The following is a first-hand account from the Missouri caucuses.
Missouri imploded today. After investing millions in a primary that was ultimately meaningless, the binding caucuses began this morning. Some caucuses went without a hitch, while others were plagued with dissent, arrests, and near rioting. The most notable of these was the St. Charles County Caucus, where there was nearly a repeat of the comedy of errors that occurred there in 2008.
At the 2008 caucus, Ron Paul supporters drowned out all other voices, resulting in a unanimous win in St. Charles for Ron Paul. The selected delegates were disqualified at the Congressional District Convention when it was discovered that they were registered as Libertarians rather than Republicans. They were then reinstated at the state convention, when they pointed out that Missouri does not require voter registration by party.
Prior to this year’s caucus, the St. Charles County Central Committee set standing rules of order for the caucus procedures. Those rules, among other things, banned the use of cameras or any recording devices throughout the process.
Several Ron Paul supporters joined the crowd assembled at the caucus, demanding that the caucus instead follow Roberts’ Rules of Order and refusing to turn off recording devices. They spoke over Central Committee Chair Eugene Dokes as he attempted to bring the meeting to order and introduce the nominated caucus chair. After being repeatedly instructed to remain seated and quiet so that the caucus could get underway, they continued to walk among the crowds, demanding a new set of rules and an alternative nominee for caucus chair. They became so loud that they drowned out the procedural voice vote to confirm the caucus chair. More than once they approached the podium where Dokes stood, causing him to step out from behind it to stand his ground. “I wasn’t about to stand by and have my safety or the safety of the citizens of St. Charles threatened,” said Dokes.
Off duty police officers acting as security for the event warned caucus-goers that failure to quiet down and come to order would result in the caucus being shut down completely, and when it became clear that the Ron Paul supporters had no intention of allowing the caucus to continue under the set rules of order, they called for backup. A total of around ten officers responded, ordering the crowd to disperse and escorting caucus officials safely to their cars.
Ron Hicks, Candidate for Missouri State Representative 107th district, had this to say:
“It was my first caucus ever. At the beginning, I thought maybe this was the way things were normally run. I quickly realized that something was wrong. There were ten or fifteen Ron Paul supporters who really seemed to have their own agenda. It was so out of control that other Ron Paul supporters were standing up just to say ‘We’re not with those guys.’ I could see real fear in people’s faces as things started to get out of hand, and I really thought we might be in danger of a possible riot. That’s why the police came in and ultimately shut us down. I suddenly realized that we were never actually going to get it going, and we didn’t. The whole thing just crumbled because people on our side resorted to tactics normally employed by the left.”
The end result: two arrests, no caucus, and no delegates for St. Charles County.
Note from Big Journalism Editor Dana Loesch:
Sharing a few excerpted emails for even greater clarity. These were sent this evening by caucus-goers.
From caucus-goer Rachel:
I was at the Caucus today and wanted to get the story out since it seems that the news stations are already getting it wrong. Yes, it was a man refusing to put away his camera that started the problem today and resulted in police being called for crowd control. However, there was a lot of other noise in the room. It seemed to be split such that the Ron Paul supporters wanted the cameras, saying that the rules were not transparent, wanted a rule change, etc... Apparently, people had been passing out false rules before the caucus began. The actual rules were posted throughout the hallways of the school. We couldn't even start a meeting because these people were so loud and refused to cooperate. I think that was truly their intent. I heard that the Romney and Paul people were working together to cause the upset, but couldn't completely verify that. At every step, the Paul supporters were loud and disruptive. When arguing, they got out of the bleachers (we were in the gym of a highschool) went to the floor, and yelled in faces with fingers pointed. Even from the other side of the gym, I was intimidated. The most outspoken were in front of the bleachers acting as cheerleaders trying to get more people on their side.
From caucus-goer James:
Bryan Spencer, the Saint Charles County Republican Party Central Committee man who was tasked to organize the caucus told my fellow Ron Paul Coordinator here in Saint Charles at the last Saint Charles County Central Committee meeting, that 'if the Ron Paul people come in and hijack the caucus, I will do everything in my power to throw out the entire delegation on a technicality.'
... the key is to organize your supporters into 'slates', which are lists of names of the supporters who wish to be delegates. Ideally, you want to have your slates full, this way, all delegates that go to the conventions will be your candidate's delegates. It is the process of a democratic republic. Organization is the key going into the caucus, and we had came prepared with the only complete slate of delegates. The Romney camp and Santorum camp had incomplete slates. We could have potentially have walked away with all of the 147 of the delegates.
So this is what Spencer means by 'hijack'.
... When it comes to a caucus, the body chooses the rules, not the GOP central committee. Before the temporary chairman (Eugene Dokes) opened the meeting, a set of rules was not proposed, but was made binding. One of the rules included was the ban on recording devices. I believe this 'rule' was put in for the reason of raising a ruckus.
I'm hearing multiple contradicting accounts on slates. I'm also not sure how I feel about people videotaping my vote. If people were upset about the rules, work to change them beforehand.
Bob McCarty and Doug Edelman both have written accounts of this, the former includes video. From Edelman:
No business was conducted. No delegates were selected. Attendees were threatened with arrest for trespassing if they did not immediately vacate the premises. The entire affair was a comedy of mismanagement. Police involvement would not have been necessary if the initial moments of the caucus had been handled by Mr. Dokes with any measure of diplomacy, deference and tact.
Was this an instance of establishment behaving badly, or an instance or Paulers disrupting the process? I trust neither group's answer to be unspun, so am hoping for further information on this story. The sad thing is that St. Charles County is Missouri's biggest and reddest caucus county and its 147 delegates were not awarded.