentified Man: Stop it right now. Stop this right now. I did nothing to you. I did nothing to you.

Unidentified Woman: Shut the (beep) up. Nobody cares about you.

HILL: And, Michel, we'll hear from Mr. Haywood in just a moment.

But, first, many people had something to say in response to your commentary and here is what we heard from listener Larry(ph).

LARRY: It only takes one person to step up even verbally to empower other bystanders. I found myself in a situation traveling home from college for a semester break, I stopped at the Maryland House rest stop. In the restroom on the second floor, a man was slapping a little boy of about six or seven years old. I said, I think he got your point. You don't have to beat him into submission. The man shoved the boy aside and confronted me screaming: don't tell me how to raise my kid. I said, you're not raising him, you're beating the hell out of him.

HILL: And, Michel, Larry went on to say that his intervention saved the boy from further harm. But we heard a different perspective from listener David.

DAVID: Unless you have martial arts training or police training, you should never intervene physically with a violent perpetrator, just as one should always give a mugger their possessions. A life taken can never be replaced. The solution lies with changing social norms and attitudes.

MARTIN: Thanks, David. And we know this is a very controversial topic and we appreciate everybody who called to - or wrote to offer perspectives. Thank you, David. And thank you, Lee.

And Mr. Haywood dropped by our offices the other day. And I asked him how he was doing.

Mr. ALLEN HAYWOOD: I'm doing much better. Better every day inside and out. It gets better every day.

MARTIN: This incident became public in part because you didn't want this thing to go unacknowledged. I mean, you sent a couple of emails to council members, but in the course of doing, this video had already been posted on YouTube and I'm just wondering if you have any thoughts about that.

Mr. HAYWOOD: I was actually thrilled, relatively speaking, because this has gotten more attention now. And this is something for the police to follow up on and I hope it'll help these people be found. It's not difficult for me to watch it and hear it; it was difficult to be there. And hopefully this will help bring attention to it and find these people and hopefully put this kind of stuff - put a stop to it.

MARTIN: Can you just verify for us that what we thought we saw we did in fact see. You were minding your own business.

Mr. HAYWOOD: Yeah, reading a book.

MARTIN: And that you were just randomly assaulted.

Mr. HAYWOOD: We had had no interaction whatsoever. I was backed up against a column where I was reading and someone reached around from behind the column, hit me in the head and I turned to look, and it looked like about a 12-year-old boy laughing, standing there. And when I confronted him, someone else reached over and hit me in the head. More people were hitting me and what looked like their immediate circle of friends another six or seven people were hovering with video cameras making film and pictures. This group of 10 or 12 kids, yeah, the ones that weren't kicking me...

MARTIN: And kids is the right word, am I right about that?

Mr. HAYWOOD: Well, high schoolers.

MARTIN: You said maybe 12, 13.

Mr. HAYWOOD: The first one looked to be about 12 or so. The others were definitely high schoolers. The girl, who was the worst, had braces still. So, yeah.

MARTIN: Did you have any sense and I'm not making your responsible, I just want to be clear, I'm not making you responsible for what happened to you, but did you ever get any sense of why?

Mr. HAYWOOD: The only thing I can possibly guess and just conjure is maybe the purpose was just to make a video to put on YouTube, because there were so many right there with cameras. And even after it was over and the ones hitting me had run away, their friends were still there hovering right in my face. So...

MARTIN: And you can be heard on the video saying, I didn't do anything to you. Why are you doing this? And you can also hear the video that I saw, you can hear somebody expressing, discussing, I can't believe this is happening. But you also do hear people saying, don't nobody care about you. Doesn't anybody care? So you get the impression that the purpose of it was to possibly make a video.

HAYWOOD: It may have been. Just, it's so senseless and stupid and pointless, but that's the only thing that comes to mind. And, yes, the one you hear towards the end say nobody cares about you, that was the girl who was the worst, who was involved. And I think a lot of people have proven her wrong since then.

MARTIN: I do want to say we did contact Metro authorities. A public affairs officer told us in a statement, and we'll post it on our website, that Metro police responded to the incident shortly after it happened. The victim notified a Metro employee who in turn notified Metro transit police. Police spoke with the victim, took a report, the incident is still under investigation. And Metro police are encouraging anybody who witnessed the incident or with information to call.

Here's my question. You notified Metro authorities. The other thing that's gotten a lot of people's attention, certainly got mine, is that nobody seems to have intervened. Do you have any sense that anybody tried to help you?

Mr. HAYWOOD: No one at all, as far as I know. And I can understand people not wanting to put themselves in harm's way or get physically involved. But it seemed to me from my peripheral vision that the flow of traffic was just kind of going around the commotion, that people were taking the other passageway. No one else had contacted Metro within the station or called 911 or yelled or screamed or came over or anything. And that's disturbing too.

MARTIN: Why do you think that is, if you have any thoughts about that? And you may not. Do you think, in part, it's because you're a man and people just figure men should take care of themselves? I do have to ask, do you think in part it's because you're white.

Mr. HAYWOOD: There are a lot of people in the station, white and black, different ages, coming and going. I may have been chosen or attacked because I'm white. I don't know. I think it's more likely that it was because I was reading a book and not on full alert, you know. I think I just wasn't paying as much of attention as I should've been.

And if they did pick me because I'm white or if they hate me because I'm white, then, you know, that's their problem, not mine. I don't hate them because they're black or because they're teenagers.

MARTIN: These kids were all black.

Mr. HAYWOOD: Yeah. You know, I hate what they did.

MARTIN: When you think about all this, what do you think it means?

Mr. HAYWOOD: It's hard to talk reasonably and rationally about it because it was so pointless, but it does bring up a lot of points. One, I'm sitting in front of you now, I'm a big man, I'm six feet tall, 185 pounds. If this can happen to me at 7:15 in public, it can happen to anybody. Most of the people out on Metro and around town, the majority are probably more vulnerable than I am on a daily basis.

And, you know, another point, if we just let this go and say, hey, it's just kids being rowdy, then that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it reinforces the message to these kids and others that there are no consequences and this is OK. And if they're doing this at 15 or 16, what on earth will they be doing when they're 18 or 20 if we just let this go and don't address it?

MARTIN: Allen Haywood lives in the Washington, D.C. area. He was the victim of an apparently random physical attack on the Washington, D.C. Metro system here the day after New Year's. And video of the attack has gone viral online. He was here with us in our Washington, D.C. studio. Thank you so much for joining us and we certainly do hope that things get better.

Mr. HAYWOOD: Thank you very much.

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