Disruption (by Ron Paul Kooks) Closes a Missouri Caucus Before Vote
Voters here in St. Charles County did not get a say on Saturday in who will be the next Republican presidential nominee after a disorderly caucus on Saturday caused organizers to adjourn before delegates were selected.
The unrest began as the caucus at Francis Howell North High School was called to order more than a hour late, then delayed again when a member of the crowd refused to put away a video camera, as required by the rules outlined by the local Republican Party.
“People attended the meeting with an agenda,” said Eugene Dokes, chairman of the St. Charles County Republican Central Committee. “When that happens, it’s really hard to accept the authority of the room.”
Members of crowd began shouting, “We make the rules!” among other chants as organizers tried to regain control, which they did briefly. But the shouting quickly escalated when it came time to appoint a chair of the caucus.
The police were called in, and two people were arrested on trespassing charges after being asked to leave when the meeting was then called to an early close.
“The police officers were worried about people’s safety and asked us to shut it down,” the event coordinator for the caucus, Bryan Spencer, said.
But some supporters of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, who said they previously worked out a deal to nominate someone to chair the caucus, claimed that organizers broke procedural rules and that Mr. Dokes was “railroading the caucus” by closing nominations for the chair too quickly.
St. Charles was supposed to select the most delegates of any single caucus in the state, and turnout was much higher than expected.
Turnout was low when Rick Santorum took this county (and the state) in a traditional primary election on Feb. 7. It was one of three states he won that day, giving his campaign a significant lift. But because of the unusual party and state circumstances, the vote awarded no delegates, many of whom would be chosen at caucuses on Saturday.
Strong support and organization for Ron Paul could have been seen as early as 6 a.m. in St. Charles, when supporters first started lining up outside the school. At one point, the line of people waiting to get in ran past the rows of trophy cases and out into the parking lot. It got so long that caucus officials had to corral voters into a small wrestling room while they waited to be checked in.
More than 900 people finally filtered into the gymnasium bleachers before the meeting finally began. Every seat was taken.
Volunteers for Mr. Paul’s campaign were passing out fliers as people entered, instructing them to follow the lead of two “Ron Paul Floor Captains,” who sat near the podium and planned to raise a bright yellow folder with hot pink stripes every time they wanted people to vote in a block.