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Local Black Lives Matter leader admits he sometimes agitates as part of activism

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Julian Mack

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Julian Mack said he knows his style of activism can be agitating to some politicians, but he said an incident with a sitting Toledo councilman went too far.

Mr. Mack again found himself in the center of controversy after he called police, resulting in Councilman Larry Sykes being arrested for assaulting him.

Mr. Mack has been publicly vocal about police brutality and racial discrimination, and he recently was criminally charged after an altercation with police, but he disputes the idea that he is a “troublemaker.” The term was used by Sykes’ campaign manager Shaun Strong to describe Mr. Mack’s tactics. 

“I am an activist. I can admit, sometimes to a politician I can be very annoying,” Mr. Mack said. “I agitate, that's what activists do sometimes, but I've always advocated for peace.”

Mr. Sykes, 68, faces a first-degree misdemeanor assault charge after the Thursday evening incident in which he is accused of attacking Mr. Mack, 33, who advocates locally for the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights issues.

And as a prolific Facebook Live user, Mr. Mack frequently posts videos of himself having exchanges with people or while at community events. He’s a spokesman for the Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo, which uses “protest, civil disobedience, event-disruption, and citizen advocacy to give voice to those who are otherwise voiceless,” according to the group’s website.

He has recently attended rallies protesting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and has campaigned for his girlfriend Ruth Leonard, who is running for school board for Toledo Public Schools.

“Information is the currency that democracy works on,” he said of his social media use. “We have platforms, and we have the ability to tell our own stories and bypass what the mainstream media may be saying by telling our own stories directly.”

He was also recording during the Sept. 20 interaction with Toledo police for which Mr. Mack is accused of yelling “[expletive] the police” and was charged with disorderly conduct. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Ms. Leonard, who was also charged with disorderly conduct. Ms. Leonard declined to comment. 

Michael Leonardi, a colleague at Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo, characterized Mr. Mack as passionate about social justice and economic equality.

“I think Julian is a very astute young man and makes informed changes towards progressive change,” he said. “I think he is well-meaning and passionate, and sometimes his passion can get him in difficult situations.”

Mr. Mack pulled petitions to run for an at-large seat on Toledo City Council this year, but ended his campaign after he was not endorsed by the Lucas County Democratic Party.

In May he joined the Lucas County Clerk Of Courts as a clerk but was terminated in August before his 120-day probation period was over due to lateness and absenteeism, according to Clerk of the Court Bernie Quilter. 

“His work was okay; great personality, good with customers, but his absenteeism was a problem,” Mr. Quilter said. “I gave him one warning and then let him go.”

Mr. Quilter said Mr. Mack’s employment ended before the September incident with Toledo police. Mr. Quilter said he was “shocked” to learn about it, and that “it wasn’t the same guy” he hired. Mr. Mack did not dispute the circumstances of his termination. 

Mr. Mack is a 2003 graduate of Rogers High School, and attended Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo but did not complete a degree, according to spokesmen for the respective schools. 

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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