“Violence is a public health concern,” wrote Dr. Anthony Chen, director of health of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, about being physically attacked on May 19, by “a man whom I had never met,” as he walked across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma.
Chen drove himself to the emergency room. He said he was banged up and sore but did not have serious injuries.
“I am fortunate I was able to walk away from this attack and I am overwhelmed with the many heartfelt well-wishes from family, friends, and colleagues,” Chen wrote in a blog posted two days after the attack.
The attack happened after Chen noticed a man damaging public property.
“I calmly tried to engage him in conversation but I could see he was escalating, so I disengaged and walked away. Suddenly, he knocked me down from behind and punched me as I stood up. He continued to attack me even as I tried to back away. Naturally, I reported the attack to the police. Their investigation is ongoing.”
When asked if he was targeted because he’s Asian or because of his role at the Health Department, Chen said he didn’t think so, “but the fact that people have to ask is a sad commentary for our times.”
He’s not angry at his attacker, Chen added.
“I heard him say that he did not feel his actions were damaging public property. I heard his frustration that there were not places he could practice tricks on his BMX bike in Tacoma. What I do feel is disappointment that he chose to deal with his disagreement and frustration with physical violence.”
Chen wrote, “Together, we can shift attitudes and behaviors. We can dismantle the institutions and systems that perpetuate violence, poverty, injustice, and racism. We can identify and treat mental health and substance issues. We can eliminate adverse community environments and replace them with supportive environments that promote healthy social and emotional development and resilience.”