After being criticized for allowing members of the Proud Boys to speak at a previous meeting, a lawmaker in Michigan decided the most appropriate response was to grab his rifle during an online meeting.
According to the Associated Press, the incident took place during the public comment period of a meeting of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners. When Kelli MacIntosh, a local woman, criticized the board for allowing two self-proclaimed members of the Proud Boys to speak last year during a meeting regarding a pro-Second Amendment resolution. When MacIntosh asked for Chairman Rob Hentschel to denounce them, board member Ron Clous stepped away from his webcam and returned with a very large rifle.
MacIntosh, understandably, felt threatened by the display. “This guy is in the middle of a government meeting brandishing a weapon,” MacIntosh told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. “Why would I not think they were trying to harm me?” The 74-year-old MacIntosh told AP that she plans to file a report with the Michigan State Police.
“I didn’t think he was going to shoot me, obviously, but I do think his whole point was to intimidate me and threaten me and anyone else who’s going to speak out ... and see if he can stir up masses of people who are just looking for things to fight about,” MacIntosh told AP.
Predictably, the two white men at the center of this incident see nothing wrong. In fact, Hentschel could be heard laughing in response to Clous grabbing the gun.
“I saw it across his chest and I thought it was ironic of him to do that,” Hentschel told AP. “The person was talking about guns and he had one across his chest. I didn’t see him do anything illegal or dangerous with it. He wasn’t threatening or brandishing. He was just holding it.”
Hentschel’s reason for not denouncing the Proud Boys is, uh, interesting to say the least. “I am not a member of Proud Boys,” Hentschel told AP. “But I do know a few Proud Boys. I’ve met Black Proud Boys, I’ve met multiracial Puerto Rican Proud Boys and they inform me they also have gay Proud Boys. I don’t see how that’s a hate group.”
Hey bruh, real quick, why do you know so many Proud Boys? I’m just saying, it’s a little weird that an elected official is cool with members of an organization that has been labeled an extremist group by the FBI.
Clous told the Record-Eagle that he grabbed the gun to demonstrate his support of the Second Amendment. “I was going to chime in as well,” Clous said. “I was just going to show the rifle and show that I fully support the Second Amendment, but then I opted not to ... I was in my home.”
Clous also told reporters that he would refuse to denounce the Proud Boys, adding that he would also refuse to denounce Black Lives Matter, the NFL, or LGBTQ groups, as if they are all somehow equal?
“The only thing I know about them (Proud Boys) is when they came and spoke to us,” Clous said. “They were probably the most respected folks that got up and talked. They were decent guys and they treated us with respect.”
Oh, I get it. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, that they have defaced Black churches, or even that some of their members were seen storming the Capitol earlier this month. All that matters is that these folks were nice to Ron Clous.
Despite the relatively lax response from the board, locals and officials find Clous’s actions to be troubling. Betsy Coffia, a fellow county commissioner, found what Clous did “deeply disturbing.” Local attorney and activist Holly T. Bird told AP that she too was disturbed by what Clous did in the meeting.
“Everyone knows that if you’re walking down the street and someone flashes a gun at you, it’s a threat,” Bird told AP. “To have a public official do that during a public meeting is horrendous.”
It’s unclear what, if any, consequences Clous might face for his actions.