TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan — Two men accused of attacking a newspaper reporter at a meeting of residents who oppose this northwest Michigan public schools’ mask mandate for students and staff have been charged.

County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg filed a misdemeanor “assault or assault and battery” charge Friday against Michael Francis Adams, 55, and Joseph Michael Welsh, 51, for physically attempting to prevent Record-Eagle reporter Brendan Quealy from covering the meeting at a public park.

Quealy told a sheriff’s investigator he was shoved against a fence and punched in the face at the Aug 26 gathering after two attackers responded to a request by an organizer of the meeting to prevent him from recording the event on his cell phone.

The Traverse County Sheriff’s Office investigated and submitted its findings to the prosecutor, along with a video from the park security cameras and a voice recording from the reporter’s cell phone.

Moggenberg said she reviewed the sheriff’s report, concluding sufficient evidence existed to prosecute the matter in court.

“In this case I had more than one witness that talked about what happened and we obviously have the video and the audio,” said Moggenberg.

“The issue,” she said, “is people are so passionate about their feelings about COVID and masks and mandates, it is leading to violence in some cases. By me charging this case, it speaks for itself.”

About 80 to 100 people attended the meeting organized by Citizens for Liberating Michigan.

It was the second such incident in the region this year. Leelanau County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man in May for attempting to destroy the microphone and spitting into the camera of a local television news crew covering a visit by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

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