December 7, 2019

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Transit supervisor dragged off bus, beaten on downtown sidewalk

A Winnipeg Transit supervisor was attacked on a bus Thursday night following a fare dispute and then dragged outside and badly beaten on a Portage Avenue sidewalk.

The violence has reignited calls for improved safety measures from the union representing the city's transit workers.

Amalgamated Transit Union local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary said Friday that attacks on employees are getting worse and it's only a matter of time before there's another tragedy. A bus driver was stabbed to death at the end of his route on the University of Manitoba campus in February 2017.

"You can see the trend. The assaults are getting worse and worse," Chaudhary said. "The supervisor who was assaulted last night, I know this is the second time he's been assaulted in the last couple months.

"We hope (increased security) is reconsidered before something more serious happens than what happened last night. We're truly disturbed by how serious these incidents are getting."

The attack happened at about 8 p.m. Thursday, after a man and two teenage boys got on the bus. One of them was unable to pay their fare, and the transit supervisor said he would have to pay or leave. Transit supervisors are on buses, in part, to protect drivers.

Amalgamated Transit Union local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Amalgamated Transit Union local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary

The suspects got "verbally aggressive," according to police, before kicking and punching the supervisor. They then dragged him off the bus and out onto the sidewalk at the intersection of Portage Avenue and Colony Street, where they continued beating him.

"They dragged him off the bus and assaulted him very, very badly," Chaudhary said.

Winnipeg Police Service officers and Auxiliary Cadets were walking nearby and intervened, arresting the three suspects. Const. Rob Carver said the situation could have been much worse had they not happened upon the attack.

"You've got three males, grown, moderate-sized, attacking one guy. It would be no different than if it was one of our officers, without the assistance of weapons. It's a dangerous position to be in," he said.

"It's very lucky in this case, pure chance, that uniformed officers and cadets were right in the area as the fight was happening. We interrupted the fight by accident."

At the daily police press conference, Carver was asked about transit union claims of other, unreported assaults on supervisors this week. He said he wasn't aware of any others.

But Chaudhary was adamant when speaking to the Free Press Friday that there had been a rash of attacks on transit employees in recent days.

Winnipeg bus drivers gathered to support each other at a rally for Irvine Fraser, who was killed by a passenger, and to demand safety improvements on buses outside city hall in Winnipeg in February 2017.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Winnipeg bus drivers gathered to support each other at a rally for Irvine Fraser, who was killed by a passenger, and to demand safety improvements on buses outside city hall in Winnipeg in February 2017.

"There were four assaults that took place on supervisors over the last three days. This was the most serious one that brought everybody's attention to what's happening out there. And I can assure you that within this month there's been about five or six," he said.

"These are the people who are being hired to protect our operators and they're getting assaulted.... Our operators are very nervous. If this is happening to the people who are supposed to protect them, what's going to happen to them?"

Carver said that while he didn't have data on the number of attacks on transit workers in recent years, he believes they are increasing.

"I can tell you anecdotally that I think they're up. In the years I've been doing this, I feel I'm seeing more," he said. "I can tell you a number of years ago I don't think I was standing up here talking about any, essentially. And I think we're talking about them fairly regularly now."

The transit supervisor has been released from hospital. The three suspects have been charged with assault and were released on a promise to appear.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
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Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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Updated on Friday, August 24, 2018 at 9:11 PM CDT: Comments turned off.

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