KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The president’s response to a question at the debate Tuesday night asking if he will condemn white supremacist groups is drawing criticism from protesters in Kalamazoo.

In August, a Proud Boys rally in downtown Kalamazoo erupted in violence.

Corianna McDowell, the founder of My 1 Voice Kalamazoo, says the country needs to unite against groups like the Proud Boys.

“It’s like he is OK with them being around and accepting them, versus knowing that they are sparking fires,” McDowell said.

McDowell says she sees Trump’s comment to “stand back and stand by” as a threat.

“In any job if you’re on call, you’re on standby, so if we need you, you’re going to come and that is kind of exactly what he said,” McDowell said.

Kalamazoo Activist Quinton Bryant says the comments were frightening.

“It’s not hard to say that a white supremacist group has no place in America, especially in 2020 that anything they stand for we denounce those type of racist ideas and behaviors we don’t accept that,” Bryant said.

He says the remarks have emboldened the Proud Boys online.

“The words of the Proud Boys that are going across social media right now. They’re taking it as a go ahead (saying things like), we heard you loud and clear Mr. President, we’re standing by, we’re waiting on your orders,” Bryant said.

Bryant says he is calling on elected leaders to speak up against white supremacy and all hate groups.

“Our city officials need to come out soon and denounce what he said, denounce the Proud Boys and any kind of Nazi hate group, white supremacist group and say not in Kalamazoo,” Bryant said.

Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema released the following statement on Wednesday following the presidential debate:

“Hate has no place in the City of Kalamazoo and we strongly denounce the Proud Boys and other hate groups that promote racism and seek to instigate violence and mayhem through their words and actions. In Kalamazoo, we embrace the diversity of our community and everything hate groups like the Proud Boys represent is contrary to our values, beliefs and culture.

“We are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our residents and visitors. As the November election draws near, we are taking proactive measures to ensure all Kalamazoo residents can safely and efficiently cast their votes – whether by mail, during early voting or at the polls on Election Day. We will not tolerate voter intimidation, voter harassment or voter suppression and we reject attempts by individuals and groups that seek to put up roadblocks and impediments to voting or participating in our Democratic process. Every vote will be counted accurately, and we encourage all Kalamazoo residents regardless of political party to participate and do so without fear.”