A husband and wife have been charged with unlawful use of a gun for pointing guns at protesters outside their home in St. Louis, Missouri.
Lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey drew guns at racial justice protesters marching on the grounds of their $ 1.15 million mansion last month.
The couple said they armed themselves because they felt threatened.
But the senior prosecutor in St. Louis said their actions risked creating violence during an otherwise peaceful protest.
“It is illegal to wave weapons threateningly at those participating in non-violent protests, and if we are fortunate enough that this situation does not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St. Louis,” said Kim Gardner, who is the city’s first black circuit prosecutor.
“We must protect the right to demonstrate peacefully, and any attempt to calm it down through intimidation will not be tolerated,” she added.
The McCloskeys also face a fourth degree assault charge.
The couple’s lawyer, Joel Schwartz, called the decision to press charges “disheartening because I unequivocally believe that no crime has been committed.”
The couple, both personal injury attorneys living on a private street, said they have the right to defend their property.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he was willing to exercise his powers of pardon if prosecutors brought criminal charges in the case.
“I don’t think they’re going to spend time in jail,” the Republican told local radio last week.
While a lawmaker, the governor co-wrote the Missouri “Castle Doctrine” law that justifies lethal force for those defending their homes from intruders.
Video footage showed Mr McCloskey, 63, and his wife, 61, drawing guns as protesters passed their mansion on their way to the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to call for his resignation on June 28.
The mayor had exasperated the activists by reading on Facebook Live the names and addresses of people who advocated the dismantling of the police.
The McCloskeys’ legal team said two or three white protesters threatened the couple and their property.
According to a police report on the incident, the couple said a large group of people walked through an iron gate marked with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs. One of the protest leaders claimed the door was already open.
The march was part of a nationwide wave of protests against police brutality and racism sparked by the alleged murder of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a white policeman.
Ms. Gardner recommends that husband and wife participate in a “diversion program” designed to reduce unnecessary contact with the courts.
He could order them to take part in community service or a remedial course.
Class E crimes like the illegal use of a weapon can lead to prison terms of up to four years.