“Take back the block” became more than a slogan for a handful of strangers last Tuesday evening. When a man was spotted choking a woman on Bloor Street just after 7 p.m., several passersby swiftly intervened. Among the first was Michelle den Hollander [full disclosure: den Hollander is a friend of the author], pulling the man off.
She was swiftly joined by Chris Ball—who just happened to be postering nearby for last Saturday’s Take Back the Block party, an event organized in response to the neighbourhood’s recent spate of sexual assaults.
When den Hollander and Ball followed the man down the street to ensure he didn’t attack others, he punched Ball in the head. Den Hollander called out for help, but only one other person stepped in, tackling the man to the ground with Ball, and holding him there until police arrived. Most others just stared.
The victim and her attacker appeared to be acquaintances, though neither could be reached for comment.
“It’s important to step in right away and not wait for someone else to do it,” said den Hollander. Ball emphasized the importance of community building in violence prevention—a key goal of last Saturday’s take-back-the-night parties. “If someone knows you,” he said, “they’re going to be looking out for you.”