By Bethany Ocansey

Sunday lunch wrapped up, so we headed out the dimly lit pub, happy to be back in the sun as we made our way onto the downtown streets. Indecisive about where to go we decided to check out one of our options first before making a final decision. We could cut across the street and road and walk along the water, perfect in weather like this.

Just as we turned the corner I heard yelling, “faggot, you faggots, why don’t you take a picture? Fag, you fag, take a picture! Faggot.” It didn’t stop as we approached the noise, and realized it was a woman standing shoeless on top of a table screaming right in our direction now.

I averted my gaze so as not to draw any attention to my shock, as I heard my boyfriend tell us to move past her immediately. We all shuffled away as quickly as we could but just as we got to the road, she threw a can which nearly struck us from behind. I jumped back startled, and as I did I looked up at her and saw her scrutiny and attention was now targeted towards us.

She jumped down from the table she had claimed and started towards us. “Walk across the street right now,” my boyfriend said again, but as we did she screamed from behind and came up into my friends face as if she wanted to fight her. “Back off” we pleaded, but she continued her venomous outbursts. “Your fucking ugly, your assholes, fuck you!” We needed to get away from this woman, but she was charging for all four of us and didn’t look like she would back away.

We got to the other side of the street and just as we stepped on the side walk, she thrust her body forward and spat violently at us all, her saliva hitting the ground, just missing her targets. My friend and I rallied in front of our two men who had now formed a shield, but she was attacking them too. We couldn’t stop it. As people looked on at the mess she was creating, I panicked and reached for my phone to call the police.

“We need help, now, a woman is assaulting us, we need someone here right now.” I was trying to remain calm and stepped away just far enough so I wouldn’t be a target to her as I was trying to get help. “Describe the woman,” they asked. “She’s in a bright red dress and looks black.” Just as I said those words she grew maddened, eyes bursting out of her face, arms swinging around to hit anyone close to her, spit flying from her mouth. Her words of hatred and terror filled up the area we all had no choice but to occupy now. The police weren’t coming fast enough, it was torture.

The spitting continued, with sheer disregard or respect for anyone. As she fired another one it landed on my friend’s hair, this couldn’t be happening, this can’t get any worse. As those thoughts crossed my mind she violently pushed my friend to the concrete ground, banging her head and scraping her entire body. I was still on the phone with dispatch, screaming for help, when I saw my friend’s boyfriend grow upset as he tried to restrain her. She was strong, attacking with her arms and legs and tearing his shirt. “No, stop.” He shouted as she lunged towards him, biting him hard on his chest.

Some guys saw the scene and heard the outbursts. They ran towards us and helped us to restrain this woman. She was now on the ground, screaming obscenities at the top of her lungs.

Finally, I flagged down a random police car and they ran to assist as the other car showed up, she was still spitting and screaming as we were trying to explain to the police what happened. We needed to breath, but my friend was still on the floor bleeding, her boyfriend’s clothes ripped, my boyfriend struggling with the others to hold her down. I couldn’t keep my emotions hidden, how could someone do something so hostile and cruel?

She was fighting the officers and claiming disgusting justifications for her actions, but she showed her true colors again. “You niggers, your crackers, you are hoes, sluts and have STI’s and STD’s. You bitches!” We did not know this woman. We had not harmed her or invaded her space. Nothing should have caused such a vicious targeted assault on people. We were strangers.

While I am sympathetic to mental illness, I am struggling a few days on to feel sorry for her. Most times we may notice things, witness events unfold and have feelings or opinions about certain people and situations, and likely feel bad for people screaming, struggling and talking to themselves, but that day my friends and I became victims of the violent manifestations of someone’s mental illness, or addiction. While feeling petrified, distraught and angry because you’re powerless, our feelings to not feel sorry for this woman was justified.

Did she need help? It seems that way. But was this purely a mental health issue? I don’t know. She was intoxicated and simply had no regard for herself or anyone else. No-one should ever be afraid to walk down a public street in their city. It was broad daylight. Everyone was in danger, not just us. She had so much hate in her heart. Her words expressed homophobia, racism, sexism and a self-hatred that turned into physical violence.

In my thirteen years of being in this city I had never experienced something so grotesque. My beautiful city became ugly that day, and when we arrived at the ER I realized she was not the only person that was suffering and acting out. One man was threatening to fight the hospital staff, he wanted to come back and burn the place down. Another was yelling at staff and refused to leave. We have a serious problem, and mental illness and addiction together are lethal. What is being done to help these people? Where do they get taken after scenarios like this? Our trust lies in the legal system to not allow these people back on the streets until they are stable enough to not harm themselves and others.

When we were finally leaving the ER close to 10pm my friend looked at me and said, “we were the ones assaulted but we will have to pay for this hospital visit.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.


Listen to:

Alive’ by Sia

This song makes me tear up, while always making me that bit stronger every time I listen. There is something that I work on every day because patience and compassion takes time to truly embody, and that is to never judge anyone because I don’t know the path they have walked on. We have to keep that faith in the face of such hatred and threats. No matter what is thrown at us we live in spite of that. Always have that passion inside of you to survive anything. We are alive and have the power to do whatever is in our hearts, no matter what.