Several supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) sustained injuries while being arrested during the Louisiana Republican Party’s state convention over the weekend, in a conflict that engulfed the meeting after Paul’s supporters overwhelmed other delegates and voted in new leadership, only to be ignored.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) won the Louisiana primary and received 10 delegates, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) took second, earning five delegates along with it. Paul finished fourth in the primary, behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), but his supporters dominated the state’s caucusing process in April, meaning he stood to gain as many as 30 delegates at the state convention.
And with an audience widely stacked in his favor on Saturday, it seemed likely that Paul would again emerge from a state convention the unexpected victor… That is, until the LAGOP chairman turned the process on its head.
The conflict hinged upon an alleged violation of the state party’s rules by Chairman Roger Francis Villere, Jr., who’s headed up the LAGOP since 2004. Paul supporters claim he called upon a former Rules Committee chairman, who had been defeated the night prior, in order to implement rules that would marginalize Paul’s delegates. That’s when Alex Helwig, a Paul supporter who’d claimed he had won the race to chair the rules committee, stood up and objected to the chairman’s actions, only to be ignored.
As Helwig’s protest continued, cameras caught Villere saying: “This is not debatable. He is the chairman of the rules committee. I would ask you to sit down. We told you to sit down… I’m going to ask you to be seated, or I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I’m going to have you escorted out if you don’t leave.”
“Mr. Villere, with all due respect, it pains me to do this,” Helwig responded. “I supported you in your run for Lt. Governor. You are a good man.”
“This is not debatable,” Villere replied. “I don’t need this.”
In a video published to YouTube, police officers seize Helwig by both arms and drag him out of the room, breaking several of his fingers in the process, according to Ron Paul 2012 press release. It all transpired as as the crowd chanted: “The chairman must remove! The chairman must remove!”
That’s when the convention split.
Paul delegates moved to request more information on the chairman’s decision, but he continued as if they weren’t present. So, they decided then and there to elect a new chairman, picking state central committeeman Henry Herford Jr., a Paul supporter, to lead the party.
When Villere refused to acknowledge the vote, Paul’s delegates picked up their chairs and turned away from him, forming a new convention on the spot and passing a microphone to their new chairman.
Moments later, Herford, too, was seized by police. Camera-wielding Paul supporters surrounded the fracas as Herford pleaded with officers to be gentle due to his prosthetic hip. “I have a handicap! I’m handicapped!” he said as they pulled him to the ground.
Herford said later, after he was treated for dislocating his prosthetic hip, “It felt like somebody had kicked me, brought me down. They said I was resisting arrest, but they never said I was under arrest. I didn’t leave when they told me to leave, but I never was told to leave… I have a room here in this hotel and I’m on the state central committee. I don’t know how I could be in an improper place.”
John Tate, Ron Paul’s national campaign manager, said, “Mr. Herford has a prosthetic hip and according to a doctor at the scene it appears as though the prosthetic was dislocated and may require replacement. The injury occurred as he was beginning to call to order the newly re-formed convention.”
A Shreveport police spokesman later told Reuters that Herford resisted arrest and was ultimately cited for the misdemeanor offense of remaining on private property after being forbidden.
Tate characterized the incident as Herford being “attacked by some security officials who didn’t realize that the body had voted out the previous chairman.”
The re-formed convention, however, was not recognized by the LAGOP hierarchy, which went on to select its own delegates. Paul supporters also selected their own delegates, claiming they had a clearly established majority. There was no resolution between the two groups.
Tate called the outcome a “positive conclusion,” following a meeting between Paul delegates and Romney officials, who pledged to help ensure Paul’s supporters have a voice at the national convention. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured at the convention,” he said. “And, we thank all responsible convention participants for ending the day on a more unified note.”
With the LAGOP descending into chaos, the Republican National Committee of contests will be tasked with deciding, purely by fiat, which group of Louisiana delegates will be allowed to represent Louisiana at the party’s national convention in August.
Paul delegates are already on the outs with the RNC, which has threatened to block the Nevada delegation for allegedly seating too many Paul supporters. Romney supporters in that state have instead thrown their support to an outside group called Team Nevada, which The Las Vegas Sun‘s Jon Ralston called a “shadow state party” set up to conduct establishment Republicans’ political affairs in the swing state.
Other states have seen similar post-election surges for Paul, and he’s encouraged his supporters to continue using arcane party rules to essentially replace neoconservative Republicans with more libertarian-minded officials.
The LAGOP did not respond to a request for comment.
This video, showing the arrest of Ron Paul supporter Henry Herford during the 2012 LAGOP state convention, was published to YouTube on June 2, 2012.