A Grand Traverse County commissioner in Michigan got up and grabbed a gun during a board Webex meeting while a local woman asked board members to denounce the Proud Boys, video from the meeting shows.
Keli MacIntosh, a 72-year-old retired nurse and regular attendee of the board meetings, spoke at the Wednesday gathering about the importance of denouncing the activities of the Proud Boys in support of a woman who spoke before her on the same topic.
The first woman criticized the board for allowing members of the group to speak during a March meeting regarding making the county a “gun sanctuary.”
The woman and MacIntosh told the board that normalizing the Proud Boys, a far-right group, is harmful to the community and asked the commissioners to denounce their actions in light of the US Capitol riot on January 6.
“It’s really hard to tell the difference between the Proud Boys and the message they want through our state, how that’s different from what’s happened in Washington,” MacIntosh said during the meeting. “Welcoming such a group and having that message go out has changed the environment in Northern Michigan from a hunting culture to that of a gun culture. And I am just really concerned.”
As she lamented about the Proud Boys being invited to speak about gun rights, Board Vice Chair Ron Clous got up and returned with a large gun, which he briefly held against his chest before putting it down.
MacIntosh said that she saw Clous get up out of the corner of her eye while she was speaking, but was shocked when she saw what he came back with.
“My request was, can you please make a public statement denouncing the Proud Boys, and his statement was to shove an assault rifle in my face,” MacIntosh told CNN. “I didn’t think he was going to shoot me through the screen or anything like that. But the first thing I thought is, how does anyone feel free to speak up lest they do not test the temper of the commissioner, or you will be reamed over the coals by them.”
Clous has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on the events during the meeting. He told The Record Eagle he retrieved his rifle in response to the board being asked to denounce the group.
“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.”
Since the events of January 6, MacIntosh said she felt compelled to ask the board to publicly denounce the actions of the Proud Boys, especially because of what has happened in the state regarding extremism in the last several months.
But after the first woman finished speaking, Rob Hentschel, chair of the board of commissioners, stopped the public comment period to address the claims that the Proud Boys were getting preferential treatment.
“I’m going to take a brief pause right now because of the insinuation of racism in this board, and because I take that very seriously. If any particular commissioner would like to denounce any particular hate group that’s fine,” Hentschel said.
He challenged some of the claims about the March meeting at which the “gun sanctuary” was discussed before defending the Proud Boys themselves.
“I’m not a member of Proud Boys. I did not give a Proud Boy 20 minutes of time in the commissioner’s meeting. But I do know a few Proud Boys, I’ve met a few. I’ve met Black Proud Boys, I’ve met multi-racial Puerto-Rican Proud Boys, and they informed me they also have gay Proud Boys. I don’t see how that’s a hate group. And I don’t really appreciate this forum being used to spread misinformation about me or groups.”
MacIntosh, who was called on for public comment right after Hentschel’s declaration, said that she was already very nervous to speak because she thought she might get called out in the same way. Time was called before she could finish her remarks.
About 10 minutes later, she started receiving calls from the community asking if she was OK and if she felt safe. She said she’s gotten enormous support from the community, including offers for her to temporarily stay somewhere else or even people volunteering to guard her house.
When asked by CNN if he thought Clous’s actions were appropriate, Hentschel said he wouldn’t make a judgment on that, but that he “probably would not have done it myself.”
“Mr. Clous did not break any rules or laws in what he did,” Hentschel said in a statement. “The claims of intimidation are greatly exaggerated. The speaker has been a regular commenter for over 2 years who has often criticized but always been welcomed by the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners.”
Clous also told the Record Eagle he won’t denounce any group, including Black Lives Matter, the NFL or LBGTQ.
“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 (at the March meeting). They were decent guys and they treated us with respect”
MacIntosh said that she has filed a report with the Michigan State Troopers, but it is unclear where it will go from there. When asked if she plans to speak up again in future meetings, she laughed and responded with a forceful “Yes.”
“I might seem like a little old gray-haired lady to these people, but I’m going to stay there,” she said. “We cannot back down, the reason our country is like this is because not a single person in Washington said anything to what was going on. We cannot let this go unchallenged, we cannot not fight.”