The protesters marching through St Louis were armed only with posters and chants, all meant to put pressure on Mayor Lyda Krewson to redirect city funds away from law enforcement.
"Resign Lyda, take the cops with you," they shouted on the way to the mayor's house in the Central West End, banging on drums and carrying signs that said 'Respect us'.
The first-term Democrat had publicly released the names and addresses of some activists, and now they wanted to bring their demonstration to her door. But as the peaceful crowd of about 500 walked along a private, gated street, a white couple who emerged from a marbled mansion had something else in mind.
The man in a pink shirt walked out from the five-storey house carrying a semi-automatic rifle as he appeared to threaten the group.
A few feet away, a woman pointed a pistol at the crowd, her finger on the trigger.
By yesterday, a video of the scene on social media had been viewed nine million times. The video had been so widely shared on social media that President Donald Trump retweeted it without explanation.
In a region that has long been in the spotlight for tensions over policing and racial inequality, the interaction captured the divisions rippling throughout the US in 2020.
It is unclear whether the couple in the video were the mansion's owners, and attempts to contact the owners last night were unsuccessful.
Neither Krewson nor the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department responded to a request for comment.
For weeks, massive crowds in St Louis have rallied against police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd.
Several protesters personally handed letters to Krewson at a demonstration last week, calling on her to shutter the city's Medium Security Institution, a 1,100-bed prison known as the "workhouse", and slash city funding for St Louis police down to nothing.
During a live-stream Q&A on Facebook last Friday, she turned to a crumpled stack of those letters and read them one by one.
"Here's one that wants $50m to go to Cure Violence, $75m to go to Affordable Housing, $60m to go to Health and Human Services, and have zero go to the police," she said in the now-deleted video.
For each letter calling on police defunding, Krewson named the writer and their street or home address - even as some viewers in the comments asked her to stop.
One St Louis alderwoman said the mayor had resorted to "intimidation of the residents [she was] elected to represent." Another called it "a move designed to silence dissent".
Scheduled in St Louis for the following day was a rally involving the far-right Proud Boys, a group with a dark history of assaulting leftist protesters.
Hours later, Krewson said she was sorry for the transgression and took the video down, writing: "Never did I intend to harm anyone or cause distress."
But her apology was not enough to quell the demonstrations. Following confrontations over the weekend, more than 40,000 signed a petition calling on her to resign.
On Sunday, they brought their campaign to the mayor's house.
"As a leader, you don't do stuff like that," State Representative Rasheen Aldridge told the crowd.
As they made their way to a rally at Krewson's house, they passed by a huge, white marbled home that St Louis magazine said had once been called the city's "most dazzling mansion".
The owners of the "Midwestern palazzo" on a private street had undergone a decades-long renovation to bring the home back to its original glory.
Yet the barefoot couple standing in front of the house's manicured lawns did not need to do much to defend the mansion.
Moments after they pulled out their weapons, a black man in a "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" shirt directed the crowd to keep moving.
"Let's go, let's go, let's go," he shouted. (© Washington Post)