HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — In Barry County, efforts are underway to remove the sheriff. Sheriff Dar Leaf was seen at multiple rallies with men now charged in the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and some citizens feel the sheriff is encouraging the violent behavior and they no longer feel safe.
Concerns of violence from counter-protestors caused a protest calling for the sheriff’s resignation to be canceled. Still, some people plan to speak to the county commission on Tuesday, placing a formal request for the sheriff to resign.
“People are afraid,” said Scott Savage, a Barry County resident who was recently elected to serve as a Hastings Township trustee. “People are afraid of retribution from Dar Leaf and his friends.”
When asked who those friends are, Savage replied, “I’m talking about people he associates with. the militia groups.”
Images from a rally in Grand Rapids back in May have some residents, including Savage, concerned.
The sheriff was seen on stage with two of the men now charged with domestic terrorism in the plot to kidnap the governor. At that time, Leaf criticized people who called the men domestic terrorists.
“I want to call Hillary Clinton because the next time she calls these guys domestic terrorists, she’s killed more people than they have right,” said Leaf in the video from the rally at Rosa Parks Circle.
“He’s empowering them (militia men), he’s enabling them, and he is encouraging them to do more,” Savage said. “And how much more are they going to do?”
Sheriff Leaf publicly supports the militia.
“It’s called the militia, a well-regulated one at that. These beautiful men up here,” Leaf was heard saying in one video from the rally.
Leaf is part of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Residents of his county say they’re worried that if they have different political views, they won’t be protected.
Savage says men identified as militia members showed up to a recent unity rally. There was no violence, but Savage says he felt threatened by their presence.
“Anyone that doesn’t agree with them, they get out their long guns, they show up and they try to intimidate,” Savage said. “That’s a form of terrorism.”
Savage is worried about retaliation for speaking out at the commission meeting on Tuesday. But he says fear won’t stop him.
“Someone needs to do it,” he said.
News 8 made multiple attempts to get a response from Sheriff Leaf but did not hear back. He is running unopposed in November.