Portland Place couple who confronted protesters have a long history of not backing down

McCloskeys
Homeowners Mark and Patricia McCloskey stand in front their house on Portland Place as they confront protesters marching to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house on June 28 in the Central West End. No shots were fired, and the protesters marched on.

ST. LOUIS — When Black Lives Matter protesters marched up Kingshighway on June 28 and turned through an iron gate into the magnificent private street of Portland Place, they encountered a couple who have for years, nearly constantly, sued other people and ordered people off their property.

Personal-injury attorneys Mark and Patricia McCloskey became instant national figures when they intercepted protesters marching past their marble-faced palazzo at One Portland Place, aimed guns at them and demanded they get out.

Americans saw the story they wanted to see. Some saw respected professionals fearing for their safety, reasonably exercising their Second Amendment rights to defend their home from violent trespassers. Others saw an overwrought, older affluent couple, recklessly pointing their weapons and asserting their white privilege.

But public records and interviews reveal a fuller picture than emerged two weeks ago. They show the McCloskeys are almost always in conflict with others, typically over control of private property, what people can do on that property, and whose job it is to make sure they do it.

They filed a lawsuit in 1988 to obtain their house, a castle built for Adolphus Busch’s daughter and her husband during St. Louis’ brief run as a world-class city in the early 20th century. At the McCloskeys’ property in Franklin County, they have sued neighbors for making changes to a gravel road and twice in just over two years evicted tenants from a modular home on their property.

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Mark McCloskey sued a former employer for wrongful termination and his sister, father and his father’s caretaker for defamation.

The McCloskeys have filed at least two “quiet title” suits asserting squatter’s rights on land they’ve occupied openly and hostilely — their terms — and claimed as their own. In an ongoing suit against Portland Place trustees in 2017, the McCloskeys say they are entitled to a 1,143-square-foot triangle of lawn in front of property that is set aside as common ground in the neighborhood’s indenture.

It was that patch of green protesters saw when they filed through the gate. Mark McCloskey said in an affidavit that he has defended the patch before by pointing a gun at a neighbor who had tried to cut through it.

‘At gun point’
This court record shows the McCloskeys challenged a Portland Place resident “at gun point” who they said encroached on their property. 

The McCloskeys have filed many other lawsuits. They sued a man who sold them a Maserati they claimed was supposed to come with a box of hard-to-find parts. In one trip to the courthouse in November 1996, Mark McCloskey filed two lawsuits, one against a dog breeder whom he said sold him a German shepherd without papers and the other against the Central West End Association for using a photo of their house in a brochure for a house tour after the McCloskeys had told them not to.

“I guess we were saving gas,” he would quip in a deposition in another case about why he filed two lawsuits at once.

Mark McCloskey has run off trustees trying to make repairs to the wall surrounding his property, insisting that he and his wife own it. In 2013, he destroyed bee hives placed just outside of the mansion’s northern wall by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation and left a note saying he did it, and if the mess wasn’t cleaned up quickly he would seek a restraining order and attorneys fees. The congregation had planned to harvest the honey and pick apples from trees on its property for Rosh Hashanah.

‘Attention! This is private property’
Mark McCloskey left this note after he destroyed bee hives placed just outside of the mansion’s northern wall by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation.

The children were crying in school,” Rabbi Susan Talve said. “It was part of our curriculum.”

Moreover, the McCloskeys have constantly sought to force their neighborhood trustees to maintain the exclusivity of Portland Place, accusing them of selectively enforcing the written rules for living in the neighborhood, known as the trust agreement.

They filed a lawsuit in St. Louis circuit court to try to force the trustees to enforce the neighborhood rules as written. The McCloskeys dismissed the claim, but the judge would not let them refile an amended version because it “failed to allege a justiciable controversy.”

The McCloskeys appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court to try to make the judge allow them to refile their case, but the effort failed.

