ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A husband and wife made national news when photos captured them pointing guns at protesters Sunday night outside of their Central West End home.
Video and pictures show the McCloskeys armed outside their home as protesters march by. News 4 reached out to multiple legal experts to find out if they were within their rights.
During the protest, images and videos showed Mark McCloskey, 63, holding a rifle and his wife Patricia McCloskey, 61, pointing a handgun at the crowd of about 300 protesters around 7:30 p.m.
The protesters were marching to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's home to demand her resignation.
The McCloskeys said they were “in fear for our lives” and that’s why they pulled the guns out.
“It was like the storming of the Bastille, the gate came down and a large crowd of angry, aggressive people poured through,” Mark McCloskey said. “I was terrified that we’d be murdered within seconds. Our house would be burned down, our pets would be killed.”
Mark said they called 911 and grabbed their guns as they heard the crowd approaching their private, gated community on Portland Place. However, police told News 4 they received no 911 calls from that street during the time of the incident.
"A mob of at least 100 smashed through the historic wrought iron gates of Portland Place, destroying them, rushed towards my home where my family was having dinner outside and put us in fear for our lives," Mark McCloskey said, and shared photos of the destroyed gate.
Despite his claims, video circulating on social media shows protesters opening and walking through the unbroken gate. It is unclear when it was actually damaged or who destroyed it.
The couple also claims to have received death threats from the crowd.
“One fellow standing right in front of me pulled out two pistol magazines, clicked them together and said 'you’re next.' That was the first death threat we got that night,” Mark McCloskey said.
The McCloskeys hired attorney Al Watkins to represent them, and Watkins said the couple grabbed their weapons after the threats were made.
However in an interview with News 4 Monday, McCloskey said he and his wife grabbed their weapons as the crowd was walking toward their home, not after being threatened.
"Uh, the threats happened probably after we got the guns," he said.
In a separate statement from their attorney, the McCloskeys said they support the Black Lives Matter movement and that “peaceful protesters were not the subject of scorn or disdain by the McCloskeys. To the contrary, they were expecting and supportive of the message of the protesters,” the statement reads.
Additionally the statement says:
“Both Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey acted lawfully on their property which sits on a private gated lane in the City of St. Louis. 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.
‘The Black Lives Matters movement is here to stay, it is the right message, and it is about time,’ said Albert S. Watkins, legal counsel for Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey. ‘The McCloskeys want to make sure no one thinks less of BLM, its message and the means it is employing to get its message out because of the actions of a few white individuals who tarnished a peaceful protest.’”
Rasheen Aldridge helped lead the protest organized by a group called ‘Expect Us.’ He said protesters were peaceful and no threats were ever made.
When asked why the group marched on private property, Aldridge said, “Just like in many disobedient protests, even in the 60s, you break laws, make people feel uncomfortable. We’re not doing anything where we’re hurting anyone or putting anyone in danger.”
Could the McCloskeys be criminally charged?
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said her office is investigating the incident, adding that protesters should not be met with violence.
"I am alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault. We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated," Gardner tweeted.
Gardner was also referring to an investigation into protest that happened Saturday on Art Hill in front of the King Louis IX statue.
Who are the McCloskeys?
Mark and Patricia McCloskey are personal-injury lawyers who work together in the McCloskey Law Center in St. Louis.
According to their attorney, the McCloskeys “are lawyers whose professional careers have [sic] punctuated by their long standing commitment to protecting the civil rights of clients victimized at the hands of law enforcement. This commitment of time and resources to this cause continues today in the Isaiah Forman case.”
The couple is receiving both praise and criticism online: some people are supporting them for protecting their property.
A petition is calling for the McClockseys to be disbarred for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The Change.org petition also claims Patricia is part of the Board of Election Commissioners and asks people to contact the organization, but late Monday night the Board of Election Commissioners said the couple is not connected to the organization.
What was the protest about?
The roughly 300 protesters were marching down Portland Place to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house and calling for her resignation. Although Krewson does not live on Portland Place but a few blocks away.
Krewson read the names and addresses of demonstrators calling for police reform during a Friday afternoon Facebook Live video.
Krewson grabbed submitted letters and read them, including the names and both partial and full addresses of those calling to defund the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
The video has since been deleted and Krewson issued an apology later that day. A spokesperson for the mayor said she will not resign.
"Tonight, I would like to apologize for identifying individuals who presented letters to me at City Hall as I was answering a routine question during one of my updates earlier today. While this is public information, I did not intend to cause distress or harm to anyone," Krewson said in a statement. "The post has been removed and again, I sincerely apologize."
Later in the night, protesters painted "RESIGN" on the street in front of the mayor's house.
The names and addresses submitted are public record. For example, comments submitted to the St. Louis County Council must include names and addresses and all the information is read aloud.
An online petition demanding Krewson’s resignation has gained more than 40,000 signatures. Those calling for her to step down say she doxed people by reading those letters, meaning she made private or identifying information public on the internet with malicious intent.
Elected officials, organizations react to Krewson’s Facebook Live
St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green, who is also running for a seat in the Missouri Senate, said in a tweet "So not cool to doxx my constituents who support #DefundThePolice on your FB live. It's a move designed to silence dissent, and it's dangerous"
The ACLU of Missouri released a statement saying what Krewson did was "shocking and misguided," saying reading the information aloud "serves no apparent purpose beyond intimidation."
St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones also tweeted saying "The Mayor's actions not only endanger her citizens, it is also reckless," echoing calls for Krewson's resignation.
Alderwoman Cara Spencer, who is challenging Krewson in the Democratic primary in the 2021 mayoral election, stopped short of calling for Krewson’s resignation.
"It's a tough time to be a mayor but it's our job as elected officials to rise to the challenge," Spencer said.
Congressman Lacy Clay released the following statement:
“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.
The incident which occurred last night on Portland Place was shameful, irresponsible, and could have easily ended in another tragedy.
The young Americans who are on the streets in St. Louis and across the nation deserve constitutional policing and a government that is as good as they are. I stand with them.”
News 4 reached out to the mayor for further comments, but a spokesperson said the mayor is not interested in talking, saying "she’s apologized, acknowledges she made a mistake and has absolutely no intention of resigning."
If Krewson resigns Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed would assume the role.