The recent Brexit vote shocked many on both sides of the Atlantic. But one population felt it more than any: Britain's immigrants.

According to the National Police Chiefs' Council, the UK witnessed an overwhelming 57 percent increase in reports of xenophobic attacks after the referendum passed. Some incidents were shared on social media, including signs in windows like, "Leave the EU. No more Polish Vermin."

In a statement, British Prime Minister David Cameron said:

"In the past few days we have seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre, we've seen verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities. Let's remember these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our country. We will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks. They must be stamped out."

But politicians aren't the only ones who are making a statement. One woman came up with a simple but meaningful way for those who support immigrants to demonstrate said support. Over several tweets, she suggested the following:

"So I have an idea similar to #ridewithme to help protect those being abused as result of Brexit referendum ... I'd like to come up with something that can be made by anybody anywhere to pin on their jacket or coat to signify that they are an ally. A safe person to sit next to on a bus, walk next to on a street, even have a conversation with.

I quite like the idea of just putting a safety pin, empty of anything else, on your coat. A literal SAFETY pin!"

The idea  went viral.

People posted pictures on social media of their clothing with a safety pin on it, saying things like:

Former chairwoman of the Conservative Party Sayeeda Warsi said, "I've spent most of the weekend talking to organizations, individuals and activists who work in the area of race hate crime ... and they have shown some really disturbing early results from people being stopped in the street and saying, 'Look, we voted Leave, it's time for you to leave.' They are saying this to individuals and families who have been here for three, four, five generations. The atmosphere on the street is not good."

The risks aren't just to the atmosphere. A mere two weeks ago, on June 17th, Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed close to her office as her attacker yelled, "Britain first!" She was an advocate for refugees. She died as a result of the attack.

A movement like #safetypin isn't just cosmetic. It's a way for for those who need allies to recognize them, and a way for allies to recognize one another.

It's a way for regular citizens to take a leadership role in the direction of their country.

If history shows us anything, it's that evil really does take hold when witnesses do nothing, but also that it can be held at bay when they step up and speak out.

As Allison, the originator of the idea, said to the BBC, "This is meant to be more than just a symbolic gesture or a way for like-minded people to pat each other on the back. If people wear the pin and support the campaign they are saying they are prepared to be part of the solution."

It's not going to be an easy solution. But it's more likely there will be one when those united by love are literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

Published on: Jun 30, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.