One of the rules prohibited unmarried people from living together. Several neighbors said it was because the McCloskeys didn’t want gay couples living on the block. The trustees voted to impeach Patricia McCloskey as a trustee in 1992 when she fought an effort to change the trust indenture, accusing her of being anti-gay.

Mark McCloskey clarified in a deposition much later that the trust agreement barred unmarried people living together, regardless of their sexuality.

“Certain people on Portland Place, for political reasons, wanted to make it a gay issue,” he said.

The former Portland Place trustee who was ordered off the trustee property said he had nothing good to say about the couple. “They’ve always been part of the problem, never part of the solution,” Robert Dolgin said.

Albert Watkins, a lawyer representing the couple, questioned the relevance of any story delving into the McCloskeys’ litigation history and asked the newspaper to submit written questions. The Post-Dispatch sent questions; Watkins didn’t answer them. Watkins invited a reporter to come to his office to view a document in which McCloskey discussed his litigation history but said a reporter could not have a copy nor take notes from it. Watkins later declined to allow a reporter to interview his clients under the newspaper’s condition that the interview be recorded.

Ownership and entitlement

By filing so many lawsuits, the McCloskeys opened a large window onto their values and ambitions. Their lawsuits center on obtaining land, keeping people off of it, and forcing people to follow rules or make good on agreements. Sometimes the suits are about collecting damages for harm done to them.

Mark McCloskey’s first taste of ownership may have been on his 20th birthday, in 1976. A card from his parents, Bruce and Lois “Carol” McCloskey, would much later become an exhibit in a lawsuit against his father and his father’s trust.

‘You are now the sole & only owner of 5 acres’
On his 20th birthday, in 1976, Mark McCloskey received this birthday card from his parents. The card said: “You are now the sole & only owner of 5 acres of the Phelps County Farm. Papers to follow. This is on the river — Luck! Happy Birthday! Mom + Dad.” It would later become an exhibit in a lawsuit over property.

The card said: “You are now the sole & only owner of 5 acres of the Phelps County Farm. Papers to follow. This is on the river — Luck! Happy Birthday! Mom + Dad.”

He also got a small box of earth from the family’s 240-acre property to make it official.

His parents divorced in 1985. Bruce McCloskey never filed proper documents with Phelps County to transfer the title. When Mark McCloskey inquired with the Phelps County assessor in 1997, he got a letter indicating that what his father had filed was “not a legal conveyance of land.”

Mark McCloskey would not let real estate slip through his fingers again.

In a May 2019 deposition in his ongoing lawsuit against Portland Place trustees, he explained how he and his wife came to own their home: through a lawsuit.

The couple met when they were at Southern Methodist University law school. After graduating in 1985, his first job was with a law firm in Dallas. They moved back to St. Louis in 1986. He got a job at Thompson Mitchell, now known as Thompson Coburn.

He testified his mother obtained his childhood home in Country Life Acres in the divorce. He and his wife acquired it from her when she couldn’t afford to take care of it.

“When we first moved up to town, I drove Pattie through Portland and Westmoreland, and I said, ‘You know, any time you’d like to, we can flip the country house out at Country Life Acres and buy a big townhouse here,’” he testified. “And she said, ‘OK, let’s do it now.’”

Mark McCloskey said his tax lawyer at the Lewis Rice law firm told him One Portland Place had just been sold. “I said, ‘I don’t think it’s been sold. I would have heard about it.’”

The mansion had fallen into disrepair. The prior owner had heated it by using 48 kerosene heaters, according to a 2018 St. Louis Magazine feature that profiled the McCloskeys’ long and expensive restoration.

McCloskey testified they bid on the house and signed a deal that would give them “right of last look” at any other contracts. He got a call indicating they could buy the house if they got the cash together by the next morning, but then found out Lewis Rice had arranged to sell it to someone else.

