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Tuesday
Feb142012

Santorum Squares Off with Occupy Protesters in Washington State

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(TACOMA, Wash.) -- Rick Santorum's rally in Tacoma, Wash., Monday evening was interrupted by Occupy protesters, but the candidate didn't back down.

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

“I think it’s really important for you to understand what this radical element represents,” he 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.”

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 to stifle Santorum's speech.

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 Santorum for coming and apologized for the glitter incident.

Sgt. Paul Jagodinski of the Tacoma Police Department 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 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.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio