A couple in St. Louis stepped outside their mansion on June 28 and wielded firearms after a group of activists broke through a gate to enter the private neighborhood.
Video footage shows the group, protesting against the city’s mayor, entering an area clearly marked “Private Street.”
Mayor Lyda Krewson lives in the same neighborhood.
As the group moved by their home, the couple, identified as Mark and Patricia McCloskey, appeared on their back porch and told the activists to move on.
Shortly thereafter, the couple moved onto an area near their front door and continued urging the group not to stop.
Activists can be heard shouting “Eat the rich,” and “Why are you threatening us?” Some threatened to enter the home.
After shouting at the couple for at least 10 minutes, the group continued on to Krewson’s house. Video footage didn’t show any of the activists attempting to move toward the couple’s home.
A St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman told The Epoch Times that police officers responded to a 911 call at the location around 7:20 p.m.
“The victims stated they were on their property when they heard a loud commotion coming from the street. When the victims went to investigate the commotion, they observed a large group of subjects forcefully break an iron gate marked with ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Private Street’ signs,” a police incident summary said.
“Once through the gate, the victims advised the group that they were on a private street and trespassing and told them to leave. 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.”
An investigation into what happened is ongoing.
In a statement sent to news outlets, the McCloskeys said they “acted lawfully” by remaining on their property, which sits on what they described as a private gated lane in 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 statement said.
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said in a June 29 statement that she was “alarmed” at what happened, “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. “My office is currently working with the public and police to investigate these events.”
John Ammann, a professor of justice at Saint Louis University’s School of Law, told The Epoch Times that the couple shouldn’t have aimed guns at the group.
“In Missouri, they can do open carry, so maybe holding the guns at their side was OK. But not aiming them,” he said in an email.
“And maybe someone from the neighborhood was in the protest and gave the protestors permission to be on the street.”
Photographs from the McCloskeys, who are both lawyers, showed iron gates at an entrance into the private neighborhood damaged.
Numerous protests have devolved into violence in recent weeks since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody in Minnesota.
Missouri has a so-called castle doctrine, a law that permits people the use of deadly force if people enter their homes.
The statute, officially titled “Use of force in defense of persons,” also says a person doesn’t “have a duty to retreat from a dwelling, residence, or vehicle where the person is not unlawfully entering or unlawfully remaining” and “from private property that is owned or leased by such individual.”
According to a Missouri Law Review of property law (pdf), gated communities have been affirmed in courts as being able to bar entry to non-residents who don’t receive invitations to enter.
State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge Jr., a Democrat who was with the activists, alleged that the couple violated the law, not the protesters.
“So who are the real thugs, when people took to the street to address injustice in our city and local leaders,” he wrote on social media. “The people wasn’t [sic] on any property but this law firm couple decided to come and point guns at us!”
The protest was sparked by Krewson, a Democrat, reading the names and addresses of some demonstrators who met with her outside St. Louis City Hall last week. She also read suggestions submitted by the demonstrators, many of which called for defunding the police.
Late June 26, Krewson issued an apology, saying: “I would like to apologize for identifying individuals who presented letters and comment cards to me at City Hall as I was answering a routine question during one of my updates earlier today. While this is public information, never did I intend to cause distress or harm to anyone. The post has been removed and again, I sincerely apologize.”
She also said she doesn’t agree with the idea of defunding, or slashing money for, the St. Louis Police Department.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri called what Krewson did “shocking and misguided” and activists are calling for her resignation.