“I get to my office at about 4 o’clock in the morning. Pattie and I draft a lawsuit and file it when the courthouse opens, the (temporary restraining order) to prevent the sale. We set up a table at wherever Lewis and Rice was in those days and served every partner on the way in and served the president of Boatmen’s Bank when he went to work the next day.”

They ended up settling with the other buyer for an undisclosed amount and bought One Portland Place for $595,000, according to city property records.

The afternoon he sued Lewis Rice, he said, he got called into the managing partner’s office at Thompson Mitchell. The partners were not happy he had sued Lewis Rice.

“He said, ‘We’re going to ask for your resignation,’” McCloskey recalled.

He filed a lawsuit against Thompson Mitchell for wrongful termination. One of the partners was Thomas Eagleton, a Democrat who had just returned to St. Louis after three terms in the U.S. Senate.

I figured I’d sue him first,” McCloskey testified. “I thought it would be fun.”

But he said the courts “didn’t think much” of his claim. He dismissed the suit against Thompson Mitchell in 1990. A judge dismissed the Lewis Rice suit the following year for lack of prosecution.

The couple’s possession of their mansion was “a fun story,” he testified. “I tell it frequently, usually with … a little more detail and more humor.”

Family struggle

Mark McCloskey’s relationship with his family deteriorated. He would claim years later that his father, starting in 1989, “became obsessed” with the idea that his son had become wealthy by “swindling” the assets his mother got in the divorce. He says the idea was put there by his sister, Patricia Richards, of Virginia.

In 1994, Mark McCloskey wrote a letter to his father about his “niggardly attitude” toward the 5 acres in Phelps County he had promised in the birthday card.

“The property is essentially worthless, it just struck me as bizarre that you would deny the existence of such a gift …,” he wrote. “I spent several months of my life living out of a tent and building a log cabin there.”

‘The property is essentially worthless’
Mark McCloskey wrote a letter to his father about the five acres in Phelps County he had promised in 1976. The letter, written in 1994, became part of a subsequent court record.

His father largely wrote him out of the will in 2008, sparking a family feud that would last eight years.

In March 2013, in Phelps County, Mark McCloskey sued his father and his father’s trust over the gift. The birthday card and earth, he claimed, were sufficient title because they met the legal definition of “livery of seisin,” a ceremony performed in medieval England for the conveyance of land.

In 2016, a special judge ruled against him, writing that “Exhibit 1 attached to the petition is a birthday card, not a deed” and that it was too late to claim ownership of part of the farm. The archaic legal claim, the judge ruled “does not operate as a matter of law to transfer title to real property.”

Mark McCloskey filed a defamation case against his father and sister in 2011, dismissed it in 2012, and refiled it in 2013. By the time of the final filing, Bruce McCloskey was living in a memory care unit in Ballwin; he died in 2014.

Mark McCloskey said his sister had spread rumors that he had held their mother hostage on Portland Place, denied her medical care, made her sleep on an iron cot soaked in urine, and plied her with alcohol until she died. He also said she claimed he was connected to organized crime, had tried to arrange for a contract killing of his sister, and had stolen 42 pounds of gold from his father.

He claimed his elderly father believed these things because he had lost his faculties, and repeated the falsehoods in public, damaging his reputation. He claimed the will was based on “insane delusions” and his sister’s undue influence.

Patricia Richards declined to comment.

He made similar allegations against his father’s longtime caretaker in a separate defamation suit, which he later dismissed.

Weeks after Bruce McCloskey’s death, Patricia McCloskey sent a letter to the law firm handling his estate stating that any attempt to distribute the inheritance would likely be challenged in court.

Mark McCloskey dismissed the defamation case, but he sued his sister and his two brothers and their father’s trust again in 2016, accusing all of them of “tortious interference” for pressing their father to cut him out of an inheritance.

The siblings settled with their father’s trust paying Mark McCloskey $400,000, with all of them agreeing to drop all claims and never have contact with Mark McCloskey again.

