In the wake of a knife attack in Dublin this past week that sparked Ireland’s worst anti-immigrant violence in recent memory, people in the country and beyond are celebrating a Brazilian immigrant who intervened to end the assault.
An online fund-raiser set up to “Buy Caio Benicio a pint,” a standard token of appreciation in the country, as of Saturday afternoon had raised more than 330,000 euros, about $350,000, for Mr. Benicio, a Rio de Janeiro native who lives in the Irish capital and witnessed the stabbing while passing by on his moped.
Mr. Benicio, who was on a job for the delivery service Deliveroo, relayed to the Irish national broadcaster, RTÉ, that he had slowed down when he saw what appeared to be a fight, but which turned out to be a man stabbing a small girl while a woman tried to pull her away from the attacker.
“It was everything by instinct — I remember I took off my helmet, to protect myself and use it as a weapon,” he said. “Just hit him in the head with all the power I have. And he fell down.”
The police confirmed on Saturday that a 5-year-old girl and a woman in her 30s were being treated for serious injuries and were still in the hospital; two other children were treated for less serious injuries, the police said.
Although the authorities have not publicly identified the citizenship of the attacker, whom witnesses described as a man in his 50s, rumors spread online claiming that he was an immigrant, drawing many members of the far right to central Dublin on Thursday, some holding signs reading “Irish Lives Matter.” The protest quickly escalated, and roughly 500 people, mostly young men, vandalized cars, looted shops, and attacked hostels and hotels where immigrants were thought to be staying, according to the authorities.
By the end of the night, the police had deployed 400 officers and arrested 34 people, in what has been described as the worst rioting in the country in years. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that those behind the violence had brought shame to Ireland.
It was not lost on many of those who rushed to buy Mr. Benicio a proverbial beer that an immigrant had intervened in an attack that then inflamed anti-immigrant sentiment. As of Saturday afternoon, the campaign, on GoFundMe, had attracted more than 31,000 single donations — many of which were for €5 or €6, or the average price of a pint.
“Thank you for your amazing act of bravery,” wrote Aoife Brennan, who gave €50, according to the GoFundMe page. “Ireland is a better place because of wonderful people like you,” she added.
Another online fund-raising campaign for the children and the woman injured by the attacker had attracted pledges totaling more than €220,000 by Saturday afternoon.
Mr. Benicio told the Irish news media that he had been living in Dublin for a year and was trying to save up to bring his wife and two children to Ireland. As for intervening in the attack, he said he had simply seized the moment.
“When you see a man with a knife in his hands,” he told RTÉ, “you don’t even think about it, you act by instinct.” He added, “Any parent would do the same.”
After the violence took hold on Thursday, Mr. Varadkar said: “This is not who we are. This is not who we want to be, and this is not who we will ever be.” And those supporting the campaign for Mr. Benicio echoed the prime minister’s sentiment.
“Thank you so much Caio, you deserve every penny that you get,” wrote Aine Waters, one of the online donors. “You took off your helmet to help while others covered up their faces and wore hats later to terrorize. You are a true hero and I am so happy that you came to live in Ireland.”