Dozens gathered in front of the Alberta legislature Saturday evening to share stories of being bullied and fighting back.
Manwar Khan founded the Candlelight Vigil for victims of bullying and domestic violence last year, and his anti-bullying movement continues to grow.
“I started this with an emotion and I didn’t know that I would come this far … I see people off all different backgrounds gathered here and it’s really inspiring to me,” Khan said after Saturday’s vigil, adding he was “overwhelmed” by the turnout.
“We are spreading out this message to the community, school, workplace, that bullying is not acceptable.”
Politicians, activists and others stepped up to the podium to speak about a range of topics, from being bullied as kids in school to being trapped in abusive relationships as adults.
Khan said the vigil is held to remember bullying victims, but also to urge people to stand to bullies in their own lives.
He was inspired to create the event after witnessing a horrific fatal attack on an Edmonton LRT in December 2012.
He boarded a train at the Corona Station en route to Clareview and saw one man punching another. Five-foot-four Khan passed the fighting men to push the emergency button and yelled at the larger man to stop the assault, to no avail.
He then turned to the 15-20 bystanders on the train and asked for help, but nobody stepped in.
When the train stopped at the Belvedere Station, everyone got off except for the attacker and his bloodied, unconscious victim. Khan approached an ETS staff member on the platform for help, and watched in shock as the train pulled away.
Khan, who moved to Edmonton from Bangladesh in 2001, said the event still replays in his head.
“I couldn’t help that guy. When I was asking for help, I didn’t get any help from anybody,” he said. “I don’t blame any of the passengers. But that’s what I realized that day: I am a common person, and every common person has the power to stand up for other people. So that’s what I will do.”
Khan has expanded his events to Calgary, Lethbridge and Airdrie, telling people it is not OK to stand idly by while someone is being bullied.
“Sometimes you can’t intervene, it’s true, but you don’t just pretend that it’s not happening,” he said. “That’s my focus.”
Police arrested Jeremy Newborn, 29, in the 2012 attack and took John Hollar, 29, to hospital. Hollar died two days later.