Trouble on Portland

The lawsuit between the McCloskeys and the Portland trustees was the latest flare-up in a fight that has been going on almost since they moved in.

In 2002, the Portland Place Association sued to foreclose on the McCloskeys’ house because they were refusing to pay dues. Mark McCloskey would later say in a deposition that he and his wife had refused because the trustees “weren’t doing something, which was their obligation under the Trust Agreement.”

The lawyer questioning him asked: Was it possible the issue was the trustees were allowing a gay couple to live there?

Mark McCloskey said he didn’t know. “I know there has been an ongoing issue about the definition of single family in Missouri law, and that the (agreement) calling for exclusively single family residences wouldn’t allow, technically, unmarried heterosexual people to live on Portland Place. … I know that certain people on Portland Place, for political purposes, wanted to make it a gay issue.”

While taking a deposition of Portland Place trustee Daniel Ladenberger on Jan. 17, 2019, Mark McCloskey insisted it wasn’t up to trustees to decide what rules to enforce. Rules can’t be changed without 75% of the voters approving, he said.

“Do you recognize that part of the duty of a trustee is to protect the rights of the minority; to enforce the trust agreement even if a majority but less than 75% of the people would like to do away with those provisions … even if it’s only 26% of the people who wish to have a provision enforced?”

After the McCloskeys bought their home on Portland Place, they built a 10-foot wall closing it off from Kingshighway, replacing a wall that would have allowed people to come through. In 2004, Dolgin wrote the McCloskeys a letter noting it had come to the trustees’ attention that the McCloskeys had hired a contractor to do tuck pointing on the wall.

No individual resident is authorized to do work on Portland Place property without the permission of the trustees,” Dolgin wrote.

Mark McCloskey responded that he would no more ask permission to perform work on the wall than he would on his house. “Before you glibly throw around such statements in the future, produce some authority to verify it or be prepared to spend Portland Place Association money in defending a suit for slander of title. This isn’t a game, and we aren’t children.”

Watkins, the lawyer representing the couple, is a friend of theirs and former neighbor who sued the Portland Place trustees in 2010 with a claim that he had tried to get them to take down a sick oak tree which later fell and damaged his property. Watkins lost and was ordered to pay the trustees court costs of $52,000.

A rocky road

The McCloskeys own a large property in Franklin County and have had conflicts with neighbors who access their homes by a gravel road cutting across the McCloskeys’ acreage.

In 2013, Mark McCloskey saw a gravel truck on the road preparing to “grade and ditch” the road, and the couple, without notice to their neighbors, sought and obtained a temporary restraining order against them in Franklin County circuit court.

One of the defendants produced records of an easement indicating they could use the road. A legal battle dragged on for nearly two years, with one of the neighbors racking up $70,000 in legal bills and $9,000 in surveying costs.

That neighbor asked for sanctions against the McCloskeys for “committing a fraud” with their claim. The case settled with all parties paying their own costs.

In 2019, the McCloskeys sued another neighbor with a squatter’s rights claim to 0.41 acres that were fenced off incorrectly and had been maintained by McCloskey and previous owners even though they did not have a legal title to it.

“The Parcel has been continuously possessed by the Plaintiffs and their predecessors in title for a period far in excess of 10 years and such possession has been, in fact, hostile, actual, open and notorious, exclusive, and continuous,” the McCloskeys claimed. The suit is pending.

The McCloskeys also evicted two tenants from a modular home on their property in a period of just over two years. The first, a single woman with three children and her boyfriend, had lived there six months in January 2018 when the McCloskeys filed for eviction, claiming one rent check had bounced. The woman moved out and did not appear in court, and the McCloskeys got a $6,247 default judgment against the couple, which included attorneys fees and rent for the remaining months of the lease.

In an interview with the Post-Dispatch, the tenant denied she had missed a rent payment. She said she had showed up in court for the eviction hearing and that Mark McCloskey told her she had no chance of winning, so she left. She said she had no idea she owed them that much.

