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‘They are bullies’ — rabbi who confronted Mark and Patricia McCloskey speaks out

When Rabbi Susan Talve heard that Patricia and Mark McCloskey would be among the speakers addressing the Republican National Convention, she decided she could no longer stay quiet.

“It’s so upsetting that they have a national audience,” Talve said. “It’s upsetting we make heroes out of people who hate.”

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The McCloskeys are Talve’s neighbors. Their property’s northern wall abuts the property of St. Louis’ Jewish Central Reform Congregation, where Talve is the rabbi.

Image by Karen Kotner

In 2013, the synagogue placed beehives along the wall to produce honey for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. One morning they found the hives destroyed and all the bees dead. Mark McCloskey had taken an ax or sledgehammer to them.

His issue? The fence between them sat six inches inside the McCloskey’s property line. The hives were his to wreck.

“He could have picked up the phone and said, ‘Hey, those beehives are on my property,’ and we would have happily moved them,” said Talve.

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She said children at the synagogue wept when they heard the news of the hives. The synagogue maintains raised bed gardens on its property that supply some 2,000 pounds of fresh produce to a local food pantry, as well as pear, fig and apple trees.

“We were going to have our own apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah!” she said.

She said the McCloskeys didn’t contact the temple at all before lashing out.

Instead, McCloskey left a note threatening to sue the synagogue for damages if the shattered hives were not removed at once.

“Civility,” Talve said. “I’m willing to speak out now because there’s such a lack of civility that’s happening, and I don’t feel like I can be a part of that, and silence is complicity.”

Talve paused.

“They are bullies,” she said. “The fact that they’re speaking at the convention is a win for bullies.”

Judging by their remarks at the Republican National Convention Monday night, the McCloskeys clearly don’t see it that way. They are the victims of a Democratic-run city that lets lawbreakers run rampant.

“What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country,” Patricia McCloskey said to the convention.

“It seems the Democrats view the job of the government as protecting criminals from honest citizens,” said her husband.

When reporter Jeremy Kohler broke the storyof the McCloskey’s anti-beehive rampage in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Talve confirmed what happened but otherwise refrained from speaking out against the couple.

Mark McCloskey left this note after he destroyed bee hives owned by neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation

Mark McCloskey left this note after he destroyed bee hives owned by neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation Image by Jewish Central Reform Congregation

“At the time, we decided not to, because it was on their property,” she said. “They’re both attorneys. They’ve caused a lot of trouble for people. The advice that we got was, let it go. We live next door to these people that have guns and we have children. But every once in a while you have to speak up and say enough.”

The McCloskeys made national headlines by waving guns at Black Lives Protesters who neared their mansion on tony Portland Place on the evening of June 28.

But by then they already had a long and well-documented history of litigation, threats and neighborhood feuds.

They were locked in litigation to make their neighborhood association enforce a rule against unmarried couples residing there. Talve said they only cared because a gay couple had moved into the exclusive neighborhood.

“Certain people on Portland Place, for political reasons, wanted to make it a gay issue,” Mark McCloskey told The Post-Dispatch.

But Talve doesn’t buy it.

“Any chance they have to sow division they’ll take it,” she said.

She said the couple’s actions during the evening of the Black Lives Matter march are a case in point.

The protesters were peaceful, Talve said.

She said she knew this because many members of her synagogue marched with them, and she works closely with many of the local BLM activists.

In 2014, during protests over the police killing of Micahel Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Talve was the most outspoken Jewish religious leader at the scene.

In 2017 Talve’s synagogue opened its doors to provide refuge for protesters when a march against police violence itself turned violent.

At the time, a trending Twitter hashtag called on the police to #GasTheSynagogue.

Talve is certain such stances did not make her congregation popular with the McCloskeys or the well-armed people in the area who support them. During the June 28 march, she said BLM members stationed themselves in the parking lot to protect the synagogue from possible attack from militia-like groups.

Instead of the McCloskeys, Talve said the real hero in the June 28 confrontations is St. Louis circuit attorney Kimberly Gardner, who filed charges against the couple for unlawful use of weapons and pointing firearms at protesters, which is a class E felony.

“The protestors were not charged with a crime,” Mark McCloskey said at the convention, “but she charged us with felonies for daring to defend our home.”

President Donald Trump has also publicly criticized Gardner for prosecuting the McCloskeys.

“These are the values that this administration has been putting forward, values that sow hate among people,” said Talve. “They stand for a kind of white supremacist system. Our resistance is to love each other.”


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