(This took place in Toronto, on the Toronto Subway System at a downtown stop, mid-day in approximately 2016)

I witnessed the fare operator engaging in racial profiling of a black woman, accusing her of not depositing the correct fare in the fare box. The incident turned into a shouting match, with the phrase “you people” being used by the fare operator, at which point the black woman stormed off towards the train.

I pulled out my phone and began documenting what I had seen with the intention of posting it on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)’s Facebook page. While I was typing up what I had seen, a person without housing came into the fare collection area and began aggressively pan-handling for change. He started approaching men and trying to steal the fare out of their hands, while making sexually derogatory remarks at any nearby women.

I physically put my body between the person without housing and the women in the area, and began trying to engage him in a de-escalating conversation — finding out where he needed to go, what he needed money for, what I could help him with etc. He was clearly in an altered state, but I had gotten him to begin to engage with me and was working our way out of the subway system when the same TTC fare operator loudly announced to everyone “be careful, that man is violent and dangerous and he’s trying to steal your tokens.”

The person without housing immediately became enraged, spun around, and punched me in the face, fracturing one of my front teeth, and then ran off.

What started as a controllable situation became dangerously violent due to the fare operator lacking proper training.