By Jordy Yager - 08/30/12 05:03 AM EDT
TAMPA, Fla. — A group of delegates for Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) held a protest at the doors of the convention center Thursday evening just hours before Mitt Romney accepted the party’s nomination.
The Paul delegates used the final night of the Republican National Convention to blast GOP leadership and the rules committee for breaking procedure and not holding a roll-call vote earlier on two new rule changes, which they took as a slight to the libertarian lawmaker.
“We have to come together as a grassroots, commit to stay involved, commit to take our party back, and to save the United States of America by restoring the constitutional order. The Republican Party is the party to do that and we’re going to do it, because we are the future.”
The group held scores of yellow signs that read, “Grassroots,” and several delegates said they recently received an email from Paul asking them not to cause a disturbance during the convention. They all followed his direction, but were still furious about the rule changes.
The modifications to Rule 12 and Rule 16 allow the Republican National Committee to change procedure every 2 years instead of every 4 years, and grant the presidential candidate with the majority of votes the power to discount delegates who switch their allegiance between their state convention and the national one.
The Paul delegates said they don’t like the two rules because they see them as a power grab by the RNC in an attempt to tightly control the nomination process and gear it towards the outcome they want. Paul backers contend, however, that they would accept the rules if the proper floor procedure had been followed.
The rules were agreed to by a voice vote. But the group of Paul supporters said there was a roughly equal number of delegates yelling “aye” and “nay,” and that a roll-call vote should have been held to determine who had the majority.
Instead, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was presiding over the proceedings, declared that the “ayes” had it and moved on with the committee’s business to the sound of boos and shouts of, “Shame on you.”
Delegates from Washington, Texas, California, Missouri, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan and North Carolina were among the more than 100 convention-goers who gathered outside the forum. They stood in a huddled mass, ushering reporters and cameramen to the center where several delegates voiced their grievances.
The Paul supporters then walked into the Tampa Bay Times Forum and onto the floor en masse, in an attempt to show convention-goers and lawmakers that they are unified in support of Paul.
“We believe in a republican form of government dissent is the truest form of patriotism,” said Braeden Wilkerson, a Virginia delegate for Paul.
After many lengthy discussions about what possible actions to take, including the possibility of a formal “walkout” by the delegates on the floor during Romney’s speech, the group decided that a “walk-in” would be more effective in expressing their refusal to be marginalized by the Republican Party.
“If we would walk out, it would obviously send a different message than the message that we are the future, we are the party, we’re here to stay,” said Katja Delavar, a Washington delegate for Paul.
The Paul delegates are a raucous crew and have made their presence felt at the convention.
On Wednesday night, while former GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) delivered his convention speech, several hundred Paul supporters spontaneously marched from their seats in the stands and exited the center in protest of how their candidate has been treated.
— This story was first posted at 3:56 p.m. and has been updated.