A Michigan woman has filed a federal lawsuit against Grand Traverse County Commissioner Ron Claus, who attained national notoriety after brandishing a semi-automatic rifle in a public Zoom meeting.
According to The Detroit Free Press, the lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Traverse City.
In her complaint, 74-year old Patricia “Keli” MacIntosh claims that Clous tried to suppress her First Amendment right to free speech during a January 21 Zoom conference.
MacIntosh, recounts MLive.com, had requested that Grand Traverse County officials make a statement against the Proud Boys and other far-right militias seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections. While MacIntosh was speaking, Clous got up from his chair and walked off-screen—only to return, some minutes later, wielding an AR-15.
Clous, says the lawsuit, “brandished [the gun] with a menacing smirk on his face while the commission chair looked on, laughing in support.”
After the meeting concluded, MacIntosh said she received threatening phone calls and now “lives in fear, given how groups such as the Proud Boys response [sic] to those who don’t share their beliefs.”
Grand Traverse County Commissioner Bryce Hundley later said that the meeting was the first to occur after the January 6 riots outside the United States Capitol—and that tempers were running high as a result.
“This is a predominately rural county,” Hundley said. “A lot of people own guns here and a lot of people take gun ownership very seriously.”
Somewhat paradoxically, Commission Chair Rob Hentschel told The Detroit Free Press he believes that Clous—in brandishing a semi-automatic rifle in the midst of a public Zoom meeting—was actually trying to show support for MacIntosh.
“She said she supported some type of gun ownership,” Hentschel said. “That is when Ron displayed the gun. He was actually showing agreement for what she said.”
Hentschel further said that MacIntosh was initially unaware of Clous’ actions, and only learned of them after being informed by another meeting participant.
The Detroit Free Press opines that Grand Traverse County has unusual history of making national-level politics personal—something Hundley seemingly finds objectionable.
“I think if the county can just stay on county issues, we would be better off,” he said.
“We have the opportunity to deal with specific things that happen to our neighbors and our local communities,” he said, “but the only way to do that is to strip away all the national politics.”
The Detroit Metro Times adds that the Michigan Attorney General’s Office is actively investigating the legality of Clous’ actions.