CANTON — A nationally orchestrated plan by Ron Paul supporters to disrupt county Republican conventions in an attempt to get their delegates elected to the national convention in Tampa, Fla., made waves in Cherokee County and resulted in police making an appearance at the gathering of local GOP members.
Canton Police officers were dispatched to the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center Saturday afternoon after a party member allegedly refused to follow parliamentary procedures during the delegate selection process.
According to an incident report from the police department, First Vice Chair Brian Laurens was ejected from the convention for interrupting the procedures. Laurens, who on Thursday called the incident minor, resigned from his position with the party in the days following the convention, citing family and business obligations as the reason he was stepping down.
Pete Costello, who chaired the convention, said several vocal supporters of the Texas congressman were “trying to create chaos” by “popping up” during the proceedings, and challenging every nomination for delegates to the district convention. Costello said that despite the disruptions, the county GOP had a successful convention and got their delegates chosen.
Other conventions around the metro area also had issues with the Ron Paul supporters. And conventions in Maine, Washington state, Alaska, Nevada and North Dakota were also allegedly interrupted by supporters of the candidate.
In Cherokee, local party leaders said the meeting did take a long time and got tense at times, but ultimately ended in success.
According to the police report, John Marinko, the county’s vice chair for events who was serving as the sergeant-at-arms during the convention, told the officer that arrived in response to a call for help that Laurens did not follow the rules during the meeting.
Marinko said in the police report that Laurens, 29, was asked several times to “conduct himself in a proper manner,” but refused to do so.
The report alleges Laurens refused to sit down and, when asked to do so, began yelling and “causing a scene.”
Fellow sergeant-at-arms Lawrence Mrozinski, who told police that he spoke with a “final authority” at the convention who wanted Laurens removed, offered Laurens one more chance to calm down, but he refused.
Mrozinski told police Laurens became physical when Laurens “body checked him with his chest and stomach,” and placed his hands on Mrozinksi’s shoulders.
The report indicated Laurens was informed he could return to the proceedings if he calmed down.
When reached by phone on Thursday afternoon, Laurens said the incident “wasn’t really anything.”
“The sergeant-at-arms was being a little bit outside of his power of what he thought he could and couldn’t do,” he said, noting that’s all he wanted to say about the incident.
Laurens, a graduate of Kennesaw State University, has been a campaign manager for Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, statewide field director for former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and consultant for Rep. Sean Jerguson (R-Holly Springs).
Along with serving as first vice chair, Laurens has served as precinct chairman, a county officer, a district officer and has served on the Georgia Republican Party State Committee.
Marinko on Thursday said the events were “anti-climatic,” adding there were some people not abiding by parliamentary procedures during the meeting.
“It was totally out of order,” he said. “It did take up time and it did cause a disruption.”
Marinko said Cherokee’s disruption was not as “monumental” as Republican conventions in Cobb, Gwinnett, and DeKalb.
He added that Costello, along with county chairman Bob Rugg “were able to handle the situation very respectfully.”
“They (Ron Paul supporters) were just trying to make their presence known, which is fine,” he said. “That’s part of the democratic process. As a nation, it’s one of our rights to free speech and to be able to discuss issues and concerns. They had some legitimate concerns and we took all those things into account.”