Ron Paul Supporters Drive Rowdy Missouri Caucus

Missouri Republicans had a raucous Saturday, mostly due to conflicts between Ron Paul supporters and traditional Republicans as they gathered at caucus sites to help decide who will be the party's nominee for president of the United States.

Most of the reported incidents appeared to be the result of a combination of pugnacious Paul supporters and disorganization.

In St. Charles county, Paul supporters got into an argument with the caucus chair. They had sought to elect their own chair and adopt their own rules, according to caucus procedure. They were also carrying video cameras, though, which is against caucus rules.

An off-duty police officer, who was hired to provide security for the event, filed a trespassing complaint against Paul supporters. About 10 police officers, including a police helicopter, arrived on the scene. Two Paul supporters were arrested and the caucus was shut down. The caucus for that district will have to be rescheduled for a later date.

"It's like the Hatfields and McCoys around here," a former GOP chairman for the county told ABC News.

A political blogger at the event tweeted that order had broken down in the first 10 seconds and, "Man with camera insists on staying. Officers move in. Crowd goes ape."

There were reports of "boisterous" and "obnoxious" Paul supporters in other districts, but St. Charles was the only place where arrests were made.

In Clay county, the caucus chair threatened to have some voters forcibly removed after arguments became intense. The Paul supporters complained that they were following the rules but being ignored by caucus organizers.

"We raised a number of points of order, points of information, points of parliamentary inquiry, many of which have been ignored," John Findlay, a Paul supporter, told The Kansas City Star.

A blogger who describes herself as an "anarchist guided by biblical principles" posted a message from David C., a Paul supporter at the Lincoln county caucus.

"They practically ignored the state GOP guidelines and rules. They severely butchered Robert's Rules of Order," he complained. "We prayed for the rules to be followed and that honesty, integrity and transparency would prevail throughout the scheduled event."

While the state convention is governed by Robert's Rule of Order, each county can use their own rules and new rules can be adopted after electing a caucus chairman.

In Boone County, Paul supporters were successful in electing their own caucus chair and were able to elect a slate of mostly Paul delegates.

Inexperience may be partly to blame for the contentious process. Missouri is accustomed to using a primary, rather than a caucus, to select delegates. The state party opted for a caucus this year to avoid a penalty from the national party for scheduling its primary too early.

Paul is currently in last place in the national delegate count and has not won in any states. He is running a mostly insurgent campaign by attracting independent, libertarian and young voters who do not generally identify as Republicans. Even without winning the nomination, he could have some influence on the party and its platform if he has enough delegates at the convention and if there is no clear front-runner at the convention.

Rick Santorum easily won Missouri's Feb. 7 primary, but those results were non-binding. Most, but not all, counties chose delegates Saturday to the congressional district caucuses, which will then choose delegates to the state convention. The district conventions and state convention will then choose 49 of Missouri's 52 delegates to the national convention.

Since many of the delegates chosen on Saturday were non-binding, there are additional steps in the process, and the proceedings were marred by contention and confusion, there was no clear winner.

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