Ron Clous: Michigan official flashes rifle when asked to denounce Proud Boys on Zoom meeting, faces calls to quit
A Michigan county commissioner is facing calls to resign after he pulled out a rifle at a virtual public meeting after a woman asked the Michigan Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners to denounce the Proud Boys. Resident Keli MacIntosh was expressing concerns about members of the right-wing militant group speaking about gun rights at a meeting back in March when Grand Traverse County Commissioner Ron Clous flashed the gun in response, the Record-Eagle reported.
According to the publication, MacIntosh was demanding that commissioners denounce the Proud Boys during a public comment period, when Clous stepped away from his screen and returned with the rifle. The commissioner held the rifle up briefly -- smiling at the camera -- before setting it down without a word while Commission Chair Rob Hentschel laughed at the gesture.
Last night, as a public commenter asked the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners to denounce Proud Boys, Vice Chair Ron Clous grabbed his gun. Chair Hentschel laughed. pic.twitter.com/xGi2sBs2uN— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) January 21, 2021
MacIntosh, however, said she was frightened by the move after she had just expressed fears about a potential rise in gun violence after the US Capitol breach on January 6. “This guy is in the middle of a government meeting brandishing a weapon,” MacIntosh told the Record-Eagle. “Why would I not think they were trying to harm me?”
“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,” she told AP.
Clous defended flashing the weapon saying he had no problem with the Proud Boys. “The only thing I know about [the Proud Boys] is when they came and spoke to us … they were probably the most respected folks that got up and talked. They were decent guys and they treated us with respect,” he said.
Hentschel agreed, saying he did not think there was anything wrong with the commissioner's gesture. “I saw it across his chest and I thought it was ironic of him to do that,” Hentschel said. “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.”
The commission chair did not denounce the far-right group. “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.”
A number of other commissioners, however, called the move troubling and defended MacIntosh's concerns. “It was deeply disturbing, wildly inappropriate, and needs to be investigated,” Commissioner Betsy Coffia said.
Now, a petition led by residents is calling for Clous to resign after the "menacing" move threatened the "freedom of speech."
“Gun owners are enraged because guns have to be used responsibly and respectfully and not at public meetings,” Traverse City attorney Michael Naughton, who drafted the petition, told the Record-Eagle. “When someone responds with a firearm, it’s a huge First Amendment issue, not a gun rights issue, not a Second Amendment issue.”