Millions of people took to the streets around the world in the days following George Floyd’s murder to protest police violence and racial inequality. Rahul Dubey, a Washington, DC-based health care consultant, was not one of them.

On June 1, 2020, however, when peaceful protesters were targeted by police in riot gear right outside his door, Dubey provided them with refuge, eventually sheltering 72 of the demonstrators overnight. His act of kindness ensured that they all avoided arrest and returned home safely the next day. However, the bonds formed that night have grown over the last year and transformed lives, particularly Dubey’s.

Dubey admitted that he had not previously attended organized protests, even when he supported the cause.

However, the protests arrived at Dubey’s front door on the evening of June 1, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Police drove protesters away from the White House about a half-hour before a citywide curfew went into effect. As the crowd dispersed, police cordoned off streets and eventually rounded up the demonstrators on Swann Street, where Dubey lived. Hundreds of protesters were detained and unable to leave. Dubey was keeping an eye on the situation, which had devolved into a tense standoff, from inside his house. Then, all of a sudden, everything changed.

Dubey made an instantaneous decision. Hundreds of protesters ran inside his house as pepper spray filled the air. Dubey discovered that rumors were spreading that the protesters had forced their way in. As a result, he and some of the protesters collaborated on video, proving to the world that they were invited guests.

When the curfew was lifted the following morning, the protesters emerged, and Dubey was greeted with cheers from the crowds who had gathered outside his home. The Metropolitan Police Department reported that 194 people were arrested on Swann Street that night, but the District of Columbia Attorney General later declined to press charges against them. The 72 people who sheltered with Dubey, on the other hand, returned home safely.

That could have been the conclusion to the story. But, according to Dubey, he has kept in touch with dozens of the protesters, becoming extremely close with about ten of them.

Dubey has helped Meka’s musical career by connecting him with friends in the entertainment industry and assisting him in the production of two music videos.

Dubey also suggested that Reaves create a podcast about issues affecting young Black men. Reaves and two of his friends now host the show “The Drop,” which they tape at Dubey’s house. Dubey attended a protest at the Lincoln Memorial last August, alongside some of the protesters he had sheltered, to commemorate the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. He was thrilled to be able to demonstrate his support for racial justice and equity, he said.

“It was an honor for me to walk alongside these young men and women. As a result, I now have the confidence and compassion to say, ‘Okay, you know what? This is my battle.'”

Dubey is a first-generation American whose father immigrated to the United States from India in 1967. He credits the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and others with influencing legislation and changing attitudes toward racial equality. Dubey believes that if his father had not struggled, he would not have come to the United States, and his family’s experience in this country would have been much more difficult.

“This was a tragically beautiful gift for me,” he said. “I buried my head in the sand prior to June 1st. But seeing the atrocities appear on your front door — if people like me don’t open the door, who will?”