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Rick Santorum faces aggressive heckling from gay rights, Ron Paul and Occupy supporters

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MANCHESTER—Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum was aggressively heckled Friday at a campaign stop in the parking lot of a Manchester restaurant, with the barbs appearing to come from a combination of gay rights activists, Ron Paul supporters and Occupy Wall Street protesters.

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The wild scene came after several hundred people attempted to cram the Belmont Hall and Restaurant to hear Santorum, forcing the event to be relocated outside into the relatively balmy New Hampshire weather by fire marshals.

But in the parking lot were a crush of protesters, some carrying signs that read “Green Energy? Try Hemp,” “Marry Me Rick” and “Google Santorum”—a reference to a not-fit-for-print dictionary satirical definition of the senator’s last name that comes up on the search engine.

Not to mention “Vermin Supreme,” an off-party presidential candidate wearing a rubber boot on his head and singing “Will you marry me Rick” to the tune of “Happy Birthday” through a megaphone.

The event came a day after Santorum, a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, had a spirited exchange on the issue with a college audience in Durham, N.H. Same-sex marriage has been legal in the state since 2010.

Arriving by pick-up truck Friday, Santorum pressed his way in the front of massive semicircle of supporters, protesters and media, and proceeded to shout a reasonable approximation of his standard stump speech.

He was interrupted periodically by heckles, particularly one man who shouted every few minutes. “What about equality for the gays?” he yelled at one point and, after Santorum opened with a request for respect, “How much respect for you have for gay people, Rick!”

“Shut up!” Santorum supporters shouted back periodically, one man muttering, “glad he’s not my boyfriend” of the most vocal protester.

To a man who thanked Santorum for putting up with the crowd, the former senator shrugged off the heckles.

“I come from southwestern Pennsylvania. I represented a district that had more steel workers in it than any other district in America,” Santorum said. “This is nothing. This is cake. Steel workers, those are serious folks. This is no problem.”

“It’s embarrassing,” the man responded.

“Look, most people in New Hampshire are acting like most people in New Hampshire. Don’t worry about it,” Santorum said.

He just pressed ahead, speaking for nearly 45 minutes and offering a critique of President Obama, an explanation of his tax plan and his standard request for New Hampshire voters to ignore polls and back his effort.

“If it wasn’t for New Hampshire, we wouldn’t have Ronald Reagan. Thank you, and don’t forget what you did when your country needed you,” he said.

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