All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

Occupy OKC "mic checks" Santorum; melee ensues

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Conservative leaders including the Rev. Steve Kern and State Reps. Sally Kern and Mike Reynolds pray over Rick Santorum following his campaign speech.
Fertile Ground Compost Service

OKLAHOMA CITY – It was right after the words “mic check” were uttered by Occupy OKC ringleader Jay Fox, that things got really interesting in the crowd listening to a campaign speech by Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

“Racist, sexist, anti-gay, zealot, fascist, go away!”

“Get your hate, out of my state!”

“Pro-life, pro-war, what are you fighting for?”

This and other chants aimed at Santorum were yelled at the candidate as he tried to speak over the din.

It didn’t take long for both male and female Santorum supporters to get in the faces of Fox and other Occupiers and yell at them for being “intolerant.” And one man, gripping a Santorum sign and wearing a cap with an image of the state of Oklahoma covered with a Christian cross, was particularly angry and yelling and was in the thick of the violent scuffle between Occupiers and the pro-Santorum faction.

The Occupiers responded by saying the actions of the Santorum folks wasn't very Christ-like.

The Santorum folks had it and Fox was taken down quite forcefully. A little startled and with a scratch on his face, Fox got up. He continued chanting with the others while a flustered Santorum continued to try and give his message while noting the “intolerance” of the Left. When Red Dirt Report saw Fox make his way to the front of the crowd holding a Santorum sign, we suspected an encounter would occur - and it did.

“Listen to him first and then make your point,” a man said, inches from the face of a chanting female Occupier who was holding her fist in the air. Several men tried to push Santorum campaign signs in the faces of the protesters in hopes of muffling their loud voices. Several signs were torn up in the process and were trampled under foot.

It was clear that the protesters were grating on the Santorum supporters who were soon countering the Occupiers by chanting, “We pick Rick! We pick Rick!”

Occupiers changed their chant to “Rick is a trick!” “Rick is a trick!” before claiming “Wall Street pays for your campaign!”

It was borderline mayhem there in the middle of the crowd as TV cameras and print journalists – and Red Dirt Report – watched it unfold. Later, Red Dirt Report would get to interview Santorum as he left the area of the State Capitol, where the campaign rally was held.

But before long the Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers pushed their way through the crowd and convinced the Occupy OKC protesters to leave the premises, which they did.

And that was just a part of the interesting nature of this campaign Oklahoma campaign stop, the second for Santorum. He is looking for a victory here on Super Tuesday. Considering the nice weather and it being a Sunday afternoon, Red Dirt Report had expected more people to be at the rally.

Throughout the crowd, there was a lot of talk about the Bible and about Christian beliefs. Ironically, against all the “God talk,” the blues-rock band playing loudly on the portico and providing the pre-event entertainment kicked out a rockin’ cover of Stevie Wonder’s hit “Superstition.”

Scattered throughout the crowd, numbering in the hundreds, volunteers handed out Santorum campaign yard signs to any and all takers.

At the Rick Santorum campaign table, Guthrie native Josh Wiggins said there had been a lot of interest in Oklahoma in the senator’s presidential campaign.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Wiggins said. “Really the first time I’ve been involved with something like this.”

Back in the crowd, tensions were rising between those supportive of Santorum and those who did not agree with the candidate’s socially-conservative message.

A man and a woman, neither of whom we were able to identify, were arguing with pro-Santorum folks who disagreed with the woman’s protest sign criticized Santorum’s meager charitable giving. It read: “Rick Santorum: 2010 Income $923,411, 2010 Charity, $16,252 – 1 %”

Another man, Oklahoma City resident Manny Whitlock, was also in the midst of a heated discussion with two Santorum-sign-holding men who disagreed with Whitlock’s pro-same-sex marriage position.

“Are gay people getting married in Oklahoma?” Whitlock asked the men.

The men said they were not, but that it wasn’t an issue here, it was a state-by-state issue.

Whitlock and the men continued their back-and-forth argument on gay marriage.

“Marriage is a God-given right,” said Whitlock.

“Yeah, between a man and woman,” shot back a young man with a shaved head and sunglasses.

“I believe between a man and a man, if they want,” responded Whitlock.

When Red Dirt Report talked to Whitlock, he said he wanted to see if these purported Constitution-loving conservatives really supported true freedom.

“Rick Santorum is gearing his message towards these people,” Whitlock said, referring to socially conservative voters.

“At the Ron Paul event not one person said a negative word to me,” Whitlock said.

Speaking of which, Ron Paul supporters like Oklahoma City residents Josh and Sydney Herren made their quiet presence known by holding signs reading “Revolution 2012 Ron Paul,” with an emphasis on “evol,” meaning “love” backwards. There was no obvious presence by supporters of Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

And while Whitlock’s encounter was nothing like the later action by members of Occupy OKC, who were eventually escorted from the premises by troopers with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

OHP Trooper Gannon would later tell Red Dirt Report that Occupy OKC ringleader Jay Fox, who appeared to have been injured in the aforementioned scuffle with angry Santorum supporters, complained that she and the other troopers didn’t do their job by going after those who attacked him.

Back in the crowd, Red Dirt Report talked to folks who were obviously fans of Santorum. One man, Oklahoma City resident Steve Malinowski, held up a Santorum campaign sign and a picture of Santorum’s smiling face.

Asked why he chose to support Santorum, Malinowski said, “It’s very simple. Romney’s Mormon and Mormonism’s definition of what Jesus Christ is is not the same as what Christians believe.”

