‘Being Intimidated’: Indian-American Who Helped Protesters in US

On 2 June, Dubey sheltered 70 protesters in his house in Washington DC amid the anti-racism protests in the US.

Published17 Jun 2020, 07:30 PM IST
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6 min read

Video Editor: Vivek Gupta

“Hopefully, this horrific tragedy of intended genocide never shows up on anyone's doorstep again,” says Rahul Dubey, an Indian-American living in Washington DC as he recalls the night he sheltered more than 70 protesters in his house just before they were about to get arrested by the US police.

Rahul Dubey is a hero and a household name in the US today because of the sheer display of courage and the will to stand for what's right as anti-racism protests rage across the country over the death of George Floyd.

On 2 June, Dubey sheltered 70 protesters in his house in Washington DC to prevent them from getting arrested, provided them with food, provided them with first aid, and all the help that he possibly could. The next morning, when Dubey stood outside his house and a crowd cheered and applauded him, the visuals went viral on social media.

In an exclusive conversation with The Quint, Dubey said that the authorities are trying to intimidate him, but he is not afraid.

Mr Dubey, in such situations, people tend to close their doors, what made you open your doors to absolute strangers that night?

Hero is not a word you need to use to describe a human act. And the fact that everyone was drawn to it because it was human in its purest form. Because it was instinctual, because it was intrinsic. Hopefully, this horrific tragedy of intended genocide never shows up on anyone’s doorstep again. But let’s be real, it might. I didn’t see colour. I didn’t see anything but mankind, my brothers and sisters, in terror and in fright.

The police did try to intimidate you into letting the people in your house being arrested, the police did fire tear gas from the window of your house if I am correct. How did the night unfold because I am sure you weren’t ready for something like this.

I was outside of my house, I opened my door from the outside. I flung it open and held myself between the door, the railing and yelling at the top of my lungs, “get in, get in, get in,” and as I was doing that, I was seeing the violence and the terror and the decimation. For example, one woman fell and was being trampled by this police and military brigade, and when a man reached out to get her, he was pepper-sprayed straight in the face. That was just six feet from me.

One-and-a-half hours of some, pepper spray in the house, milk, water flying everywhere.

They were reaching out to lawyers that they knew, they were reaching out to the media, handing me their phones, telling me their names, talking to the reporters.

We started playing some games with the cops and the people were ‘protesters’. So when they would tell us to come out and said ‘we won’t arrest you’, I’d say, okay we are in a democracy... hey everybody here, the cops are so nice, they are saying if we go out of the back door and they won’t arrest us, do we believe them, and the whole house would say, ‘noooooo’... I’d be like I’m sorry, they don’t believe you... you have to do a better job of convincing us... get us pizza... and I’d do things like that.

And at 12:30 am, five-and-a-half hours before the curfew, we made the decision, that everyone was going to stay here until curfew. And we made the goal that everyone was gonna get home without being hurt or arrested and would be sleeping in their bed the next day.

Did you not once feel that because obviously we are human did you not feel that this might get you into a great deal of trouble with the law... you know, what you were doing, you could have had bigger consequences for your career, your family.

I had a very large government agency, I don’t want to elaborate on that because it just happened today. But 8-9 days later they came and they pounded on my door and they didn’t tell me who they were. They were trying to intimidate me. I would elaborate on that on a later date, maybe we could follow that up in a week. You know, I didn’t think about being afraid of the law because, your moral compass is your law. If you look at your moral compass, good and love is my law, trust and love is my law. Outside, it wasn’t the law, it was the other side, so I wasn’t afraid of them.

How did your family react to it? You are all over social media, you are all over the media, how did they react to it? I am told you have a son, how did your son react to it?

He is very proud of it and that is the best thing that I could ever think of. My family has always been very proud of me. I think they are scared, which parents always should be... I haven’t had the conversation, I know it was the right thing, they know it was the right thing, but, I am sure that my mom loves the fact that I opened the door but she would probably whisper in my ear, “beta, don’t do that again.” That’s funny to me because I can’t wait to do it again.

Speaking of India and Indian families, we all know how racism works even in a country like India, where there’s obsession with fairer skin... have you yourself faced any such experience, because in one of the videos that we saw on Twitter, one of the people that stayed at your place that night was recording and you said the police let you go because you’re not black. But have you ever experienced any such incident yourself?

My former employer AHIP, I mean I have – it’s both verbally, they have said things as well as in their action. When I made a suggestion about one of the mentors of mine, who happens to be South Asian, the person in-charge and the CEO now said, last thing we need is another Indian talking about innovation.

And I let those things go. Why? Because I had a beautiful innovation lab in which I was getting some things done and I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. And now I am reaching out to them because I need to heal. And guess what, their response is... they are not getting back to me. They are not calling me back and they are giving me pushback. Why? Because what I am speaking has some truth.

Mr Dubey, that brings me to my next question: Even in the case of #BlackLivesMatter, the movement, the hashtag was going viral across social media. But in between that, there were instances, there were people who were speaking on the lines of ‘All Lives Matter’

If someone’s having that argument, they have every right to have that argument. Because that’s what this country is founded on. But if you are doing it as an excuse, we don’t have the time. There is intended genocide and an urgent matter of very critical need. Let’s get back to humanity... all lives matter, of course, they do, but the issue at hand is not all lives, the issue at hand here is black lives. The issue at hand here, you are asking a Rahul Dubey and of course I am no expert on the matter. This is a sort of intended genocide and it showed up on my doorstep.

How are you dealing with all the attention that you’re getting? Because if you go through Twitter right now, and you type your name, you see comments like ‘Be like Rahul,’ ‘Rahul for President,’ ‘This Rahul is better than all the Rahuls SRK ever played in his movies’. How are you responding to all the attention that you’re suddenly getting?

I have only been able to digest a morsel of it. I would like to thank the media and Twitter and social media. They were an instrumental part of getting the 70+ home safely because they were here at 5 am. How am I handling it? I am privileged to be able to tell my story and the story of humanity of the 70+. There’s something that’s there and I’m only the microcosm of it.

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