The second tenant signed a lease for $950 per month last November, and failed to pay rent in April and May. The McCloskeys filed an eviction suit on May 12 and Mark McCloskey filed an affidavit stating that he was not barred by federal law from evicting someone during the COVID-19 pandemic because the unit was not part of a federal housing rental program.

The tenant did not appear in court. A judge gave her until July 1 to clear out, and the McCloskeys got an $8,299 judgment against her for attorneys fees and the remainder of the lease.

A ruined life

While that tenant was clearing out, the McCloskeys had their encounter with protesters. “My life has been ruined,” Mark McCloskey told CNN host Chris Cuomo two days later, as he defended his actions.

On June 28, about 200 protesters filled the Maryland-Kingshighway intersection, chanting, “This is what community looks like … this is what democracy looks like.”

The group moved south to Lindell Boulevard and filled the intersection for several more minutes. “If we don’t get it, shut it down!”

The protest moved north on Kingshighway again. At Portland Place, protester Derk Brown’s live feed shows he is one of the first protesters to pass through the iron gate held open by protester Tory Russell.

Although the McCloskeys have displayed photos of a crumpled gate as evidence the protesters broke it down, the feed shows the gate is intact. It was not clear when it was damaged.

The first few protesters who enter the private neighborhood swerve away from the McCloskey house to walk in the street.

Immediately, Brown’s feed captures Mark McCloskey under a massive portico on the east side of his mansion. “Hey!” he can be heard shouting. “Private neighborhood! Get the hell out of my neighborhood!”

None of the protesters are on his property — even the disputed triangle.

Brown zooms in on McCloskey, who is wearing a pink Brooks Brothers polo shirt, and narrates: “Y’all see? On my live feed … he got his rifle.”

Mark McCloskey shouts, “Get out! Get out! Get out! Private property!”

A chant builds: “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Moments later, Patricia McCloskey can be seen in her front yard in her bare feet with a silver handgun, waving it at the protesters.

“We’re gonna move, calm down!” someone yells.

“Put that gun away,” someone else yells.

She comes closer to Brown, pointing the gun left and right. “Go!” she yells. “Go!”

One of the protesters yells, “We got kids in here! We got children!”

A chant builds: “Eat the rich!” She keeps pointing the gun.

“Why are you threatening?” someone asks.

“You need to calm down!” someone else says.

“Put your goddamn gun down!” someone yells.

“You’re a coward, bitch!” a woman yells.

“Nobody wants to hurt you,” another woman yells.

About 13 minutes go by with the McCloskeys on their front lawn in bare feet and protesters mocking them or asking them why they are threatening them with weapons.

The protest moves on to its destination: Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house.

Patricia McCloskey would later tell Fox News host Sean Hannity that protesters said “they were going to kill us … going to burn down the house, that they were going to be living in our house after I was dead. They pointed to different rooms and said that’s gonna be my bedroom, that’s gonna to be the living room and I’m gonna be taking a shower in that room ….”

Mark McCloskey said the flyer for the “riot” suggested that in addition to marching to Krewson’s house, marchers were planning “a special surprise — something extra.”

“That something extra was us,” Mark McCloskey said.

It’s almost as if Trump is determined to destroy the Republican Party

Let me summarize the Republican platform for the coming election:

  • We are the party of white racial grievance. We believe
  • those marching in Black Lives Matter protests are “thugs.”
  • We see the term “systemic racism” as an unfair attack on white people.
  • We support keeping Confederate monuments on their pedestals, and
  • we have no idea why anyone would consider Confederate flags a problem.
  • We are equal-opportunity racists.
  • We see Latino immigrants as “bad hombres.” And
  • we believe that using the racist term “kung flu” to describe covid-19 is hilarious, not least because
  • we are convinced the covid-19 pandemic is basically over, anyway.
  • Who cares what pointy-headed “experts” might say — we know in our hearts that patriotic Americans don’t wear masks.

