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LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — 71-year-old Mary Yuen said she was afraid to walk the streets after a number of vicious anti-Asian attacks in the city. But instead of living in fear, she decided to empower herself and take a free self-defense class on the Lower East Side.

Yuen is one of over 20 seniors learning how to defend themselves, thanks to new weekly classes.

“This is about mental empowerment … these folks have felt trapped in their homes,” Jason Lee said. Jason and his wife, Alicia, saw how dangerous hate was in the city, and wanted to do something about it.  

Every Tuesday afternoon, seniors gather at the University Settlement community center at the Rafael Hernandez Houses.

Instructor Sammy Yuen said people don’t have to be a black belt to fight off an attacker — each class is about teaching a few simple moves that could help these seniors if a bad situation happens.

Organizers plan on expanding this program if more seniors want to take classes. 

More information on the classes is available on the University Settlement website.