Police arrest peaceful Paul leader in parking lot after chaotic St. Charles meeting prematurely closed without delegate vote
ALSO: Similar scene played out in GA one week earlier...
By Brad Friedman on 3/18/2012, 7:41pm PT  

[UPDATES: My appearance on RT TV discussing the story below, is now posted here. || Brent Stafford, the Ron Paul supporter who was arrested outside the aborted GOP caucus in St. Charles, MO over the weekend, and Lori Bone seen trying to hold GOP officials accountable after the Clarke County, GA delegate convention was stolen the week prior, both stories discussed and seen on video below, were my guests on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show Wednesday, 3/21/12. You can now listen to those interviews here. - BF]

This is just amazing. At yesterday's GOP caucus in St. Charles, MO --- one of the largest and most conservative counties in the state --- the Republican establishment is seen blatantly attempting to steal the caucus from supporters of Ron Paul.

As the caucus was prematurely shut down before a vote, with state police called in, no delegates were elected at what "was to have been the biggest single prize of the day," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage of the Missouri Caucuses' mess. It was just the latest, of many, embarrassments to arise out of a GOP caucus state this year.

A Facebook page called "Hold St. Charles Republican Tyrants Accountable" includes many cell phone videos of the near riots that occurred as party leaders attempted to commandeer the caucus to thundering cries of protest and shouts of "Point of Order!" and "Division!" (a non-debatable process in Roberts Rules of Order requiring the chair to have an immediate vote by a different means, such as rising, after a contested voice vote) by what seems to be hundreds of Paul supporters.

Despite the GOP ordering recording devices to be turned off at the outset of the meeting for some reason, a number of videos [several are posted below] appear to document what happened as one man declared himself chair --- without the approval of attendees --- before subsequently naming a parliamentarian and other caucus officials, in what looks to be a very clear violations of the rules of order that are supposed to be used in the MO GOP caucuses.

A very similar commandeering of the Athens-Clarke County, Georgia delegate convention was reported --- and also documented on video --- last week. Those videos [also posted below] show state and county GOP officials blatantly ignoring what appears to be a majority of Paul supporters hoping to elect their own as delegates to the district and state GOP conventions. There as well, calls for "Division" votes were summarily ignored by the chair, and the official proceedings were prematurely shut down without the required two-thirds majority vote.

At the St. Charles caucus yesterday, state and local police were called in and the caucus was prematurely "voted" to a close (or, at least, announced as much by the local party apparatchik who had declared himself chairman). An impromptu parking lot meeting of Paul supporters outside the venue afterward was then broken up by several dozen police, a hovering helicopter, police sirens, and the arrest of Brent Stafford, the man who is seen as the local leader of the Paul supporters. Stafford was peacefully addressing the crowd in the parking lot when he was handcuffed and hauled away to shouts of "Right to Assemble!" from the onlookers.

I can't say that I've ever seen anything like the huge St. Charles event or the very similar, if smaller and less unruly, Athens-Clarke County, GA affair. At both events, Republican Party officials appear to be caught in the act --- and on video tape --- of blatantly stealing the democratic processes away from supporters of Paul.

All of that, amidst the background of elected Republican officials across the nation implementing disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions in order to, they claim, deter "voter fraud" from corrupting elections...

Raucus Caucus in St. Charles, MO

"Even before the day’s events took a rancorous turn, state Republican officials said the winner of the caucus would not be officially known until next month," according to the report in the Post-Dispatch. "But with the confusion surrounding St. Charles, and many more delegates available in a pair of caucuses next weekend, the primary picture for Missouri may have only become murkier Saturday."

"It was a joke. It was a complete joke," David Nelson of St. Peters, who participated in the St. Charles County caucus, is quoted telling the Post.

The most decipherable depiction I've been able to find so far, of what exactly happened inside the large gymnasium at Francis Howell North High School in St. Peters, before the official caucus meeting ended without a vote for delegates, is heard only on audio, after the party officials had instructed caucus goers to turn off all recording devices.

Matt Ehlen, described by the Post report as a "Republican activist" was named chairman without a vote taking place. "All of sudden he’s the chairman and the place goes nuts," Paul supporter Tim Finch told the paper. "This is not how it’s supposed to work."

But the written descriptions of the event don't really seem to do it justice. Listen to the audio of what transpired yesterday (partial video versions of the chaos follow below it)...

As the pandemonium began to break out, cell phone cameras were then turned back on by several attendees. It's an amazing scene. Here is one of the videos showing what happened after things began to devolve, as heard in the more complete audio recording of the events posted above...

