Rick Santorum Squares Off with Occupy Movement

Feb 14, 2012 4:02am

TACOMA, Wash.—Mic Check!

Those were some of the first words Rick Santorum was greeted with at a rally Monday evening that was interrupted by Occupy protesters.

The candidate had to shout over about a dozen protesters, who have their camp set up in a park adjacent to the amphitheater. Santorum said they represent a “radical element.”

“I think it’s really important for you to understand what this radical element represents,” Santorum said to the cheering crowd of about 350 people. “Because what they represent is true intolerance.”

The former Pennsylvania senator compared the protesters to the recent decision by a U.S. Appeals court in California that ruled the state’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional.

“That’s what the 9th circuit said when they handed down the decision striking down proposition 8. What they said was that anybody who disagreed with them were irrational and the only reason they could possibly agree is they were a hater or a bigot,” Santorum said. “Now I gotta tell you. I don’t agree with these people but I respect their opportunity to be able to have a different point of view and I don’t think they’re a hater or a bigot because they disagree with me.”

On Monday the governor of Washington Christine Gregoire also signed a law making same sex marriage legal in the state.

The protesters shouted “We are the 99 percent” and some of the Santorum supporters chanted back, “USA!” all creating a chaotic atmosphere, but the candidate stayed on message even when the two sides got into a scuffle. Tacoma Police dragged out and cuffed two of the occupiers, but left the rest of the group there who continued to try and over shout Santorum.

After the event, another protester directly glitter bombed Santorum, and she was arrested as well. This is at least the sixth time Santorum has been doused with glitter at an event, but Monday evening was probably the most direct hit. The GOP chairman thanked him for coming and apologized for the glitter incident.

Sgt. Paul Jagodinski of the Tacoma Police Dept confirmed that three people were arrested at the rally.

At one point during the 45 minute event, the crowd started chanting, “Get a job!” to the group of protesters and it was then that the candidate then took the opportunity to try and empathize with the movement, although he also called them “intolerant and disrespectful.”

“You realize that there is a group in society that is being left behind. There’s a group, about one in three Americans don’t graduate from high school, and almost all of them, over three quarters of them, will end up in poverty at some point in time in this country. We’ve got to provide an opportunity for them, instead of standing here unemployed yelling at somebody, to go out and get a job and work for a living!” Santorum said before pausing while both sides screamed at each other. “I understand their frustration, for three years they haven’t been able to find work, they have a president who doesn’t care about them.”

Santorum criticized President Obama and accused him of encouraging the movement, saying Obama is “trying to divide America into one percentage versus another percentage. That’s not what a leader of this country should do but Barack Obama has sided with the 99 versus one.”

“He supported this movement, this movement that is intolerant and disrespectful. He supported them and embraced them,” Santorum said to loud cheers from his supporters. “Why? Because it’s consistent with exactly what Barack Obama’s trying to do with this country.”

He also criticized the president’s budget, which he released Monday morning, calling it “another tax the rich scheme.”

“The president’s budget came out today. Another trillion dollar budget deficit,” Santorum said. “More debt, more government, more control, less freedom, less opportunity.”

Despite the rowdy evening, the day was one of the best of Santorum’s campaign, with two national polls showing him in a dead heat with Mitt Romney. A Pew poll released Monday had Santorum at 30 percent and Romney at 28 percent, while a daily Gallup tracking poll has Romney at 32 percent and Santorum at 30 percent with likely Republican registered voters.

Santorum told reporters the polls are “all good news” and before he left gave a strong pitch to voters here who will caucus right before Super Tuesday on March 3rd. They will caucus after the next states to vote Arizona and rival Mitt Romney’s home state of Michigan. The Santorum campaign will launch their first ads in that state Tuesday.

“I ask here in Washington State, you have a great caucus coming up, right before the big Super Tuesday,” Santorum said. “You will be that momentum changer heading into those Super Tuesday states. Your caucus, your voice will speak very loudly about where the race is heading into these big Super Tuesday primaries. Your caucus across this state can have a huge impact on who the Republican nominee will be so I ask each and every one of you to do your duty, to live up to your honor, to come forward and to go to those caucuses.”

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