Brooks Brothers riot
The Brooks Brothers riot was a demonstration at a meeting of election canvassers in Miami-Dade County, Florida on November 19, 2000, during a recount of votes made during the 2000 United States presidential election. The name refers to a traditional brand of suits associated with conservative business dress.
Hundreds of paid GOP operatives descended upon South Florida to protest the state's recounts, with at least half a dozen of the demonstrators at Miami-Dade paid by George W. Bush's recount committee. Several of these protesters were identified as Republican staffers and a number later went on to jobs in the Bush administration.
The "Brooks Brothers" name is a reference to the protesters' corporate attire; described as "50-year-old white lawyers with cell phones and Hermès ties", the astroturfing protesters were corporate-sponsored and flown in, as opposed to being local citizens concerned about counting practices.
The demonstration was organized by Republican operatives, sometimes referred to as the "Brooks Brothers Brigade", to oppose the recount of ballots during the Florida election recount. Realizing that they could not meet a court-ordered deadline, the canvassers decided to limit the recount to the 10,750 ballots rejected by computer, and moved the counting process to a smaller room closer to the ballot-scanning equipment to speed up the process, while restricting media access to 25 feet away while they continued. Republicans objected to this change of plans and insisted the canvassers must do a full recount. At this time, New York Rep. John Sweeney told an aide to "Shut it down." The demonstration turned violent, and according to the NY Times, "several people were trampled, punched or kicked when protesters tried to rush the doors outside the office of the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections. Sheriff's deputies restored order." DNC aide Luis Rosero was kicked and punched. Within two hours after the riot died down, the canvassing board unanimously voted to shut down the count, in part due to perceptions that the process wasn't open or fair, and in part because the court-mandated deadline was impossible to meet.
The controversial incident was set in motion by John E. Sweeney, a New York Republican who was nicknamed "Congressman Kick-Ass" by President Bush for his work in Florida. Sweeney defended his actions by arguing that his aim was not to stop the hand recount but to restore the process to public view. Some Bush supporters did acknowledge they hoped the recount would end. "We were trying to stop the recount; Bush had already won," said Evilio Cepero, a reporter for WAQI, an influential Spanish talk radio station in Miami. "We were urging people to come downtown and support and protest this injustice." A Republican lawyer commented, "People were pounding on the doors, but they had an absolute right to get in." The protest prevented official observers and members of the press from getting in.
A partial list:
- Roger Stone, a self-described "GOP Hitman" and former member of Nixon's Committee for the Re-Election of the President
- Matt Schlapp, a former House aide who became the White House political director during the Bush administration
- Garry Malphrus, who became deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Bush administration
- Rory Cooper, a former staffer for the National Republican Congressional Committee
- Tom Pyle, a former Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) staffer
- Roger Morse, a former House aide who became a lobbyist
- Duane Gibson, an aide on the House Resources Committee who became a lobbyist and consultant
- Chuck Royal, legislative assistant to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.),
- Layna McConkey Peltier, a former Senate and House aide
- Kevin Smith, a former GOP House aide
- Steven Brophy, a former GOP Senate aide
- Jeff Bloemker, a former aide to Sen. Fred Thompson R-TN)
This riot was dramatized in the made-for-TV film Recount.
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