At around 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 28, a crowd that had gathered to demand that St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson resign marched through a small pedestrian gate at the end of Portland Place in the Central West End, where some of the city’s most opulent homes are located. After more protesters moved through the rusty wrought-iron gate, it appeared to have collapsed.
When the first wave of citizens made it through the bottleneck, they were greeted by an unexpected sight in front of the large marble mansion at 1 Portland Place: a white man and woman in their 60s, both barefoot, waving loaded guns at the group. The man was holding a semi-automatic rifle, while the woman held a small pistol. For most of the interaction, her finger was held directly on the trigger, as seen in several livestreams by protesters.
“Let’s go, let’s go, keep moving!” some protestors shouted, as the crowd moved past. Within about 10 minutes, the whole group of a few hundred had made it past the mansion and was on their way to Krewson’s house a few blocks away to demand her resignation for her recent doxing of a group of citizens.
As the night went on and protesters chanted for Krewson’s resignation outside her townhouse, images of the white gunslinging couple from earlier in the evening began to go viral. By Monday morning, one video of the two had garnered over 13 million views. On Monday morning, President Trump retweeted a video of the interaction without comment.
The man and woman were quickly identified as St. Louis personal injury lawyers Mark McCloskey and Patricia McCloskey, a married couple. Patricia McCloskey’s biography on her website says she is on the Missouri Bar Association’s Ethical Review Board.
St. Louis Prosecutor Kimberly Gardner issued a statement late Monday morning saying that the two would be investigated by her office. She stated that she was "alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault." She added that her office is "currently working with the public and police to investigate these events."
On the other hand, the only incident report provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department listed the McCloskeys as victims.
According to the police, the McCloskeys said that they were not initially armed when the protest group began to walk past their house.
“Once through the gate, the victims advised the group that they were on a private street and trespassing and told them to leave,” the report reads. “The group began yelling obscenities and threats of harm to both victims. When the victims observed multiple subjects who were armed, they then armed themselves and contacted police.”
However, the police incident report contradicts eyewitness video from the protest, which shows the group moving through the gate to see an already armed Mark McCloskey.
As of yet, the couple have not been charged of any crime, and their lawyer asserts their innocence, though their conduct could be consistent with unlawful use of a weapon.
Missouri Statute 571.030, subsection 4, states that a citizen is committing unlawful use of a weapon if they “exhibit, in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner.” Unlawful use of a weapon is a Class D felony in most cases with a range of punishment of between one day to one year in jail or up to 4 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $5,000.
Missouri’s “Castle Doctrine,” however, puts this case in more of a grey area: it allows people to use deadly force to attack an intruder on their property.
At noon on Monday, the McCloskeys released a public statement through their lawyer, Albert S. Watkins, who claimed that the McCloskey’s actions were lawful in that their property sits on a private and gated road.
“Both Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey acted lawfully on their property which sits on a private gated lane in the City of St. Louis,” Watkins claimed. “Their actions were borne solely of fear and apprehension, the genesis of which was not race-related. In fact, the agitators responsible for the trepidation were white.”
It is not clear as of this writing what “trepidation” Watkins refers to in this statement: there are no available videos or other reports of protesters physically threatening the couple.
Though the McCloskeys’ gun-toting images are going viral as memes of white rage in unhinged defense of white privilege, Watkins made the incredible claim that they are “supportive” of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The peaceful protesters were not the subject of scorn or disdain by the McCloskeys,” Watkins claimed, though videos from the scene show the couple shouting and gesticulating with their guns, sweeping the barrels back and forth over the crowd. “To the contrary, they were expecting and supportive of the message of the protesters.”
Their behavior did not seem “supportive” to U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay.
“The rights of non-violent protestors are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and should never be subject to the threat of deadly force, whether by individuals or by the police,” Clay said.
The prosecuting attorney with the authority to file charges against the McCloskeys couched her concerns in terms that refer back to the reason for the protest action. Krewson publicly announcing the names and addresses of people calling for her to defund the police was seen as an egregious act of intimidation.
“We must protect the right to peacefully protest,” Gardner said, “and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated.”