A St. Louis couple charged for waving guns during a Black Lives Matter protest outside their home say they have ‘a god-given right’ to defend themselves.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey, lawyers in their 60s, warned violence will come ‘to a neighborhood near you’ ahead of their appearance at the Republican National Convention Monday evening.
Speaking to Fox News Mark McCloskey said they will emphasize that safety and security are basic tenets of freedom – a theme that fits with the law-and-order focus of Republican President Donald Trump´s reelection campaign.
‘Just that we have a God-given right to defend ourselves, and the right of self-defense is one of the most basic civil rights, one of the most basic human rights,’ McCloskey said.
St. Louis, like many cities across the country, has seen demonstrations in the weeks since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
The McCloskey case drew Trump’s attention, especially after Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed felony unlawful use of a weapon charges in July.
Trump considered the charges an ‘egregious abuse of power,’ his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said.
Mark McCloskey added: ‘You cannot have freedom and an opportunity to advance unless you have basic safety and security, and that it is not just limited to big cities. They are bringing it to a neighborhood near you.’
Patricia McCloskey added: ‘You think you have a right to defend yourself and your family and it’s shocking that we are still having the fallout. We have years of this following us.’
She described how protesters ‘broke an iron fence down’ before ‘trying to set fire to the mayor’s house’.
Several hundred demonstrators on June 28 veered onto the private street where the McCloskey’s Renaissance palazzo-style mansion sits.
The McCloskeys, who have a 25-year history of filing a slew of lawsuits, said the protesters knocked down an iron gate and ignored a ‘No Trespassing’ sign. Protest leaders said the gate was open and the demonstration was peaceful.
Mark McCloskey came out with a semi-automatic rifle and his wife emerged with a handgun. No shots were fired. Missouri law allows homeowners to use force, even lethal force, to defend their homes.
Gardner said the guns created the risk of bloodshed. A police probable cause statement said protesters feared ‘being injured due to Patricia McCloskey´s finger being on the trigger, coupled with her excited demeanor’.
The McCloskeys contend the protest was anything but peaceful.
‘They broke the gate down,’ Patricia McCloskey said on ‘Fox & Friends. ‘They broke it open, then they broke what was left of it down to the ground, an iron fence, and came in and started screaming threats from the beginning. They had weapons, they had fire material.’
The couple, who met when they were at Southern Methodist University law school, moved into the palazzo at One Portland Place having filed a lawsuit in 1988 to obtain the property.
They sued a man who sold them a Maserati they claimed was supposed to come with a box of hard-to-find parts, the paper reported.
In November 1996, Mark McCloskey filed two lawsuits, one against a dog breeder whom he said sold him a German Shepherd without papers and the other against the Central West End Association for using a photo of their house in a brochure for a house tour after the McCloskeys had told them not to.
For years the couple have been at war over the rights to a small patch of land bordering their property.
The McCloskeys, according to the paper, have also constantly sought to force their neighborhood trustees to maintain the exclusivity of Portland Place.
They accused the trustees of selectively enforcing the written rules for living in the neighborhood, known as the trust agreement, and in particular failing to enforce a rule about unmarried couples living together.
Their insistence was seen as an attempt to force gay couples from the community.
The trustees voted to impeach Patricia McCloskey as a trustee in 1992 when she fought an effort to change the trust indenture, accusing her of being anti-gay.
In 2002, the Portland Place Association sued to foreclose on the McCloskeys’ house because they were refusing to pay dues.
On a second property, in Franklin County, the couple had disputes with their neighbors over a gravel path, and sued for squatters rights to a section of land.
The McCloskeys also evicted two tenants from a modular home on their property in a period of just over two years.
He sued his employers for wrongful dismissal, and then turned on his own family, in particular after his father largely wrote him out of the will in 2008, sparking a family feud that would last eight years.
Mark McCloskey filed a defamation case against his father and sister in 2011, dismissed it in 2012, and refiled it in 2013. By the time of the final filing, Bruce McCloskey was living in a memory care unit in Ballwin; he died in 2014.
In March 2013 McCloskey sued his father and his father’s trust over a gift of five acres, promised in 1976, which never materialized.
A judge ruled against him in 2016.
Mark McCloskey said that Democrat-controlled St. Louis ‘is a very dangerous place,’ and the statistics back him up. The city has long had one of the nation’s highest homicide rates, and 2020 is shaping up to be the most violent year in decades.
‘This is a prosecutor who has a remarkably low prosecution rate, a remarkably low conviction rate, and I think she´s just trying to make an example out of anybody who´s willing to stand up against the inherent lawlessness and violence in St. Louis,’ he said.
Gardner said in a statement that she was disappointed that the case ‘has been exploited for political purposes, which in turn has opened the floodgates for gleeful racist and misogynistic messages and death threats. The people of St. Louis expect me to pursue equal justice under the law without fear or favor, and that is what I intend to do.’
Gardner, St. Louis´ first Black circuit attorney, was elected in 2016 and appears headed to another term. She easily defeated a white former homicide prosecutor in the August Democratic primary and is heavily favored against her Republican opponent in November.
She’s been at odds with high-ranking Republicans before.
In 2018, Gardner charged then-Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair.
The charge was eventually dropped but Greitens, who was also under investigation over ethics concerns, resigned in June 2018. He denied committing any crime.
Gardner´s decision to charge the McCloskeys drew an angry response from several Republicans in addition to Trump.
Gov. Mike Parson has said he´ll pardon the couple if they are convicted. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt asked a judge to toss out the charges.
During a special session earlier this month to address violence in Missouri cities, Parson asked state lawmakers to give Schmitt ‘concurrent jurisdiction’ in St. Louis homicide cases – perceived by many as an effort to take power away from Gardner.
Even in the Republican-led Missouri Legislature, the request prompted backlash and caused lawmakers to delay work on crime legislation Parson sought.