BARRY COUNTY, MI — Calls for the resignation of a Michigan sheriff who recently shared a stage with members of the Michigan Liberty Militia are growing louder.
Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, who told MLive he knows a couple of the men who were arrested last week in an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, spoke out against the governor at a May 18 rally alongside one of those men, William “Bill” Null.
Now a protest seeking Leaf’s resignation is planned for 8 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13 on South Broadway Street, near the Barry Community Foundation building in Hastings. The building, located at 231 S. Broadway St., is the site of a regularly scheduled bi-monthly commission meeting, slated to begin at 9 a.m.
The protest is being organized by Middleville resident Olivia Bennett who is calling for the Barry County Board of Commissioners to pass a resolution asking for Leaf’s resignation. The event has already garnered interest of more than 160 people since Barrett posted the event on Facebook Saturday night.
Bennett, who is transgender, is running for Barry County Commissioner under her previous name, Cody Hayes. She said the Tuesday morning protest has nothing to do with her campaign.
“We are not accusing him of having known about the kidnapping plot and we are not accusing him of being a part of it at all,” Bennett told MLive. “Some people in this county have tried to make the connection and have said we should investigate Dar for that, but that is not where I’m at or what I am suggesting at all.
“What I am suggesting is his actions and his words embolden people who would attempt to do such things.”
Bennett said in addition to Leaf telling people at the May 18 rally that he would not enforce the governor’s stay-at-home orders, he recently has come to the defense of the 13 individuals involved in the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer.
She said he did that, in part, during a television interview when he cited a law suggesting that “perhaps they were just trying to arrest the governor and not kidnap her.”
In an interview with MLive Friday Leaf disputed this is what he suggested.
Dana Nessel, the state attorney general, linked to Leaf’s interview in a tweet: … “Let me make this abundantly clear-Persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not ‘arrest’ government (officials) with whom they have disagreements. These comments are dangerous.”
“I’m not trying to sympathize with the guys but we don’t know all the facts,” Leaf said. “I have a hard time swallowing this was a serious thing.”
The sheriff also questioned whether all of the defendants were on board with the plan as outlined by an FBI special agent in court documents. He did not return a message for further comment prior to Sunday’s article.
Bennett said she’s known Leaf a good portion of her life and finds him and his family to be “genuinely good people at heart.
“I don’t want to paint Dar as a villain, I just think he has done and said things that make him unqualified for the position and that put the safety and well-being of Barry County at risk, and that’s why I’m calling for his resignation,” she said.
Leaf, who is running for re-election unopposed this November, said Friday that Nessel’s comments have led some to call him a protector of terrorists and suggest he resign. He said resigning is not a consideration.
At the May 18 Michigan Patriots Rally at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids, Leaf compared Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders to being held unlawfully under house arrest.
Drawing reference to the location of the rally, he also called Owosso barber Karl Manke — who opened his shop despite the governor’s order — a “little version of Rosa Parks,” and asked the crowd to imagine what would’ve happened if Parks never sat in the front of the bus.
The sheriff later came under more criticism for working from home after speaking out against the orders.
On Friday, he criticized those who blame President Donald Trump for allegedly creating an atmosphere that empowers fringe groups. Leaf said the militia movement “has been brewing for quite some time” over what he calls a gradual and growing loss of rights.
Bennett encourages all who feel inclined to speak at the meeting to do so. Limited public comment, not to exceed three minutes per individual, is allowed at the beginning of the meeting right after reports from state and county officials are given.
For those who choose to refrain from speaking, Bennett said it is important for them to remain outside, wear masks and adhere to social distancing rules. Bennett also urged anyone protesting to not do so on the property of which the foundation building sits.
“If Dar makes an appearance passing through we ask that you do not shout profanity or vulgar things at him,” she said on Facebook. “Even in our disagreement, let’s still show some respect for him as a person.”
“This protest is also not accusing Dar of being affiliated with the terrorist group that tried to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. Instead, we are protesting Dar’s rhetoric and actions that helped embolden such characters.”
The organizer said she intends this to be a civil and peaceful protest and is concerned some people “will show up with hate in their hearts for him.”
There is nothing on the commission meeting agenda pertaining to Leaf or recent events having to do with the Wolverine Watchmen or Leaf’s association with members of the militia who were arrested.
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