Intervening safely when witnessing violence One man’s experience brings awareness to violent bullying

Although there is more awareness of bullying and less tolerance towards it, bullying still happens. But now more people are taking a stand against it, like Manwar Khan.

On Dec. 28, 2012, Khan witnessed a fatal beating on the Clareview LRT.

At first, he didn’t realize how bad the situation was. “At the very beginning I thought two friends were fighting, a friendly thing. Then as soon as I saw some blood on the other guy’s face, then I realized it’s serious,” said Khan.

Khan said that during the attack, he thought of his young children in 10 to 15 years and the possibility of someone hitting them. With that thought, he knew that he had to try and do something. He tried to help by pressing the emergency button and yelling at the attacker, but that didn’t stop the assault. Khan was the only person who tried to intervene.

The LRT stopped at Belvedere station and everyone got out except for the attacker and John Hollar, the victim. At that point, Khan spoke to an Edmonton Transit System (ETS) staff member regarding the beating that was still continuing. The train continued on, but police arrested the attacker soon after at Clareview LRT station. Hollar died two days later from his injuries.

Taking the perspective that the homicide was an extreme form of bullying, the tragedy spurred Khan to create Do not be a bystander, an awareness campaign against bullying and violence. The idea behind the campaign is that bullying and violence is unacceptable and to “stand up against bullying and violence.”

Since then, Khan has been recognized locally and nationally for his leadership role in the campaign and in educating others. Khan said he was shaped and inspired by his parents (currently living in Bangladesh) and is passing on to his children the same values of “respect, trust and help other people when they need it.”

He said the message of the campaign is, “When you see something, say something. You don’t want to walk away from there. Do not pretend that it’s not happening. You do not want to be a silent bystander.”

However, it’s important to intervene safely and responsibly. Edmonton Police Service Sgt. Steve Sharpe said to first call the police and an ambulance when witnessing a violent attack.

“I think people need to assess their own abilities in terms of how they respond and what level of response they are capable of contributing as a witness (bystander). In most dynamic and violent situations, the primary concern should be getting additional resources to a scene as soon as possible,” said Sharpe.

“If you were to jump into a dynamic situation and you sustain an injury, you have to think, who will summon the resources to protect you? This is something you need to be mindful of and why it’s essential you call police when violence is unfolding before your eyes.”

As for the thought of having a peace officer on every LRT, ETS spokesperson Jennifer Laraway, said “Just like it’s improbable to have a police officer at every corner, we cannot have a peace officer on every train car or at every platform. We have to use taxpayer dollars responsibly and allocate our resources to the best of our ability.”


More information

DoNotBeABystander.ca

alberta.ca/bullying

cyberbulling.ca

Bullying Helpline 1-888-456-2323

National Bullying Awareness Week Nov. 13-19


Featured Image: Khan and his wife Nashid representing Do not be a bystander, the anti-bullying awareness campaign. | Rob Bernshaw

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