“I’m handicapped! I need a doctor!” “Sir, this is the chairman!” The Louisiana State Republican Convention descended into chaos Saturday morning, with several delegates being arrested and the convention chairman being thrown to the ground by police. Sources report that state party officials panicked when it became clear that Ron Paul delegates commanded a decisive majority of the delegates on the floor – at least 111 of 180 (62%).
The convention began peacefully with a prayer and invocation. Roger Villere, Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, then attempted to recognize the former Chair of the Convention’s Rules Committee who had been ousted from his position last night. When Alex Helwig, the newly elected Rules Committee chair, rose to address the delegation, Mr. Villere ordered him removed from the floor. Video footage shows Shreveport police dragging Mr. Helwig out of the room despite his protests that he was a duly elected delegate.
At this point, a motion was made to elect a new convention chairman. Henry Herford, Jr., was elected by an overwhelming majority. Nevertheless, Mr. Villere – who had appointed himself the convention chairman – refused to relinquish control of the gathering. As the delegates began turning their chairs around, Mr. Herford, the newly elected chairman, rose to call the convention to order. Sources report that, in an act of desperation, Mr. Villere and state party officials then ordered police to attack Mr. Herford.
Video footage shows an older gentleman in a blue shirt being violently dragged away by police and then shoved to the ground. When Mr. Herford protests that he is handicapped and would like to press charges for assault against the police officers, a Shreveport police officer is seen smirking in response. Sources report that Mr. Herford, 57, has a prosthetic hip that was dislocated during the assault.
Many observers expressed shock that the establishment would resort to such violent tactics against fellow Republicans. Saturday morning’s incidents come on the heels of increasing panic among state party leaders in the aftermath of Ron Paul’s decisive victory in the Louisiana caucuses in April.
For example, on Thursday night, the State Central Committee (SCC) of the Louisiana Republican Party voted to completely overhaul the existing convention rules. Fearful of a resounding Ron Paul victory, the SCC’s “supplemental rules” were designed to substantially weaken the authority of the State Convention, reportedly making it nothing more than a rubber-stamp for the dictates of state party insiders.
While the state party insisted that the “supplemental rules” were unamendable and overrode the existing rules as well as Robert’s Rules of Order, legal observers remarked that the new rules were in material violation of the Rules of the Republican National Committee.
According to RNC Rule 15(c)(12), “No delegates or alternate delegates shall be elected, selected, allocated, or bound pursuant to any Republican Party rule of a state or state law which materially changes the manner of electing, selecting, allocating, or binding delegates or alternate delegates… if such changes were adopted or made effective after October 1 of the year before the year in which the national convention is to be held.”
After Convention Chairman Henry Herford’s arrest, the delegates proceeded to elect a new chair and continued with the business of the convention. They reportedly elected a slate of 27 Ron Paul supporters to fill 12 of the 18 district delegate slots and 15 of 20 at-large delegate slots, before certifying the results with the RNC.
Meanwhile, state party leaders held their own convention in one corner of the room with about 30 delegates in attendance. Local media is reporting that the minority convention also elected a slate of delegates, although it is unlikely that the legitimacy of their slate will be recognized by the RNC.
According to a statement released by the national Paul campaign, the newly elected delegates met with Scott Sewell, the Louisiana Chair of the Romney campaign, who said “he would do everything he could to make sure the delegation was seated.” The State Central Committee also met after the convention but reportedly disbanded due to lack of quorum.
Opinions remain divided as to whether the convention chaos that has been witnessed at recent state conventions across the country is a result of a coordinated national effort by Republican party leaders to disenfranchise Ron Paul delegates.
In both Maine and Nevada, for example, Romney supporters were caught distributing counterfeit delegate slates. In Arizona, there were complaints of ballot stuffing and the convention was eventually shut down when it appeared likely that a Ron Paul supporter would be elected as the national committeewoman. In Massachusetts, after Ron Paul supporters won 16 of 27 district delegate slots, state party leaders quickly moved to try to invalidate the results.
In spite of the disorder at the Louisiana State Convention, many Republicans expressed satisfaction that they were able to select a strong delegation of constitutional conservatives to attend the national convention. “[This] proves that the Ron Paul Revolution is alive and well in the state of Louisiana,” said Shawn Wilson, 30, a state delegate from Louisiana’s 6th district.