The crowd was then ordered to leave the building under threat of arrest. "Police are going to shut us down," Ehlen is heard saying over the public address system inside the venue.

The following video shows the Ron Paul campaign's Brent Stafford attempting to instruct fellow Paul supporters --- in the parking lot, after the caucus was prematurely shut down in the wake of the pandemonium --- to record their names, addresses and caucus bracelet numbers for the record. He is then seen being cuffed and taken away by state police, for some unknown reason, to cries of "Right to assemble!" by those gathered near by...

After Stafford is taken away, the police are seen gathering, as a helicopter hovers overhead and as they begin blasting sirens to warn the crowd to break up immediately...

One other Paul supporter was reportedly arrested as well.

St. Louis' CBS Radio affiliate KMOX, has a response from party leaders, claiming Paul and Romney supporters, not they, were attempting to work together to hijack the caucus process by overwhelming supporters of Rick Santorum with, ya know, more actual votes than those for Santorum.

"They’re crying foul now saying they were shut out the process," says St. Charles County Republican Central Committee member Jon Bennett, "but the fact of the matter is they were beaten at their own game. They got shut out of being able to shut everyone else out of the process."

Incredible. And, yes, Missouri is one of the state's where the Republican Party has, for years, been attempting to institute polling place Photo ID restrictions in order to put a stop to alleged "voter fraud" at the polling place --- for which they have no evidence at all.

A Peach of a Mess in Athens-Clarke County, GA

A similar scene was on display in Athens-Clarke County, GA just one week earlier, on March 10th, at the County GOP convention there. While a much smaller gathering than the one in St. Charles, MO, events played out similarly as party apparatchik ignored the protests of the apparent-majority of Paul supporters in attendance.

Days earlier, Newt Gingrich had been declared the winner of the state primary --- with Paul a distant fourth behind Santorum and Romney --- but it is at county conventions where delegates are supposed to actually be chosen.

As seen in the video below, the chairman of the Athens-Clarke gathering names his own slate of delegates; takes a voice vote where he appears to be outnumbered by "nays" from the Paul supporters in attendance; declares "the 'ayes' have it,"; ignores parliamentary calls for "Division" (a vote by means other than voice which must be carried out immediately, according to the rules), before adjourning the meeting without the required 2/3rds vote of approval.

The video below begins with a clip from a GOP gathering in Athens-Clark County, GA one year earlier, in 2010, where the GA State Party Chairwoman apologizes to Paul supporters for the "shoddy treatment" they received at the 2008 state convention. She promises that will not happen again.

Of course, it does happen again, as seen below. Following the premature shut down of the convention by the chair, the Paul supporters are seen gathering to take testimony as to what occurred. They then decide, since the convention had not been "legally" called to a close, as they see it, that they have a quorum required to take their own vote for their own slate of delegates for the upcoming district convention, which is then followed up by the state, and finally, national conventions.

What will occur at those conventions, given the disputed slates of delegates, remains to be seen...

World Net Daily (yes, the far Rightwing "news" outlet), actually has what appears to be a very good report on what happened --- the apparent outright theft of last week's GOP County Convention in Athens-Clarke County, GA.

Georgia is the second state in the union, following Indiana, where the Republican legislature and Governor instituted polling place Photo ID restrictions in order to, as they claim, deter "voter fraud," despite the thousands of disproportionately Democratic-leaning, legally registered voters who the lack the ID needed to cast their legal vote.

Proponents of the Georgia Photo ID restrictions have been unable to point to any single case of voter fraud in state history which would have been deterred by the Republican Photo ID restrictions.

Correction: We had originally described the parliamentary process known as "Division" as a non-debated motion requiring the chair to hold a written vote after a contested voice vote. The second vote can, in fact, be held by rising from seats, etc. We've corrected the text above to more accurately reflect the process defined in Roberts Rules of Order.

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UPDATE 3/20/12: My appearance on RT TV discussing the story above, is now posted here. It's already received over than 10,000 views since RT posted it on Youtube.

UPDATE 3/22/12: Brent Stafford, the Ron Paul supporter seen above being arrested outside the aborted GOP caucus in St. Charles, MO over the weekend, and Lori Bone seen trying to hold GOP officials accountable after the Clarke County, GA delegate convention was stolen the week prior, were both my guests on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show today. You can now listen to those interviews here.

UPDATE 5/25/12: Good news! The slate of delegates outrageously "elected", in violation of both the rules and the majority Paul supporters at the Clarke County GOP convention, have now been disqualified by the state GOP credentials committee and removed from the floor at the state GOP convention. Full details now here...

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