To prove his point, Malinowski pulled out a well-worn tract from Christian Equippers International “of Lake Tahoe” which explained the differences between Christianity and Mormonism. With Santorum, he said, he “is Catholic and they believe Jesus is the Son of God.”

Newt Gingrich, of course, is a Catholic, but Malinowski said he is “a renegade” and that Ron Paul, a Baptist, “says crazy things” and believes it is okay if Islamic terrorists “strap on a bomb and send it over here.” It was clear that religious issues were this supporter's key concern.

Malinowski emphasized his concerns about Islam and Sharia law and that “the president is Islamic and they have a right to lie. They are compelled to export it and make it grow.” But with Santorum, he said, if he becomes president he will emphasize that “Israel and the U.S. should be one.”

And working the crowd with two boards full of Santorum campaign buttons, among others, entrepreneur Michael Goodart of Springfield, Mo. told Red Dirt Report that sales were steady and that he was “doing all right.”

Running about 20 minutes late, Santorum eventually showed up, following a prayer by the Rev. Steve Kern and an introduction from State Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) where he said Santorum was “truthful” and equally concerned about “radical Islam” and that everyone needed to vote for Santorum this Tuesday.

“There are many great leaders in our history,” Reynolds said. “The greatest is our Lord Jesus Christ.” He then went on to say of all current leaders “the one we can trust is Rick Santorum.”

“You can count on him to have the courage of his convictions,” added Reynolds, before introducing Santorum to the cheering crowd.

And Santorum went through his speech covering all manner of issues.

Once Occupy OKC was kicked out, he joked with the crowd that these are the sort of people “who believe CO2 is a toxin,” adding, “Tell that to a plant.”

Talking about how “ObamaCare” is wrong and that one of his top actions if he is elected would be to repeal it. A the sound of “ObamaCare, a woman nearby sneered, “ObamaCare is a racist term.”

Playing into Mike Reynolds’ early speech touting Santorum’s truthful nature, Santorum himself said “People of America are going to believe me because I’ve never been for anything like ObamaCare.”

Regarding the loss of manufacturing jobs in small-town America, where whole towns in the Heartland are disappearing, Santorum said, he is the candidate who can turn that trend around and get America working again. Under Obama that won't happen, he said.

“We want these jobs back in America,” Santorum said to cheers.

Regarding energy policy, which he said Obama is doing little to improve at the present time, Santorum said, “We need to reduce dependency on foreign oil.”

Santorum's comments supporting the Keystone pipeline also got a big cheer from his Oklahoma audience.

The candidate, surrounded by his wife Karen and three of his children, continued and said it is key to get America’s energy policy back on track where domestic energy policy is a key focus and drilling is done offshore, on federal lands and even in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

At this point, Santorum, known for gee-whiz sweater vests and a certain level of know-it-all sanctimony, steered his speech into territory that embraced an idealized, Rockwellian, Mayberry-styled, American past built upon “family, school, church, businesses …” and when you “get in trouble you’ve got a mom and dad there to help.”

Santorum said he recognized what a problem it was to have so many children being born out of wedlock and how welfare dependency is a fast route to the vicious cycle of poverty.

“Dependency is not a way of life,” Santorum said firmly as the crowd cheered and applauded.

“A lot of people in America today are paddling alone … they are going down the river and hit some rapids,” Santorum said, using a rough-river analogy. “And they reach for government.”

Talking about the liberal Brookings Institute report that said “work” was the fastest way to get out of poverty.

With leading Republican competitor Mitt Romney, Santorum said that the only reason the former Massachusetts governor is doing so well is because he simply outspends everyone. In states where he doesn’t take that tack, another candidate usually succeeds. As it stands, Santorum is polling ahead of Romney, Gingrich and Paul here in Oklahoma, according to SoonerPoll.com.

“America is in a very, very perilous state,” warned Santorum, but added it’s at a point in its history where it is faced with great opportunity.

He went on to congratulate Oklahoma for being the reddest state in the nature and went on to say, “You are the conservative lodestar here in Oklahoma.”

Before leaving the stage, Santorum said that he is looking to do well in Mississippi and Alabama and that wins there will mean he can “turn around” the outcome and head towards being the Republican nominee.

Once Santorum completed his speech, Red Dirt Report, Capitol Beat OK’s Pat McGuigan and The Oklahoman’s Michael McNutt got permission from the Secret Service to walk along with Santorum as he made his way to his waiting SUV.

Santorum told the three reporters, including your Red Dirt Reporter, that the Occupy protests are simply a part of what happens when you give a public speech in America today. He said he ran into a similar protest recently in Tacoma, Washington and recalled a rather heated encounter with protesters during a speech he gave in Norman, Okla. six years earlier.

“They were very hostile,” Santorum said. “I didn’t expect that in Oklahoma.”

Admitting that he is being outspent here in Oklahoma, he said he still feels good about Super Tuesday here in the Sooner State and in Tennessee and North Dakota.

Santorum addressed issues involving delegates and what he would look for in a vice-presidential candidate. He was very friendly and cordial but looked a bit tired.

Santorum then shook a few hands, said his good-byes, and hopped into a black SUV. Next on his itinerary was a campaign stop at a church in Tulsa.

UPDATE* (4:48 a.m. March 5, 2012)

Copyright 2012 West Marie Media

Enjoy this? Please share it!

Help support Red Dirt Report

About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

read more

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

Member of the Oklahoma Press Association
Member of Investigative Reporters & Editors
Member of Diversity Business Association
Member of Uptown 23rd

Rotary Club of Bricktown OKC
Keep it Local OK