About 100 people turn out for anti-bullying rally

A group of about 100 people gathered at Main Beach on Friday and marched toward City Hall to protest bullying and promote kindness.

Cars honked their horns as they crossed Coast Highway to Broadway Street in the People's March Against Bullying, showing support for the high schoolers who held signs that said "Words can kill" and "It's cool to be kind."

Jonah Mowry — known for a YouTube video he made when he was 13 about being bullied and cutting himself — donned a pink mohawk and led the group with confidence in cheers, yelling at cars for support as they marched.

Now an El Toro High School student, Jonah said his 13-year-old self wouldn't recognize the person he is today.

"It's totally weird. I'm actually kind of popular now," Jonah, 15, said. "I never would have expected it."

He had to cope with horrible comments left on his video and realized, "I don't know these people." He said he also realized he also didn't know the bullies who tormented him at school and needed to ignore their voices.

Now he he's become a friend for those at school who might need one. He reaches out to kids who are bullied or sometimes they reach out to him, he said.

Jonah's first days of high school started off much differently than his days in middle school. He said kids came up to him, recognizing him from his video, and congratulated him, saying things like "stay strong" and "you're an inspiration."

Victoria Mendez, a San Clemente High School sophomore, also spoke against bullying in front of the crowd at City Hall. Mendez was in sixth grade when her brother Daniel killed himself. Her brother never indicated he was in pain, she said, and always had a smile on his face. He wasn't bullied for a specific reason.

"It was just because he was too nice and an easy target because he didn't fight back," she said to the group.

She started the Cool 2 Be Kind club at the high school in his memory.

"It shouldn't be cool to be a jerk," Victoria, 15, said in an interview. "It should be cool to be kind."

Victoria's mother, Anna Mendez, spoke as well.

Mendez preached the importance of not only reaching out to children who are bullied, but to the bullies as well.

"If your child is accused of being a bully — don't be defensive," she said. "Get them help."

Ron Varasteh, the Democrat congressional candidate for the 48th district, stopped by the rally while at City Hall and remarked on his personal experience.

"Every human being has the right to live peacefully and coexist with other humans," he said. "We need to wake up America about this abuse."

Howard Hills, a representative for Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican congressional candidate for the 48th district, was also there to show his support. A Laguna Beach native, he said he supported anti-bullying efforts when he was at the high school. He said he came out of lifelong personal interest and professional support as well.


Twitter: @joannaclay

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