Toledo councilman Larry Sykes at a bar on Adams Street after an altercation with Julian Mack Thursday.
Police arrested Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes — a candidate for re-election in the general election next month — after he was involved in a confrontation with a local activist at a candidates’ event Thursday night.
Julian Mack, 33, accused Mr. Sykes, 68, of punching him after the two exchanged words at about 7:30 p.m. Shaun Strong, Mr. Sykes’ campaign manager, said no punches were thrown. He said Mr. Mack was antagonizing Mr. Sykes and grabbed Mr. Sykes’ arm as the councilman tried to walk away peacefully.
Toledo Municipal Court Judge C. Allen McConnell released Mr. Sykes on his own recognizance. Mr. Sykes is set for a hearing Monday, according to court records.
On Friday, Joshua Hughes, the chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, released a statement about the incident, backing Mr. Sykes.
“Councilman Sykes is a proven and dedicated servant for the citizens of Toledo with a record of public service that speaks for itself, and is innocent until proven guilty. The Lucas County Democratic Party stands behind their endorsement and is still in full support of its Candidate,” it read.
Councilman Larry Sykes' booking photo from Thursday night.
Two police officers were speaking to Mr. Mack outside Georgjz, a bar located at 1205 Adams St., at about 8 p.m. Mr. Sykes stood inside the bar, watching musicians perform at the event sponsored by the Toledo City Paper, which was billed as a “candidate talent show” on Facebook.
About 30 minutes later, officers led Mr. Sykes into the back of a squad car, his hands apparently restricted behind his back. Sgt. Robert Furr said Mr. Sykes had been arrested on charges of assault. He said police had video evidence of what happened, but he did not elaborate.
Mr. Mack said he was walking up to the bar on the sidewalk when he saw Mr. Sykes, whom he described as a “big man” in “a big hat.” Mr. Mack said to Mr. Sykes, “What’s up, big man in the big hat.”
He said Mr. Sykes responded by saying, “Don’t talk to me, boy.” Mr. Mack said Mr. Sykes used the phrase several times, to which Mr. Mack said, “don’t talk to me like that.”
Mr. Mack said Mr. Sykes then went inside. He followed, and tapped the other man on the shoulder.
“Then he grabbed me by my [expletive] neck and punched me in my [expletive] face,” Mr. Mack said.
Mr. Strong told a different story. He said Mr. Mack was antagonizing Mr. Sykes and cursing at him.
Facebook post of Julian Mack describing how Larry Sykes assaulted him at an Adams Street bar Thursday.
Mr. Sykes tried to walk away peacefully on several occasions, Mr. Strong said. Mr. Mack grabbed Mr. Sykes’ arm, then Mr. Sykes snatched his arm from Mr. Mack and “put a hand out to block him and said ‘Leave me alone.’”
“There was no punching,” Mr. Strong said.
Mr. Mack said it’s “very possible” he will press charges and said he will have to talk to police.
Mr. Strong after Mr. Sykes was arrested said: “It’s unfortunate that a troublemaker ... can trump up felonious charges against a member of the community who has a long history of public service and doing good in the community.”
Mayoral candidate Wade Kapszukiewicz, an unendorsed Democrat, said of Mr. Sykes, “His behavior is unbecoming of a public official. He embarrassed himself and the city of Toledo. I think public officials need to hold themselves to a higher standard. I think the public deserves no less. ”
Mr. Sykes finished third in the Sept. 12 primary election, tallying 11,000 votes. Twelve council candidates, including Mr. Sykes, are on the general election ballot on Nov. 7.
Mr. Sykes worked for Fifth Third Bank for 30 years, retiring as a vice president of business development and community affairs. He was appointed to the Toledo Board of Education in 1997 and elected to that seat two years later. He was on the school board through 2013, when he was elected to council.
Mr. Mack is a local activist who’s been involved in many causes related to social justice and inequality, including Black Lives Matter and the Community Solidarity Response Network.
He was recently involved in an incident that led authorities to charge Ruth Leonard, a candidate for Toledo Board of Education, with disorderly conduct. Mr. Mack in that incident is accused of yelling, “[expletive] the police,” from the window of a vehicle driven by Ms. Leonard as the pair passed officers making a traffic stop near Dorr Street and Lawrence Avenue.