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At Bellevue gathering, minorities and immigrants talk about staying safe during difficult times

With reports of hate crimes on the increase, officials take time out to instruct members of targeted communities on how to deal with discrimination and when to call the authorities.

It was late January, and Lalita Uppala was driving home from an event she had presented for seniors at the North Bellevue Community Center. As she pulled out of the parking lot, she said two teenagers yelled a misogynistic slur, made an obscene gesture and started tailgating her.

Uppala, the director of community programs for the India Association of Western Washington, didn’t know what to do. She was near her home but just kept circling the block until the car behind her went away. Then she went inside and shut the blinds.

“I felt like, I’m a community leader and I froze. I don’t know what to do,” Uppala said. “And that’s when I felt we need to do this for the community.”

On Sunday, on the first sunny weekend in what felt like an eternity, about 200 people spent two hours indoors at the North Bellevue Community Center, learning about how to de-escalate such conflicts, protect themselves and avoid potentially dangerous situations.

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Uppala said that, after the November election, with reports of hate crimes and incidents increasing, the Indian Association began to think about what sort of services they could offer to help their community deal with rising fear and anxiety.

“We understood that this was going to be our new norm,” she said. “Kids are coming home from schools saying they were called brownie. We were getting a lot of reports of things that weren’t quite hate crimes.”

At Sunday’s forum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Miyake, who leads the hate-crimes task force for the U.S. Attorneys office of the Western District of…

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