Those are some of the views Republicans endorse by uncritically embracing and supporting President Trump. He is leading his party down a sewer of unabashed racism and willful ignorance, and all who follow him — and I mean all — deserve to feel the mighty wrath of voters in November.

I’m talking to you, Sen.

  • Susan Collins of Maine. And you, Sen.
  • Cory Gardner of Colorado. And you, Sens.
  • Thom Tillis of North Carolina,
  • Martha McSally of Arizona,
  • Joni Ernst of Iowa,
  • Steve Daines of Montana,
  • Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and
  • John Cornyn of Texas.

And while those of you in deep-red states whose reelection ordinarily would be seen as a mere formality may not see the giant millstones you’ve hung around your necks as a real risk, think again. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina and even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, you should look at the numbers and realize you are putting your Senate seats — and the slim GOP majority — in dire jeopardy.

You can run and hide from reporters asking you about Trump’s latest statements or tweets. You can pretend not to hear shouted questions as you hurry down Capitol hallways. You can take out your cellphones and feign being engrossed in a terribly important call. Ultimately, you’re going to have to answer to voters — and in the meantime you have decided to let Trump speak for you. Best of luck with that.

It is not really surprising that Trump, with his poll numbers falling and his reelection in serious jeopardy, would decide to use race and public health as wedge issues to inflame his loyal base. That’s all he knows how to do.

Most politicians would see plunging poll numbers as a warning to try a different approach; Trump takes them as a sign to do more of the same — more race-baiting, more authoritarian “law and order” posturing, more see-no-evil denial of a raging pandemic that has cost more than 120,000 American lives.

Racism is a feature of the Trump shtick, not a bug. He sees the nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd as an opportunity not for healing and reform, but to stir anger and resentment among his overwhelmingly white voting base. Trump wants no part of the reckoning with history the country seems to crave.

This week, city officials in Charleston, S.C. — the place where the Civil War began — took down a statue of John C. Calhoun, a leading 19th-century politician and fierce defender of slavery, from its 115-foot column in Marion Square and hauled it away to a warehouse. Also this week, Trump reportedly demanded that the District’s monument to Confederate Gen. Albert Pike, toppled last week by protesters, be cleaned up and reinstalled exactly as it was.

Trump went to Arizona not just to falsely claim great progress on building his promised border wall, intended to keep out the “hombres,” but also to delight fervent young supporters by referring to covid-19 as “kung flu.” Weeks ago, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said that racist term was clearly offensive and unacceptable. But since Trump has made it into a red-meat applause line, Conway now apparently thinks it’s a perfectly legitimate way to identify the virus’s country of origin.

All the other Republicans who fail to speak up while Trump runs the most nakedly racist presidential campaign since George Wallace in 1968 shouldn’t kid themselves. Their silence amounts to agreement. Perhaps there’s enough white bitterness out there to carry the Republican Party to another narrow win. But that’s not what the polls say.

Trump’s antics are self-defeating. He’ll put on a racist show for a shrinking audience, but he won’t wear the masks that could allow the economic reopening he desperately wants. He may be able to avoid reality, but the Republican governors — including Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida — scrambling desperately to contain new outbreaks cannot.

It’s almost as though Trump is determined to destroy the Republican Party. Let’s give him his wish.

Who were those guys on Elizabethtown roofs?

If armed militia groups are going to give themselves permission to “police” local Black Lives Matter demonstrations, as they did in downtown Elizabethtown on June 6, I think it’s important to know a little more about them.

One of the groups in Elizabethtown — the Carlisle Light Infantry — claims to be the direct descendant of the Carlisle Light Infantry that marched with George Washington against the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania and fought for the Union in the Civil War.

The other, now calling itself the Domestic Terrorism Response Organization, identified itself as “Anti ANTIFA” on a newly created Facebook page June 1, but changed to Domestic Terrorism Response Organization shortly after President Donald Trump declared the loosely organized American anti-fascist movement to be a domestic terror group.

