St. Louis police confirmed on Monday that they are investigating a confrontation caught on cellphone video of some white neighbors of Mayor Lyda Krewson pointing guns at protesters marching by their mansion on the way to the mayor's home.
The episode occurred Sunday afternoon, when hundreds of demonstrators entered the gated Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis, banging drums and chanting for Krewson to resign and "take your cops with you."
Cellphone video that went viral on social media showed a white couple—a man armed with what appeared to be a semiautomatic rifle and a woman wielding a silver-plated pistol with her finger on the trigger—emerging from their five-story limestone home. They were pointing the weapons at the protesters and yelling at them that they were on a private street. Demonstrators are heard in the videos telling other protesters to keep moving toward Krewson's home and to ignore the couple.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department [SLMPD] told ABC News on Monday that the couple, who police described as the victims, placed a "call for help" at 7:23 p.m. and that they are investigating the confrontation as a "trespassing/assault 4th intimidation" case.
"The victims stated they were on their property when they heard a loud commotion coming from the street," according to an incident summary of the ongoing investigation provided to ABC News by the SLMPD. "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.
"Once through the gate, the victims advised the group that they were on a private street and trespassing and told them to leave," according to the couple's statement to the police included in the summary. "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."
No one was injured in the incident.
Videos of the encounter did not show any armed protesters and police officials told ABC News, "We do not have anything further to provide at this time."
The couple released a statement Monday afternoon identifying themselves as lawyers, Mark McCloskey, 63, and Patricia McCloskey, 61. They said they wanted to set the record straight that they support the Black Lives Matter movement and that the "actions of a few individuals who chose to exploit the otherwise peaceful protest" put them "in fear of imminent harm," according to the couple's statement.
"The peaceful protesters were not the subject of scorn or disdain by the McCloskeys," the statement reads. "To the contrary, they were expecting and supportive of the message of the protesters. The actions of violence, destruction of property and acts of threatening aggression by a few individuals commingling with the peaceful protesters, gave rise to trepidation and fear of imminent and grave harm.
"Both Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey acted lawfully on their property which sits on a private gated lane in the City of St. Louis," the statement reads. "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 couple said they've held a "long-standing commitment to protecting the civil rights of clients victimized at the hands of law enforcement."
Albert S. Watkins, a lawyer for the couple, added, "The McCloskeys want to make sure no one thinks less of BLM, its message and the means it is employing to get its message out because of the actions of a few white individuals who tarnished a peaceful protest.”
Several videos of the incident posted on social media by protestors and journalists who witnessed the standoff had been viewed millions of times by Monday morning.
President Trump retweeted one of the videos on Monday shot by Daniel Shular, a graduate student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, without explanation.
The demonstrators continued on to Krewson's home, where they painted the word "resign" on the street outside her residence.
Krewson, a first-term Democratic mayor, sparked an angry backlash from demonstrators last week when, during her regular public coronavirus briefing on Friday, she read aloud the names and addresses of protesters who sent her petitions calling for the city to defund the police department. The briefing was broadcast by the mayor's office on Facebook Live.
"It is shocking and misguided for Mayor Lyda Krewson of St. Louis, to broadcast the addresses of those who dare to express a different viewpoint on an issue of public concern," the ACLU of Missouri said in a statement. "It serves no apparent purpose beyond intimidation. We are stronger when we foster open dialogue. The chilling of debate should bother everyone, no matter whether they agree or disagree with the mayor on this particular issue."
In the Facebook Live video, which has been taken down, Krewson said the petitions were given to her when she met with protesters outside City Hall.
"The conversation really wasn't a conversation, I'll be honest with you, because there was a very loud response from the demonstrators. So they gave me some papers about how they thought," Krewson said in the Facebook Live video viewed by ABC News. She then went to her desk, got the petitions and proceeded to read some of them.
After reading the petitions, Krewson said, "We're not going to take all the money away from the police. I think we need our police department."
The mayor responded to the criticism in a statement she tweeted on Friday, in which she apologized while explaining that the petitions and the names and addresses she read are public information.
"I'd like to apologize for identifying individuals who presented letters to me at City Hall today," Krewson wrote. "This was during one of my Facebook updates as I was answering routine questions. Never did I intend to harm anyone or cause distress. The update is removed and again, I apologize."
Meanwhile, petitioners, including the ACLU, are collecting signatures on a Change.org petition calling for Krewson's resignation. As of Monday, the petition had collected more than 46,000 signatures.