Experts examine whether it was legal for St. Louis couple to point guns at protesters


(Credity: St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Laurie Skrivan via AP)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) — A live stream video of Sunday afternoon’s protest in the Central West End shows protests march from Kingshighway and turn left onto Portland Place, a private street.

The video shows them walk through an open and intact gate. The first home they encountered is 1 Portland Place, owned by the McCloskey’s. The couple was outside holding guns.

“I stood up and announced loudly this is private property, please go back, leave. When I said private property that enraged the crowd,” said Mark McCloskey, a personal injury attorney lawyer in St. Louis.

Video and pictures show the couple armed outside their home. News 4 reached out to multiple legal experts to find out if they were within their rights.

“My initial reaction is it looked pretty threatening, especially what the wife was doing,” explained SLU Law Professor John Ammann.

Ammann said there are many protections for the couple in Missouri, including Stand Your Ground, Castle Doctrine and Open Carry.

Stand your ground in Missouri allows you to defend yourself with the use of deadly force if you’re under imminent threat of deadly force, without a duty to retreat in public.

The Castle Doctrine allows residents to use deadly force against intruders based on the notion that your home is “your castle.”

But Ammann said a key is the manner in which the guns are handled.

“Those protections would not allow you to aim a gun unless there was some threat that someone was coming towards them or attempting to get inside their house,” he explained.

The McCloskeys said they feared for their lives.

“They threatened to kill the dog, they threatened to burn our house down, hundreds of people said ‘we’re going to come and get you later,’” said McCloskey.

Protest organizer and State Representative Rasheen Aldridge said he did not hear those threats. In the videos, protest leaders can be heard telling the group to move along.

The next question many are asking is whether the protesters were on private property by marching on a private street. According to the Central West End Security Initiative, the streets are not open to the public and anyone walking on them that does not live there, or visiting someone, is trespassing.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police said they are investigating the trespassing.

Aldridge said they were aware it was a private street, and their presence there is part of civil disobedience, a part of the protests.

“Us feeling like we’re walking on a street that’s private property isn’t that big of a deal. Because it’s a gated off special community, they also have to feel the uncomfortable about what people are saying when talking about change,” said Aldridge.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said the right to peacefully protest must be protected.

“My office is currently working with the public and police to investigate these events. Make no mistake: we will not tolerate the use of force against those exercising their First Amendment rights and will use the full power of Missouri law to hold people accountable,” Gardner said in a statement.

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