The president’s attempt to avoid addressing concerns about police brutality expressed across the country failed miserably. Under U.S. law, the federal government can only “deem entities terrorists and impose sanctions on them” if they’re from another country, according to The New York Times on June 10.

Elizabethtown police Chief Edward Cunningham told LNP | LancasterOnline that he “became aware” on the night of June 5 that some shop owners had arranged their own security, but said he didn’t invite the militia groups or approve their plans. Apparently, borough Councilman Bill Troutman didn’t either. Nearly a week later, he was still demanding to know “who put those people on the roof,” according to LNP | LancasterOnline.

One gunman told LNP | LancasterOnline his name is Niels Norby Jr. and stated “I was there to protect everybody” — store owners, police and protesters.

The Domestic Terrorism Response Organization members present in Elizabethtown apparently offered no explanation for their presence there. “Anti-antifa” — a name it previously used on Facebook — is a term that has been coined by and linked to some white supremacist groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The Carlisle Light Infantry, in its modern incarnation, describes itself on its website (carlislelightinfantry.com) as “the living, breathing, operational element of the 2nd Amendment as defined by the signers of the constitution of the United States as ‘a well regulated militia.’ ”

Asserting to be the revitalized progeny of the Colonial-era Carlisle militia, the current leaders explain on their website why they had to get the unit back up and running. Following are direct and unedited quotes: “We live in a time where we as citizens are apprehensive, even afraid of our uniformed officers. We’re doubtful and suspicious of our local elected officials. We’re convinced that our leaders do not have our best interests, our families and livelihoods, in mind as they make decisions that effect every aspect of our daily lives. We live in a time when our open arms to the world and it’s many peoples and cultures invites risk and harm to our own. We therefore live in a time where it’s our personal and civic duty to stand up for what’s right, and protect what matters most.”

Despite its assertion that “we do not, and will not, discriminate against anyone,” there is not one black or brown face in the several group photos posted its website. Put all of that together and you come up with what sounds to me like another white nationalist group intent on imposing its jaundiced view of 21st-century American society on communities (as it did in Elizabethtown on June 6), whether we ask for it or not.

Shocking as it is to view photos of these people brandishing their weapons on the rooftops of downtown Elizabethtown, it really is nothing new. Militia members essentially threatened to lynch Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last month to express their displeasure with restrictions imposed to protect them from the deadly coronavirus.

But they go much further back than that. I met these disaffected Americans years ago when I was reporting in Michigan, Indiana and upstate New York. Like the Carlisle group, they called themselves “real” patriots. Those I met had lost faith in this country and its institutions, including the political system, the police and the military. Like the Carlisle Light Infantry, those militia members lived in fear; for them it was fear of a one-world government, secret messages on the back of road signs and black helicopters on the horizon.

For the Carlisle Light Infantry, it’s — in my view — fear of people of color, immigrants, diversity and a world not dominated by white people.

I felt sad talking to those militia groups back then, and the same sadness washes over me as I listen to these militia groups today. Their members seem so desperate that they’re willing to take up arms against their fellow citizens.

Back then, I tended to write these folks off as an insignificant splinter of the American body politic. But I don’t think we can ignore them anymore. They have a president who seemingly encourages them to take the law into their own hands and who shows no signs of understanding the traumatic experiences of any Americans, black or white.

Notice that today’s militia members seemingly express no sense of identifying with the struggle for racial equality and justice now sweeping across our country. It was a peaceful desire to support Black Lives Matter that triggered the protest in Elizabethtown on June 6. But the Domestic Terrorism Response Organization and the Carlisle Light Infantry didn’t come for that. They stood with trigger fingers at the ready — an intimidating, self-appointed presence — apparently prepared to take out anyone who crossed whatever lines they drew for acceptable behavior during a demonstration against police brutality.

