Gun-toting St. Louis Couple Who Threatened Black Lives Matter Protesters to Speak at RNC

Patricia and Mark McCloskey will speak at the Republican National Convention (RNC) tonight, but their inclusion in the festivities is unusual for a number of reasons—one of which is that they're currently under indictment in their home state.

The St. Louis couple, who are white, drew national attention in June for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. The protesters were marching past their house, located on a private street in an affluent neighborhood, on their way to the home of Mayor Lyda Krewson. The McCloskeys, who are both personal injury lawyers, have claimed they were facing a "mob" on their private street and feared for their lives.

They were later charged with a Class E felony for unlawful use of a weapon, a move disavowed by many prominent Republicans. Governor Mike Parson called it "outrageous" and Senator Josh Hawley has asked the Justice Department to investigate the St. Louis city prosecutor overseeing the case. President Donald Trump deemed the situation a "disgrace."

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, is actively trying to get the charges dropped, and filed a brief seeking for the case to be dismissed in late July. He said at the time that as "Missouri's Chief law enforcement officer, I won't stand by while Missouri law is being ignored—that's why I entered this case to seek its dismissal, to protect the rights of Missourians to defend their property under Missouri's Castle Doctrine."

As the case continues, the McCloskeys will be front and center on the opening night of the Republican convention. Their presence will spark the kind of contention that these events normally try to avoid.

"Typically it's the case that conventions try to skirt controversy," said Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor at the University of Houston whose specialty is presidential politics. "So it's not always the case that they're willing to embrace people who appear to have broken the law so boldly."

Timothy Naftali, a historian at New York University and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, agreed that it's "inconceivable that an incumbent president seeking a second-term would invite someone under indictment to a convention."

Neither could definitively say whether or not there has ever been a national convention speaker facing criminal charges, but both said it was rare if not unprecedented. And they both offered reasons as to why the couple has been embraced by the Republican National Committee.

Natfali called the McCloskey couple a "tableau" for Trump's message of law and order. Mark McCloskey told Fox & Friends Monday they will emphasize that safety and security are basic tenets of freedom during their speech. Amid nationwide protests over racial inequality in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in late May, the president has made his support for law enforcement officials clear.

In an email sent to supporters hours before Monday's convention programming, the Trump campaign described the McCloskeys as a couple who were "forced into the public spotlight by the media and the far left simply for defending their home from the liberal mob." The email said that the duo will share in their speech "how the radical leftists that are driving Joe Biden's Democrat Party tried to take them down, and how President Trump will support and defend Americans' right to protect themselves."

"The choice of the McCloskeys fits the theme," Naftali said. "It also represents the fact the Republican Party is simply a Trump party. It's a very divisive image."

mark and patricia mccloskey speak at RNC
Security personnel stand on the balcony the home of Mark and Patricia McCloskey as protesters demonstrate against racism and police brutality outside their neighborhood on July 3, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. Mark and Patricia McCloskey gained national attention after brandishing firearms at protesters as they processed passed their home. Michael B. Thomas/Getty

Rottinghaus said the McCloskeys' presence could be an attempt by the Trump campaign to appeal to suburban America, a demographic that has been abandoning the president and the GOP since 2016. A July Fox News poll showed Trump trailing Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, by 11 percentage points in the suburbs. But the McCloskeys' inclusion at the convention is nothing short of a gamble, according to Rottinghaus.

"It's not a clear win. It's a risky strategy," he said, noting that the message could backfire in a number of ways: it could remind voters of the lawlessness in and around the Trump team or open them up to criticism that they are simply adding to the divisiveness of the nation.

Newsweek contacted Joel Schwarz, an attorney for the McCloskeys, who declined to give comment at this time.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, the first Black woman to hold the position, said when announcing the charges against the McCloskeys that "the people of St. Louis have elected me to pursue equal justice under the law fairly and impartially, and that is what I intend to do."

In response to the attorney general's motion to dismiss the case, Gardner filed her own brief seeking to stop his intervention. She said his court filing read like a "press release" and that his argument is up for a jury to decide. The McCloskeys' first court appearance is scheduled for August 31, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.