St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey told an alarming story to a Jackson County Republican dinner last Saturday night, about receiving a warning that a mob of thousands was headed for his home to kill him and his wife last summer — in retribution for famously pointing guns at police brutality protesters from their front lawn days earlier.
Protest organizers, supported by press accounts and social media, said that’s not what happened.
The couple became instant GOP and Fox News stars after they were photographed pointing guns at protesters on June 28, an incident that also led the St. Louis Circuit Attorney to charge them with weapons crimes.
As McCloskey mulls a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (the announced candidates, former Gov. Eric Greitens and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, also attended the dinner) the story of his encounter with protesters has become the heart of his pitch to Republican audiences.
On Saturday, he added a lesser-known twist to his account: how calls for help to the Trump administration and Fox News host Tucker Carlson led volunteers to provide private security after he learned protesters were returning to his home on a private, gated street for a second protest on July 3.
“We have a client of ours who was a brainwashed member of this Antifa organization called Expect US St. Louis, headed by none other than Cori Bush. And our client, who was inside that organization, called up and said that what we did was unforgivable, they were coming back on July 3 and they were going to have to kill us and burn down our house,” he said.
Bush, a Democrat and a Black Lives Matter activist, became the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress in January.
Later in his speech, McCloskey said that on July 3, “The mob came, and there were thousands of them this time and they were dead set on killing us.”
St. Louis State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, a leader of Expect US, called McCloskey’s story “bullshit.”
“The whole point of this movement is to find justice because people have been killed,” he said. “We’re not trying to create the same thing.”
The events of July 3 were described by The Associated Press that night as a peaceful march in which a few hundred protesters walked down busy Kingshighway Boulevard, stopping for about 15 minutes outside the gate that blocks the entrance to Portland Place, the McCloskeys’ private street.
Marchers chanted slogans supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, then continued on Kingshighway toward the interstate, the AP reported.
The demonstration came five days after protesters marched past the McCloskeys’ home on their way to then-St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house in the city’s Central West End neighborhood. That’s when they were met by the McCloskeys pointing guns, which triggered both national outrage and a wave of support from conservative and gun rights groups.
Aldridge said McCloskey also distorted the June 28 march.
“When we first went down the street,” Aldridge said, “it was the same rhetoric, that we’re coming to his house and we’re going to kill him. We didn’t even know who this man was.”
In the days prior to the July 3 march, Expect US promoted it on social media as a demonstration in the Central West End, not a protest specifically aimed at the McCloskeys. The group also shared on Facebook a letter from the McCloskeys’ neighbors denouncing the gun incident.
They wrote, “Their neighbors have something to say. We hope to see you all out.”
In response to questions about the second protest, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Sgt. Keith Barrett said police were “in contact with Albert Watkins, attorney for the McCloskeys, after they reported threats.” Barrett did not respond to questions about the nature of the threats.
Watkins, the McCloskeys’ attorney, said the couple received “a number of threats” that “ranged from not credible to highly credble.” He confirmed he had “a very open and ongoing dialogue” with police and said some of the threats were “deemed highly credible,” but declined to elaborate.
Aldridge said it’s possible a member of the public threatened the McCloskeys, but said no Expect US organizer was contacted by police over a reported threat.
He said the group is led by eight organizers including himself, Bush, and other local activists, who plan protests on Zoom calls a few days in advance, then invite the public to show up. He said the organization had no interest in targeting the McCloskeys.
“These individuals that are part of Expect US ... have a reputation outside of this that we must carry,” he said. “It’s just too much on our plates to let one person derail us.”
A YouTube video, posted by the St. Louis account Photo News 247, shows Bush speaking into a megaphone outside of the Portland Place gate during the July 3 protest.
In the video, Bush, who ran for office on a platform of police reform and racial justice, says that the protesters are non-violent and had no desire to damage the McCloskeys’ property.
“We had no desire to touch anyone’s home, look at your home, anything like that,” Bush said.
“It was not a field trip to your street. We were going to Lyda Krewson’s home. The other thing is we are not peaceful — true — but we are non-violent. We aren’t coming to tear up your stuff. We just want freedom,” Bush said in the video.
Asked about McCloskey’s claims at the Jackson County GOP dinner, Bush’s office said that the “video and (AP) article speak for themselves.”
During his speech at last year’s Republican National Convention, McCloskey showed her picture, calling her a “Marxist liberal activist” and accusing her of leading a mob outside his house.
Bush at the time accused McCloskey of trying to make her a target.
“They just put a target on my back that was bigger than the one that I had,” Bush told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They just made it really difficult for me to navigate, move around, simply because there are people who are looking at me — especially people who are white supremacists — as if I am a danger.”