April 28, 2013 2:38 pm
Updated: April 28, 2013 3:33 pm

LRT ‘hero’ launches anti-bullying awareness campaign

Anti-bullying rally at City Hall organized by Manwar Khan (right) who witnessed the deadly beating of John Hollar on the LRT in December of 2012.

Shaughn Butts, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON – Manwar Khan, the man who witnessed and tried to intervene in a fatal beating on the LRT last December, launched a provincewide, grassroots, anti-bullying awareness campaign Saturday in front of City Hall.

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A small group of victim John Hollar’s friends, who wore matching T-shirts in his memory, as well as about two dozen of Khan’s friends and co-workers holding placards that read Don’t Let Bullying Be a Part of Growing Up, A Bully Won’t Stop Until He Is Stopped, and Bullies are Not Cool They’re Cruel, came out for the rally, where he urged everyone not to be a bystander when they see someone being picked on.

Most people want to help someone being bullied, but they’re afraid or feel powerless or just don’t know what to do, he said before the start of the event.

“I want people to understand that when we are bystanders, we have the power to help people, we just don’t know how powerful we are,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you have to intervene, just standing and watching someone get bullied is supporting the bully. Walk away and get help. But just don’t pretend that it’s not happening.”

On Dec. 28, the 37-year-old IT professional, who works for Alberta Human Resources, boarded the LRT at Corona Station downtown. The ride was uneventful until the LRT reached Stadium Station and a large male passenger chased and started hitting a smaller passenger.

Hollar, 29, died in hospital two days later of injuries he received in the beating from another man that continued for two stops before the end of the line at Clareview Station, where police arrested Jeremy Newborn, 29.

Because Hollar died, Khan says he didn’t think he had done much when he got up from his seat and walked past the brawling men to hit an emergency alarm. He’s about a foot shorter and a lot smaller than the assailant, so he didn’t think he could break up the fight alone, but no one responded when he asked other passengers to help him intervene.

Khan changed his mind about his role that day after Journal columnist Paula Simons wrote a story about him and what he had done and called him a “hero.” It elicited a lot of emails and letters from Premier Alison Redford and provincial MLAs to regular citizens he didn’t know.

“I thought, maybe I did do something and then I realized I couldn’t save that guy, but I can help other people to raise awareness,” he said. “I still feel frustrated that I didn’t get any help on the LRT that day. But I don’t blame any of the passengers. That was a horrifying, serious situation. I was scared, too, but when I thought about my kids, that’s when I (decided to pull the alarm). Something triggered me to intervene.”

It also triggered a need in Khan to do something more lasting.

“I’m going to make Canada a better place for everyone, for my kids,” Khan said, watching his two-year-old twins playing nearby.

“My kids are going to be riding the LRT in the next 20 years. How safe will they be? If someone is going to hit them, who’s going to help?”

Mayor Stephen Mandel, Councillor Amarjeet Sohi, and former councillor Michael Phair all spoke at the rally, as well as Bruce Mackay, one of Khan’s professors when he attended the University of Lethbridge.

“Someone should have spoken at events like this.”

Jerry Herman, a spectator who moved to Edmonton from Montreal, was applauded after he stepped up to the microphone and encouraged parents to love their kids and take an interest in what they are doing, so they don’t turn to bullying.

Khan will hold a similar rally outside Marlborough Community Centre in Calgary on Saturday, May 11, followed by another in Lethbridge, which is still being organized. He is also setting up a website that he will update regularly to keep the issue from disappearing.

© 2013 The Edmonton Journal

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