Chaos Erupts At GOP Caucus in St. Charles, Missouri; Two Ron Paul Supporters Arrested
Last week, I wrote a short piece about the confusing caucus process in Missouri. In that article, I argued that because Ron Paul backers would be educated about Parliamentary procedure and the caucus process, they would not be subject to any type of takeover in Missouri. I was unaware, however, that GOP Central Committee officials could just call the police and have people arrested who disagree with them. In St. Charles County, that is precisely what happened this past Saturday.
Over the weekend, one of the largest caucuses in the state was shut down without any delegates being elected as a feud erupted between local GOP officials and the crowd of citizens regarding the rules which would govern the caucus. In the end, two arrests were made and a firestorm has erupted over the incident which appears to directly contradict the tenets of the entire election process.
Fortunately, thanks to numerous videos and eyewitness testimony, a fairly clear picture of the bizarre events which unfolded at the caucus has emerged. Unfortunately, what transpired leaves more questions than answers with regards to the state of politics in this country. Below, is a blow by blow account of the controversy that exploded at the St. Charles County caucus over the weekend.
As caucus goers arrived and registered in St. Charles at Francis Howell North High School, a straw poll was conducted despite the fact that according to State GOP rules, straw polls are prohibited. Brent Stafford, who has delivered a detailed account of the day's events, said that he felt Bryan Spencer, Chairman of the Caucus Committee for the St. Charles GOP, “was trying to rig the process to select delegates proportionally based on who was in attendance.”
The meeting began about an hour late due to a massive turnout. The temporary chairman, Eugene Dokes, who is also the Chairman of the St. Charles county Republican Committee, began the meeting with a bombshell, telling everyone that no video or audio recording would be allowed. The crowd erupted in disgust. This was not an issue that only pertained to Ron Paul supporters. Boos could be heard coming from all sides. Chants of “We make the rules,” and “Shame” could be heard throughout the gymnasium.
It is a shame that people wanted to conduct this process in secret, although hardly a surprise.
Subsequently, Dokes told everyone that he would not continue until all video and audio recording had been stopped. It of course did not stop, and Mr. Dokes called the police.
Police arrived from a number of Missouri jurisdictions, including St. Charles City, St. Charles County, St. Peters, and the Missouri Highway Patrol. A police helicopter was also sent to observe the crowd.
Upon arrival, the police forced everyone in attendance to turn their recording devices off. Based on a number of videos that caught the entire debacle on tape, not everyone complied.
Eugene Dokes, the temporary chairman whose only real job was to open the floor for nominations for a permanent chairman and then let the body elect that chairman, did not follow the correct procedure. Instead, he appointed the Parliamentarian and the Credentials Committee, both jobs that should be done by the elected chairman.
Points of order and boos went unrecognized. At this point it was clear that Mr. Dokes had gone rogue, trampling on Parliamentary rules.
Going into the caucus, Romney supporters and Paul supporters had agreed ahead of time to nominate, and elect the aforementioned Mr. Stafford for the Chair, as he has a reputation for being honest and fair. He is also a Paul supporter and an expert in Parliamentary process. By all accounts, his first priority was to have a fair caucus.
After getting off to a rough start, Mr. Dokes opened the floor for chair nominations. “Brent Stafford! Brent Stafford,” was all that could be heard. Ignoring the preference of the majority, Mr. Dokes instead recognized a woman who nominated another attendee named Matt Ehlen.
Dokes subsequently then called for a voice vote without recognizing anyone else. It is important to note that a chairman who knew the proper rules would never allow a voice vote in the first place. Each person should be counted.
“All in favor,” he said. Several “Ayes” could be heard.
“All opposed.” The room erupted with nays, boos, and shouts of disapproval. The noise continued for several seconds.
“The ‘ayes' have it,” Dokes declared, once again causing the crowd of about 2,500 to erupt. Many people spoke up.
“Point of order. We demand division!” Many caucus goers were educated about Robert's Rules of Order, and they didn't hesitate to exercise their right to object. “Division!” They demanded repeatedly.
Let me note again that this was not just Ron Paul supporters. According to Brent Stafford's account, there were about 2,000 people in the room who were upset with the way Dokes tried to ram-rod Matt Ehlen into the chair position.
No one else was recognized and Mr. Ehlen took the podium. After briefly attempting to calm the crowd, he declared that St. Charles would not be sending any delegates to the Congressional District Convention and the State Convention. He then found motions to adjourn and ended the meeting.
Brent Stafford, being a parliamentary expert and also being accompanied by a parliamentarian that he had hired, took to the podium to make an announcement. He told the crowd not to leave -- that they would reconvene. According to Mr. Stafford and the parliamentarian that he hired for this event, they had every right to do so since no business had been conducted according to the Call to Convention.
Just as Mr. Stafford had begun to speak, Eugene Dokes unplugged the microphone. At that point the police began ushering everyone outside.
Video can be seen on YouTube of Mr. Stafford standing on a chair, speaking to a crowd of about 350 people outside the high school. He was explaining that they needed to make a roster and how to do it. He was the most knowledgeable person in attendance, and one of the few that had the experience and know-how to reconvene the meeting according to the rules.
Amazingly, however, police stepped in and arrested Mr. Stafford, the one man whom everyone was depending on to get them back into the caucus to continue the meeting in a fair and democratic manner according to Robert's Rules of Order.
Case closed. Everyone was forced to leave.
The official reason for Stafford's arrest was “trespassing.” In addition Kenneth Suitter, also a Ron Paul supporter, was arrested and charged with trespassing. Clearly, these sort of tactics raise a disturbing question -- why would the police aide Mr. Dokes in this treasonous display of voter fraud?
Unfortunately, I guess I was wrong in that previous article. There was a possibility of a takeover.
I just don't think that anyone imagined it would happen like this.
A few national news sources have taken an interest in this story, and not surprisingly, some of them are distorting the facts to make Dr. Paul's supporters look like the instigators. Ron Paul supporters were said to have been “boisterous and disruptive.” This may be true to an extent, but what are they supposed to do when the caucus is being hijacked right before their eyes?
After the apparent fraud in Maine and Nevada, the confusion involved in choosing these delegates all over Missouri, and this fiasco in St. Charles, many are losing faith in our leaders.
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