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Cleveland (AFP) - Republican delegates angered by the imminent presidential nomination of Donald Trump launched a loud, disruptive protest on the floor of the national convention, before their revolt was ultimately quashed.
The confrontation had been widely anticipated, but the extent of the tension on day one of the gathering in Cleveland was an open question -- and the turmoil appeared to catch many delegates off guard.
Several hundred anti-Trump delegates seeking to change the convention rules so that they could opt out of voting for the real estate mogul roared their disapproval on Monday after being denied the chance to debate the changes or have a full vote on them.
"Shame! Shame!" some shouted, as pro-Trump delegates yelled back. The convention screeched to a halt for several minutes, and in an extraordinary moment rarely seen in modern-day nominating conventions, several delegates stormed off the floor in protest.
At 4:08 pm local time, New Hampshire delegate Gordon Humphrey cupped his hands and shouted out to the convention chairman demanding a "parliamentary inquiry" about the roll call vote on the rules, which anti-Trump delegates had hoped would serve as a strong protest vote against the provocative billionaire.
His request was drowned out by the hubbub in Quicken Loans Arena. Amid the jeers and shouting, the rules were adopted.
"Thus we see how brown shirts operate," Humphrey, a former US senator firmly in the "Never Trump" camp told AFP, painting the Republican leaders as fascists.
"I'm not surprised but I am disgusted."
Humphrey earlier submitted a petition signed by a majority of delegates from nine states demanding a formal vote on the convention rules.
Trump's opponents had little chance of stopping his march but it would have served as a crippling protest vote against the candidate, who has dreamt of a glide path to the nomination as a way to tamp down divisions within the party and concerns that he is ill-fitted to be commander in chief.
- 'Trump! Trump!' -
Diana Shores, a 37-year-old housewife from Virginia, stood on a chair and chanted with others for a roll call vote.
"We deserve to be heard, this is the people's convention!" she said.
As she and other delegates steamed, virtually the entire Colorado delegation stormed out.
"I've heard a lot of good hooting and hollering in my time, but I've never seen a delegation walk off before," one Ohio delegate said.
Trump supporters wearing yellow caps launched into their own chants of "Trump! Trump! Trump!" Some imitated the attendees at Trump's campaign rallies and patriotically shouted "USA! USA!"
Illinois delegate Barbara Kois, a communications consultant in her sixties, said she was "outraged" by the rebellion.
"Donald Trump is the nominee, he won fair and square over many other candidates got the biggest vote in Republican primary history," said Kois, who exchanged sharp words with a Virginia delegate seated behind her.
"They shouldn't be allowed to be here."
The conference chair, stern-faced House Republican Steve Womack was greeted with an extraordinary ruckus below him on the floor.
All those in favor of adopting the rules say aye, Womack declared. "Aye!" more than 1,000 delegates shouted in unison.
Those against? The "No" shouts were loud but appeared to come from a slightly smaller contingent of rebel delegates and Womack declared the rules adopted.
But Womack was not out of the woods yet. Phill Wright, head of the Utah delegation, demanded to be heard.
With his microphone on, Wright called for a vote by roll call instead of by acclamation, as requested in the petition.
Without giving details, the chairman said three out of the nine state delegations had withdrawn from the petition, leaving the rebels one state shy of the seven needed for such action.
Wright and Senator Mike Lee of Utah exchanged looks and shook their heads, smelling a rat.
"We have the right to know which states have pulled out," Wright said. But his microphone was shut off, and with that, at 4:30 pm, the anti-Trump insurrection was quelled.
On Tuesday the convention formally votes to nominate Trump as their flagbearer. They will vote delegation by delegation, scrupulously following the results of the state primaries.