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Michigan county official flashed rifle at woman asking for condemnation of Proud Boys during meeting

Michigan county official flashed rifle at woman asking for condemnation of Proud Boys during meeting
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An official on the Michigan Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners flashed a rifle during a livestreamed public meeting Wednesday after a local resident asked the group to condemn the Proud Boys, according to multiple reports.

During the virtual meeting, East Bay Township resident Keli MacIntosh asked the board of commissioners to make "some sort of a public statement" denouncing the far-right group the Proud Boys, who had spoken in front of the board last year as it considered a gun-rights proposal.

"I mean, you can say that we don't have [a] problem with Proud Boys around our area, but there are obviously problem Proud Boys around the country causing problems," MacIntosh said as Commission Chairman Ron Clous stepped out of the screen, as seen in a video posted by The Washington Post.

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MacIntosh continued, explaining that while she's not a gun owner, she can "definitely appreciate people's wanting to have their gun rights protected."

As she speaks, Clous is shown stepping back into the frame holding a rifle. 

MacIntosh continues, saying that groups like the Proud Boys have been given permission "to do more with their guns than go out hunting."

MacIntosh told the Post that Clous's actions scared her.

"He is supposed to be looking out for the best interests of the community," she said. "What is the message he’s trying to convey? That if someone speaks out against us, we’ll just threaten them with a gun?"

Clous defended his actions to the Traverse City Record-Eagle

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"I was just going to show the rifle and show that I fully support the Second Amendment, but then I opted not to," he said.

He continued, explaining his interaction with the far-right group at the March meeting. 

"The only thing I know about them is when they came and spoke to us. They were probably the most respected folks that got up and talked," he said. "They were decent guys and they treated us with respect."

Commission Chair Rob Hentschel, who can be seen laughing as Clous holds the rifle, told the Record-Eagle that he didn't see any harm in Clous's actions.

"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."

Board member Betsy Coffia shared her disapproval of the incident in a statement to The Hill, saying it gave responsible gun owners a bad name.

"It is unacceptable to have an elected official respond to a constituent exercising her First Amendment right by brandishing a weapon in a public meeting," she said.

She went on to criticize Hentschel's reaction, saying, "It is unacceptable the chair not only giggled approvingly, but also is defending the actions."

Penny Morris, a new commissioner on the board, called the incident a "snapshot of one moment in time," adding that it "does not represent the incredible community we live in."
 
Coffia said the most alarming part of the incident was the fact that "both men defend the Proud Boys despite the FBI finding them an extremist group with ties to white nationalism."

Hentschel, Clous and the rest of the board members did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

The incident comes after the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, in which far-right activist groups were involved.

Updated 3:41 p.m.