A disagreement between supporters of presidential hopeful Ron Paul and the Republican Party establishment in Louisiana led to arrests and injuries during the state's GOP’s convention over the weekend.
The party-elected committeeman of the state convention was wrestled to the ground by police and suffered a dislocated hip during an altercation in Shreveport, LA on Saturday. Cops on hand at the Louisiana GOP convention attempted to arrest at least two supporters of Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) after other members of the state’s Republican Party ordered that they leave the building.
Although Ron Paul is trailing in the polls behind the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the congressman’s campaign for the presidency is continuing nonetheless. A carefully orchestrated strategy of relying on state delegates to represent the congressman at the upcoming Republican National Convention this August in Tampa, Florida is still garnering new supporters for Rep. Paul, yet at the same time is drawing attacks from the GOP establishment and backers of Romney. This time, a disagreement between camps turned violent.
Trouble began following a vote on Friday evening to elect Alex Helwig, a known supporter of Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), as head of the Louisiana Republican Party’s rule’s committee. On Saturday, however, State GOP Chairman Roger Francis Villere, Jr. called on the former holder of that position to guide the convention’s course. Those that favored the newly elected Helwig objected to Villere’s motion and demanded that the democratically chosen committeeman preside over the discussion; Villere refused to budge.
Helwig reportedly got out of his chair and tried to explain to the chairman that he had been elected to oversee the convention’s rules, only to be snubbed by Villere.
“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,” Villere is caught on camera warning Helwig.
Under a Helwig committee, it is expected that the state’s GOP would send more Paul-favoring delegates to Tampa than would a more mainstream Republican leader.
As Helwig continued demanding to be heard, law enforcement officers apprehended him and removed him from the building. He reportedly suffered several broken fingers in the scuffle. That’s not where it ended, though.
Outraged at the party’s refusal to here Helwig, Ron Paul delegates at the convention demanded that Villere be replaced by a chairman that would abide by the GOP’s rules. Several Paul supporters then opted to elect a new chairman on the spot: fellow Paul campaigner Henry Herford Jr. Once again, Villere refused to acknowledge the party’s vote and carried on with the convention much to the chagrin of the split GOP. Continuing on their own, however, the new sanction of the state Republican Party turned their chairs and began a convention of their own — until police returned.
After the second convention became underway, cops stepped in and tried to apprehend Chairman Herford, 56. A spokesperson for the Shreveport Police Department tells Reuters that Herford was asked to leave the building and for failing to do so was cited with a misdemeanor. The department says that Herford resisted arrest, yet video recorded during the incident clearly shows the man pleading with police, “I’m handicapped!” His prosthetic hip was dislocated during the altercation and police are also caught on camera demanding credentials from convention goers claiming to be doctors after Herford calls out for medical aid.
John Tate, the national campaign manager for Ron Paul, says in a statement that police intervention and disregard for the rules shows that the establishment sought to "use illegally adopted rules to deny Ron Paul supporters an opportunity to attend the Republican National Convention.” Tens of thousands of Ron Paul supporters from around the country are expected to attend the RNC later this year.