Although the Carlisle Light Infantry puts in a lot of time drilling, these members are not trained police officers. Thank God the day did not end in tragedy. But the challenge posed by these groups did not end at sundown in Elizabethtown. A civil society cannot allow violence or the threat of violence to usurp the rule of law.

These are tragically disappointed people, gripped by fear and a mindset that will lead to nothing good. We must invite them back into the community dialogue now — for their sake and ours. There’s no better time than the present.

 

 

Cutting through the Green Tape: Who called the militia to ‘protect’ during Elizabethtown Protest

 

White Vandals Painting “Black Lives Matter” Confronted by African Americans

Russian-Backed Facebook Accounts Staged Events Around Divisive Issues

They publicized or financed at least 60 events—on all sides of most polarizing issues—before and after the 2016 election

.. In July 2016, as outrage swelled over fatal shootings in Dallas and Minneapolis, alleged social-media agitators tied to Russia worked quickly to capitalize on the emotionally charged atmosphere.

Workers linked to a Russia-based firm organized two gatherings, both for July 10: In Dallas, a “Blue Lives Matter” rally honored the five police officers slain there on July 7; and near Minneapolis, nearly 300 people rallied in support of Philando Castile, a man fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop.

The events show that the Russian-linked account activity went far beyond paying for polarizing ads dropped into Facebook members’ news feeds. At least 60 rallies, protests and marches were publicized or financed by eight Russia-backed Facebook accounts from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., according to a review by The Wall Street Journal

.. it had found 470 such accounts that it says belonged to Russians and that sought to exploit social divisions in the U.S. through provocative issue ads.

.. but the live events demonstrate how the alleged use of social media by Russian forces served as a launchpad for deeper infiltration into the American democratic process. Many rallies were sparsely attended, but some attracted news coverage, helping the accounts seem legitimate
.. People representing “Black Matters US,” one of the Russia-backed accounts, pressured Los Angeles activist Nolan Hack to plan events that would raise the account’s visibility.
..  Collectively, the eight accounts analyzed by the Journal were “liked” nearly two million times

.. Russian entities likely promoted events because the Kremlin believes protests destabilize democracies, according to Ms. Oates, who studies Russian propaganda. Event listings show how Russia-backed pages organized protests for and against the same issues. The page “Born Patriotic” planned 17 pro-Trump rallies on the same day in August 2016 while “Black Matters” hosted anti-Trump rallies after the election.

George Soros Transfers $18 Billion to His Foundation, Creating an Instant Giant

The pioneer of hedge-fund investing has transferred the bulk of his wealth to Open Society Foundations

Open Society’s activism has sometimes angered nationalist governments, such as the current one in Hungary, which targeted a university Mr. Soros founded and which has run poster campaigns singling him out for his support of refugees. Mr. Soros has urged developed countries in Europe and elsewhere to share the burden of increased migration from conflict-ridden countries. Anti-Soros politicians in Macedonia, Poland and some other European countries have attacked foreign-funded groups, including Open Society, for what they see as outside interference in their affairs.

In the U.S., where Mr. Soros is a major contributor to liberal and Democratic causes, he is a lightning rod for conservatives. Open Society has supported efforts to overhaul immigration policies and the criminal-justice system, including prisons, and funded mentoring programs for black and Latino young men. It has supported activists working on issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.

.. Mr. Trump, whose campaign cited Mr. Soros in a closing ad as part of a “global power structure” the ad said disadvantaged the working class.

.. Despite regularly telling others he was retired, Mr. Soros occasionally stepped back into active trading, such as during the financial crisis, when he helped guide his firm to big gains. Former employees say some past investment chiefs bristled at how Mr. Soros inserted himself in operations, judging them critically on what they felt was short-term performance.

.. Soros Fund Management’s annual returns have averaged around 11% in the past 10 years, according to a person familiar with the figures, well below the 30% of its early decades.