Today may go down in history as “The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” as the day some 2,000 people walked away from Francis Howell North High School in St. Peters, Mo., after political bedlam broke out during the 2012 St. Charles County Republican Presidential Caucus.
GOP voters began showing up at the high school two hours before the caucus was set to begin at 10 a.m. Though the meeting didn’t start on time as organizers worked to accommodate the near-overflow crowd, attendees would get more than they bargained for before the day ended.
The caucus began shortly after 11 a.m. with an invocation and pledge of allegiance. It was followed by a reading of the rules by County GOP Central Committee Member Bryan Spencer and an introduction of County GOP Chair Eugene Dokes.
Dokes reiterated the importance of the rules and emphasized the ban on recording devices before pausing to implore a man in the bleachers to turn off his video camera or face arrest.
When the man refused to put away his tripod-mounted camera, Dokes asked members of the St. Peters Police Department to arrest the man and escort him out of the building. That, of course, drew heated objections from members of the crowd — including Ron Paul supporters and others — who seemed to believe transparency should trump rules during the caucus. After being drowned out by the volume of those objections, GOP officials conferred with police and, within a half hour, more than a dozen more uniformed officers arrived at the scene.
Order was never fully restored, and, after much threatening, GOP officials announced that police officials had advised them to shutdown the meeting due to safety concerns. Soon after, Caucus Chair Matt Ehlen announced that he had received a motion and a second to do just that — adjourn the caucus.
As a result of that adjournment, according to Ehlen, no GOP delegates will represent the Show-Me State’s largest Republican stronghold at the congressional district, state and national conventions.
Most of the people with whom I spoke after the meeting shared a belief that Ron Paul supporters were responsible for most of the disruptive behavior. Others shared the belief that county GOP officials — namely Dokes — should bear much of the blame for the outcome of the caucus.
According to attendees who contacted me after the event, at least one man was arrested at the scene. According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, two men were arrested. The black police helicopter seen circling above the school after the event did not land. <sarc>
See also: This KSDK-TV report.
UPDATE 3/17/12 at 3:42 p.m. Central: The video below, poor audio and all, purports to show police arresting one Brent Stafford. But for what?
UPDATE 3/17/12 at 4:09 p.m. Central: Here’s a good piece by Examiner.com’s Doug Edelman.
UPDATE 3/17/12 at 6:25 p.m. Central: Even The New York Times had a reporter there. Here’s his article.
UPDATE 3/17/12 at 6:57 p.m. Central: This video below shows the view from the other side of the gymnasium. Pretty damning of the GOP folks in charge.
UPDATE 3/17/12 at 10:26 p.m. Central: A post published on The Daily Paul offers Brent Stafford’s take on today’s events, including some deal-making that seems to have preceded the caucus.
UPDATE 3/17/12 at 10:52 p.m. Central: Click here to see what happened today during the Greene County GOP Caucus in Springfield, Mo.
UPDATE 3/18/12 at 10:03 p.m. Central: I Am A Man Without A Political Party
UPDATE 3/22/12 at 5:45 p.m. Central: Preliminary indications are that another caucus will be held, according to this article.
UPDATE 3/23/12 Almost Noon Central: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch just reported that a new caucus will be held April 10 at 7 p.m. at the St. Charles Convention Center and that recording devices will be allowed.
UPDATE 4/11/12 at 7:31 a.m. Central: Ron Paul wins do-over St. Charles County caucus.