Updated at 5 p.m. with comments from the McCloskeys’ attorney
Hundreds of protesters marching Sunday evening through St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood were greeted by a pair of personal injury attorneys, who stood outside their home brandishing guns.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who live in a million-dollar home on the private street Portland Place, came out to their front porch and lawn and shouted at protesters to go away.
The attorneys told local-TV station KMOV that they feared for their lives.
"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 of our lives,” Mark McCloskey told KMOV.
Video shows the protesters walking through an open gate. It’s unclear when it was damaged.
Protesters were on their way to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house. On Friday afternoon, Krewson read aloud on a live web stream the names and addresses of several activists advocating for the police department’s funding to be cut. She later apologized and now faces calls for her resignation.
Since Sunday night, videos of the standoff between the McCloskey’s and protesters have gone viral and made national news. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said her office is investigating the incident and called the matter a First Amendment violation.
“I am alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protestors 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,” she said in a statement.
On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske spoke with this month’s Legal Roundtable panelists about the situation.
Joining the discussion was William Freivogel, a journalism professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and lawyer; attorney Nicole Gorovsky of Gorovsky Law; and attorney Eric Banks of Banks Law.
Banks, also a former St. Louis city counselor, said residents cannot control which people enter the neighborhood, despite erecting gates and hiring private security.
“That is a myth that private street residents frequently want to put forth,” he said. “But you cannot act with impunity, come out of your house with an automatic weapon and point it in the direction of the people coming down the street. It’s just beyond the pale.”
The couple’s lawyer Al Watkins said the McCloskeys exercised their right to bear arms because they were afraid of protesters causing personal property damage.
“If you look at the faces of Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey, those are not faces whose expressions are one of disgust or one of peaceful protestors,” he said. “These are faces of people who are in fear.”
Watkins could not confirm if any of the McCloskey’s property had been damaged by protesters.
He added that the couple does not want their behavior to be distorted into an anti-Black Lives Matter message.
But attorney Nicole Gorovsky said the couple was unlawfully brandishing a weapon aimed at people practicing free speech.
“These weapons could have gone off easily, they were obviously threatening,” she said.
Today, a spokesperson for the Missouri Bar Association said it received dozens of calls for the McCloskey’s licenses to be revoked. People also took to Facebook and posted thousands of negative comments on the couple’s law firm’s page.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.
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