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‘An outrageous abuse of power’: Republicans decry prosecution of McCloskeys, who trained guns on protesters

USA Today

Republican politicians denounced a St. Louis prosecutor’s decision to file felony charges against a married couple that pointed guns at protesters marching past their home last month. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., called the charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey “an outrageous abuse of power.” 

“Dozens of violent criminals go free but homeowners facing trespassers on their own property are prosecuted,” Hawley tweeted.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat, announced Monday that the McCloskeys each face one charge of unlawful use of a weapon for the June 28 incident, images of which went viral on social media. 

The McCloskeys said they felt threatened when a group of protesters marched to the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, who lives nearby. The demonstrators were angered after Krewson made public the names and addresses of some activists who called for defunding the police. According to the McCloskeys, the protesters broke an iron gate, but a leading demonstrator said the gate was open when the marchers arrived. 

“I unequivocally believe no crime was committed,” defense attorney Joel Schwartz said in a statement, calling the charges “disheartening.” 

“It’s a bizarre, upside-down world,” Mark McCloskey said on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” wondering why he and his wife were facing charges instead of the protesters. 

Gardner, the city’s first Black city attorney, said a “thorough investigation” determined the McCloskeys’ actions risked violence during what had been a nonviolent march.

“It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St. Louis,” Gardner said in a statement.

Gardner said she does not plan to seek jail time for the couple. 

Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike Parson has said he will likely pardon them if convicted. Attorney General Eric Schmitt, also Republican, filed a brief asking that the charges be dismissed under the state’s “castle doctrine,” which allows homeowners to protect their property with deadly force if necessary. 

In addition to calling for a Justice Department probe, Hawley called on the courts to “dismiss this case, which is plainly contrary to Missouri law and the US Constitution, and sanction the Circuit Attorney’s Office.”

On July 10, 12 Republican House members also called for a civil rights investigation in a joint letter to Attorney General William Barr. They called the charges a violation of the McCloskeys’ Second Amendment right “to protect themselves from violence and tyranny.” 

The letter was signed by Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Paul Gossar of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Greg Steube of Florida, Brian Babin of Texas, Andy Harris of Maryland, Steve King of Iowa, Jody Hice of Georgia, Alex Mooney of West Virginia, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Steve Watkins of Kansas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. The lawmakers said the McCloskeys “took up arms in their own defense when violent protesters broke the gate to their private neighborhood and made threats of violence towards them.” 

“Charges against this couple will have a chilling effect on the entire nation, sending the message that American citizens no longer have the right to protect themselves at their own homes,” they wrote. 

President Donald Trump has expressed support for the McCloskeys and called the effort to charge them with a crime “a disgrace.” 

“Not one protester set foot on their property or said or did anything that would have given them the impression that we wanted to harm them,” state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge said in a statement. “Contrary to what Gov. Parson said Monday evening on ‘The Hannity Show,’ we were not some bloodthirsty, rampaging mob. We practiced civil disobedience and had the threat of violence imposed upon us.” 

Aldridge called Parson and Schmitt’s attacks on Gardner “alarming” and he said the weapons charge against the McCloskeys were “warranted.” 

“A jury should determine whether they’re guilty of that crime,” he said. “The governor and attorney general’s decision to get involved does nothing more than transform our state’s legal process into political sideshow.”