I don't think the onlookes were helpless. if they had felt more responsible, they could have made their presence felt in a more active way, than calling out and taking photos.
Yes, it was good to document the atrocity but better than that, to have stopped it.
Once in London, on a crowded street, two men were chasing another guy and were beating him against a car after they caught him. I went up and told them to stop. One of the men said they are police and I should get lost or they would arrest me. I stayed calm and stood my ground.
While shouting at me, they did also stop beating the guy. It was like they came out of a hypnotic state,... the excitement of the chase.