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Demands for mayor’s resignation draw worldwide attention

ST. LOUIS – Mayor Lyda Krewson has succeeded in bringing nationwide and worldwide attention to St. Louis, but not the kind she might want.

Since she disclosed the names and addresses of protesters during a Facebook Live event on Friday, more than 50,000 people from inside and outside of the city have signed a petition demanding her resignation. 

Even more people paid attention when a married couple claiming to want to protect their property pointed firearms at protesters on their way to the mayor’s Central West End home to demand that she quit.

Soon, worldwide new outlets such as the Daily Mail in Great Britain and the Daily Sabah in Turkey were on the story. So were American news organizations such as CNN, ABC, CBS, The Washington Post, the Las Vegas Sun, the New York Post and Politico.

On Tuesday morning, the mayor’s office declined comment.

After Krewson read the names and addresses of supporters of defunding police during a Facebook program update on COVID-19, she posted a strong apology and took the program down. 

Tonight, I would like to apologize for identifying individuals who presented letters and comment cards to me at City Hall as I was answering a routine question during one of my updates earlier today,” she wrote on her page. “While this is public information, never did I intend to cause distress or harm to anyone. The post has been removed and again, I sincerely apologize.”

Aldermanic President Lewis Reed said Tuesday that releasing the names and addresses was dangerous “because you never know what someone else will do with that information,”

Alderwoman Megan Green said Krewson’s action was “designed to intimidate and to quell dissent and to stop a movement that is happening not just locally” but across the country.

Krewson, 67, who is white, defeated three high-profile Black candidates in the March 2017 Democratic primary, helped by an endorsement from the police union. She won easily in the April general election.

Jeff and Lyda Krewson and their two small children were returning home from shopping in 1995 when two carjackers approached with guns. Jeff Krewson was fatally shot in the neck as he tried to back the car away. Lyda Krewson and her children, ages 2 and 5, were unhurt.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Krewson’s apology on Facebook had gotten about 3,300 comments, 1,200 likes and other responses and 266 shares. Most were sharply negative and not willing to accept her apology,

Resign you piece of garbage,” one wrote.

“Damage is done. You should be ashamed of yourself,” another wrote.

A third offered this thought: “Those people were parents, children and grandchildren. Would it be OK with you if we handed out the names and addresses of your family members too?”

On the other side were those who offered words such as: “Mayor please do not let the Marxists tell you what to to do or take over the city of St Louis! Don’t cower to evil. The people who want to defund police are seeming to overthrow America. Should they be exposed for that?! Shouldn’t they be arrested ?!”

One other commenter said, “Do NOT apologize!!! BLM has been doing the same since its beginning!!!! STAY STRONG AGAINST THE INSURGENCY!!!”

Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner issued a sharply written statement opposing the action of the two attorneys, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, in pointing guns at protesters headed to Krewson’s house.

“I am disturbed by the events that occurred over this weekend where there were peaceful protesters who were met with guns and vigilante assault,” Gardner said. 

Gardner said that any attempt to chill peaceful protest would not be tolerated. 

“I’ve worked with the public and the police to investigate those tragic events,” she said. “Make no mistake. The circuit attorney’s office will not tolerate the use of force or intimidation to affect the rights of individuals to peacefully protest and to protect their First Amendment rights.”

The McCloskeys, who stood outside their mansion and pointed guns at protesters who were marching toward the mayor’s home to demand her resignation, support the Black Lives Matter movement and don’t want to become heroes to those who oppose the cause, their attorney said Monday.

Video posted online showed Mark McCloskey, 63, and his wife, Patricia, 61, standing outside their Renaissance palazzo-style home Sunday night in the city’s well-to-do Central West End neighborhood. He could be heard yelling while holding a long-barreled gun. His wife stood next to him with a handgun.

Mark McCloskey told KMOV-TV that he and wife, who are personal injury lawyers, were facing an “angry mob” on their private street and feared for their lives Sunday night.

No charges were brought against McCloskeys. Police said they were still investigating but labeled it a case of trespassing and assault by intimidation against the couple by protesters in the racially diverse crowd.

Their attorney, Albert Watkins, told The Associated Press on Monday that the couple were long-time civil rights advocates and supported the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. He said they grabbed their guns when two or three protesters — who were white — violently threatened the couple and their property and that of their neighbors.

“The most important thing for them is that their images [holding the guns] don’t become the basis for a rallying cry for people who oppose the Black Lives Matter message,” Watkins said. “They want to make it really clear that they believe the Black Lives Matter message is important.”

The group of at least 500 people chanted, “Resign, Lyda! Take the cops with you!” news outlets reported.

Police said the couple had heard a loud commotion in the street and saw a large group of people break an iron gate marked with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs. The video showed the protesters walking through the gate, and it was unclear when it was damaged.

The McCloskeys’ home, which was featured in the local St. Louis Magazine after undergoing a renovation, was appraised at $1.15 million.

Krewson’s spokesman, Jacob Long, said the mayor had no intention of resigning and planned to seek a second term.

Anita Manion, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, said the moment might simply be too big for Krewson to survive politically.

“I feel the current movement isn’t something that’s going to go away quickly, and I don’t think that a lot of St. Louisans are going to forget this,” Manion said.

Removal from office seems unlikely because it would require a recall vote, and obtaining enough signatures to trigger a special election would take several months. The next mayoral election is just eight months away.

Going forward, Krewson supports “common-sense police reforms and has committed to a comprehensive review of use-of-force policies,” Long said.

For Reed, Krewson’s actions will be what ultimately matters.

“You cannot afford to be tone-deaf,” Reed said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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