A group of students from the University of Toledo held a protest Sept. 24 against mayoral candidate Mike Bell due to accusations of sexual harassment by Allison Dow, a former UT student.
The protest took place Thursday evening around 5 p.m. at Tony Packo’s restaurant on Front Street during an event hosted by the mayoral candidate titled “A Conversation with Mike Bell.”
Dow said the protest was in response to an encounter she had with Bell early in September. She came out with accusations against Bell saying he made inappropriate comments to her as well as an unwelcomed physical advance on Friday, Sept. 4 at Wesley’s Bar and Grill.
“I was standing at the bar ordering a drink with some friends and I felt someone come up behind me and put his hand on my lower back and whispers, ‘If you stand up on your tiptoes in that dress me and my friends will pass out,’ and he lowered his hand to my butt,” Dow said.
Lily Ostrander, a second-year pharmacy major, wrote in an email interview that the group arrived at the restaurant at 4:50 p.m. and immediately faced confrontation.
“Someone from Tony Packo’s came out (we assumed he was the manager) and asked us to move away, to which Allison replied that we were on public property and won’t move, but that we would not block the entries. However, he still asked us to move farther away and even said ‘the further the better,’” Ostrander wrote.
She wrote that there was no direct confrontation with Bell because at about 5:20 p.m. he was snuck in through the back door of the restaurant.
Dow did not witness Bell entering through the back because she was busy speaking to his PR person at that time; her assumption was that it was a distraction so as to avoid a public confrontation.
“It’s funny that the event is called ‘A Conversation with Mike Bell’” when he has to sneak in the back to avoid a conversation with me about sexual harassment,” Dow said.
Tiffany Runion, a fourth-year women’s and gender studies major who also attended the protest, wrote in an email interview that they had about a dozen or so supporters protesting at the event.
“Beth and Allison rotated duty on the megaphone, shouting to passing cars along Front Street. Things like ‘Sexual harassment is not a form of flirting!’” Ostrander wrote. “We received positive reactions like honking from people, but we did also get one person shouting, “You’re an idiot,” from their car. Reinforcing WHY we were there in the first place — to bring up the issue that women who speak up against harassment are attacked.”
The goal of the protest was to stand up against sexual harassment in the community.
“Mainly I wanted to stand beside Allison,” Runion wrote. “No man should ever be allowed to put their hands on a woman and get away with it. It does not matter where we are, what we are wearing or how we are dressed.”
Mike Bell denied to comment on questions regarding the protest.
After the incident the fight went to social media, where Dow made posts on both Twitter and Facebook about the alleged harassment. Bell denied all allegations and had even said he did not know who Dow was, nor did he remember meeting her at the bar that night.
Bell made no comments about how the accusations could affect his ability to run for mayor, and continues to campaign for the position. Elections for mayor will be held on Nov. 3.