A white couple who stood outside their St. Louis mansion and pointed guns at protesters said they took action because their gate had been destroyed and they feared for their lives. Video posted online showed Mark McCloskey, 63, and his 61-year-old wife, Patricia, standing outside their Renaissance palazzo-style home Sunday night in the city’s well-to-do Central West End neighborhood as protesters marched toward the mayor’s home to demand her resignation.
He could be heard yelling while holding a long-barreled gun. His wife stood next to him with a handgun.
Mark McCloskey told CBS St. Louis affiliate KMOV-TV that he and wife, who are personal injury lawyers, were facing an “angry mob” on their private street and feared for their lives.
“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.
“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.
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, KMOV says.
The couple also claims they 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.
Rasheen Aldridge helped lead the protest, which was 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.”
The McCloskeys’ attorney, Albert Watkins, said in a statement to CBS News Monday night that, “Both Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey are lawyers whose professional careers have punctuated by their longstanding commitment to protecting the civil rights of clients victimized at the hands of law enforcement.
” … The 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.
Watkins told The Associated Press they grabbed their guns when two or three protesters – who were white – violently threatened the couple and their property and that of their neighbors.
“The most important thing for them is that their images (holding the guns) don’t become the basis for a rallying cry for people who oppose the Black Lives Matter message,” Watkins said. “They want to make it really clear that they believe the Black Lives Matter message is important.”
Watkins told CBS News, “The Black Lives Matters movement is here to stay, it is the right message, and it is about time. 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.”
No charges were brought against the McCloskeys, and Watkins said in the statement, “I do not under any circumstances expect charges to be brought against either or both of my clients.”
Police said they were still investigating but labeled it a case of trespassing and assault by intimidation against the couple by protesters in the racially diverse crowd.
However, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner issued a statement later Monday characterizing what happened differently and saying her office was working with police to investigate the confrontation.
“I am alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault,” she said. “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.”
The marchers were angry at Mayor Lyda Krewson for reading aloud the names and addresses of several residents who wrote letters calling for defunding the police department. The group of at least 500 people chanted, “Resign, Lyda! Take the cops with you!” news outlets reported.
The McCloskeys’ home, which was featured in the local St. Louis Magazine after undergoing a renovation, was appraised at $1.15 million.
President Trump retweeted an ABC News account of the confrontation without comment.
Krewson has faced demands for her resignation since a Facebook Live briefing on Friday in which the white mayor read the names of those who wrote letters about wanting to defund the police force. The video was removed and Krewson apologized the same day, saying she didn’t intend to cause distress.
The Rev. Darryl Gray, an organizer with ExpectUs, who used a megaphone to urge protesters to keep moving after the couple brandished firearms, blamed Krewson, saying she “threw gasoline on an already burning fire” by releasing people’s home addresses.
The names and letters are considered public records, but Krewson’s actions caused a heavy backlash.
“As a leader, you don’t do stuff like that. … It’s only right that we visit her at her home,” said state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, a St. Louis Democrat, speaking into a megaphone at the march.