As demonstrators marched along his private street in St. Louis, Mark and Patricia McCloskey emerged barefoot from their mansion, brandishing loaded weapons at the crowd in what many read as an act of intimidation. Video of the scene instantly went viral, at one point even being retweeted – and then deleted – by President Donald Trump.
But in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday night, McCloskey said they were in fact the ones being threatened.
“I was a victim of a mob that came through the gate,” he said. “I didn’t care what color they were. I didn’t care what their motivation was. I was frightened, I was assaulted, and I was in imminent fear that they would run me over, kill me, burn my house.”
Protesters in the crowd of about 500 people, who passed by the McCloskeys’ residence on their way to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house nearby, have disputed accounts they were being violent or threatening. One organizer said marchers were merely conducting an act of civil disobedience, and there is no proof they physically harmed the McCloskeys or their house.
Yet this week, the incident has become a kind of Rorschach test for the state of the country. Conservative commentators have painted the McCloskeys as an innocent couple who were using their Second Amendment rights to stand up against an unruly mob of trespassers. Liberals, meanwhile, have labeled the couple as a pair of racists and accused them of breaking the law, a “Ken and Karen” riled up by the mere presence of a largely docile crowd.
On CNN on Tuesday night, Cuomo asked the 63-year-old personal injury attorney how it felt to have become “the face of political resistance to the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“I’m not the face of anything opposing the Black Lives Matter movement,” McCloskey replied, calling the notion “completely ridiculous.” “I was a person scared for my life who was protecting my wife, my home, my hearth, my livelihood,” adding he had spent 32 years renovating the five-story, white marble home.
Albert Watkins, a St. Louis attorney for the McCloskeys, said in a statement to The Washington Post that they “acted lawfully” out of “fear and apprehension.” The confrontation was not race-related, he added, and white “agitators” were responsible for provoking the white couple.
“My clients, as melanin-deficient human beings, are completely respectful of the message Black Lives Matter needs to get out, especially to whites,” Watkins told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It is unclear whether anyone in the group was armed, as he claimed to Fox News.
Since the confrontation Sunday, many have speculated as to why the protesters entered Portland Place and whether they broke down a locked iron gate to do so. The mayor’s house, which is located one block over, is accessible only from the private street through another locked gate.
A live stream of the demonstration appears to contradict claims that the protesters gained access to Portland Place by destroying the gate. In the video, marchers enter through a wrought iron barrier that is still intact.
One protester, James Cooper, told the Post-Dispatch that he only noticed the McCloskeys when the couple walked outside their home, threatening to kill the demonstrators. Several people, he said, asked the couple to put away the weapons and to stop pointing them toward the crowd.
“I was afraid [Patricia McCloskey] would open fire or accidentally discharge into the crowd,” Cooper told the newspaper. “I was afraid someone among us would legitimately fear for their life and react defensively, which could’ve sparked a bloodbath.”
On CNN, however, McCloskey said the demonstrators first had been intimidating him and his wife. The group was “screaming death threats,” he recounted, saying they would “burn my house and kill my dog and what rooms in my house they were going to live in after they killed me.”
He also cited two violent deaths in St. Louis as the source of his trepidation.
Just weeks earlier, David Dorn, a black retired police captain, was fatally shot outside a looted pawnshop amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. In 1995, he said on CNN, Krewson’s husband was killed in her driveway during a carjacking attempt.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department told The Post that officers had responded to a “Call for Help” at the couple’s address. The city’s circuit attorney is now investigating whether the couple broke any laws by waving their guns at the crowd.
As he fielded more questions from Cuomo on CNN, McCloskey pointed out the crowd had been headed to the mayor’s home to demand her resignation.
Krewson had publicly identified, or “doxed,” the names and addresses of some activists demanding the city to defund its police force, and the demonstrators wanted to bring their rally to her front doorstep.
“Guess what? Have I been doxed?” McCloskey asked. “Do you think them distributing my information all over the Western Hemisphere is different? . . . This hypocrisy is just obvious nonsense.”
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The Washington Post’s Kim Bellware contributed to this report.
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