When a large crowd of protesters in St. Louis turned onto Portland Place on the evening of June 28, heading towards St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house for an organized protest demanding her resignation, they expected the police to show up — but they didn’t expect the McCloskeys.
As shown in the now-viral photos of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple responded to the marchers — who were just passing through on their way to Krewson’s house — by standing on the front lawn of their million-dollar home and brandishing weapons. Patricia McCloskey waved a small semi-automatic handgun, while Mark McCloskey opted for an AR-15 strapped across his chest. The couple yelled at the protesters to leave while occasionally pointing their guns at the stunned crowd standing in the street. After protesters shared images and videos of the couple on social media, the event made national headlines — even landing the McCloskeys a featured spot at the RepbublicanNational Convention.
During an interview with KMOV4, a CBS affiliate, two months earlier, Patricia McCloskey insisted, “We are Black Lives Matter people. It’s just the way they came in — it was so aggressive.” And yet, the McCloskeys willingly served to amplify the Republican Party’s anti-Black sentiments during the convention, assisting the party’s strategy of exploiting racist fears to drum up conservative energy for November.
Since then, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced she’d be bringing charges against the couple for waving guns at the protesters. On Monday, a grand jury indicted the couple for unlawful use of a weapon and tampering with evidence. The couple maintains that they were using the weapons in self-defense, surely in fear for their lives due to a crowd of people ... walking past their house.
“It was like the storming of the Bastille, the gate came down and a large crowd of angry, aggressive people poured through,” Mark McCloskey told KMOV4 in another interview. “I was terrified that we’d be murdered within seconds. Our house would be burned down, our pets would be killed.”
The McCloskeys’ home is located on a private street in St. Louis’s Central West End, a neighborhood known for its million (and multi-million) dollar homes, private security, and largely white population. According to the McCloskeys, the fact that the protesters were on private property and technically trespassing — though not walking on their lawn or driveway or even toward their actual home — was enough claim self-defense. But for protesters, walking on a private street — just like blocking a street or doing a direct action on a highway or protesting a business on its own property — is a form of trespassing that is also a very common act of civil disobedience that rarely, if ever, warrants any sort of firearm being involved.
Generally speaking, political protests operate under the idea that regular comforts, conveniences, and processes should be disturbed, slowed, or interrupted entirely in service of whatever goal the protesters are fighting for. The very nature of protests deals quite directly with discomfort, and acts of civil disobedience are the point — particularly ones as passive as marching down a street, private or otherwise. The description Mark McCloskey offers of a seeming hoard of ravenous people crashing through he and his wife’s picturesque pocket of St. Louis conjures for me not an accurate image of a protest, but rather ex-police officer Darren Wilson’s description of Michael Brown as a “demon” and “Hulk Hogan”-like in his grand jury testimony; it echoes so many other blatantly racist, caricatured descriptions used to justify violence against unarmed Black people.
It’s an old tale, and it’s a tired one. And as much as the image of the McCloskeys, guns in hand, frowning aggressively and perched on their manicured lawn, appears so absurd it’s almost comical, the reality that it could’ve resulted in the death of a protester is a sobering one. That it could’ve resulted in the death of a protester in a country with a steadily growing track record of removing any legal liability in instances of white self-defense is even more so.