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A.G. GETS PRAISE, PROTEST
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli draws applause at one area event, protesters at another.

 World War II veterans Ray Belcher (left), 93, and Gene Hunter, 87, stand for the national anthem at the tea party event.
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Date published: 9/18/2011

BY BILL FREEHLING

Ken Cuccinelli deliv-ered two very similar speeches yesterday afternoon in the Fredericksburg area to mark U.S. Constitution Day.

But the reaction to the Virginia attorney general's remarks could hardly have been more different.

Cuccinelli's first appearance was inside the University of Mary Washington's Jepson Science Center, where a crowd composed nearly entirely of protesters interrupted him frequently and held up signs criticizing his policies.

About an hour after that ended, Cuccinelli was at Patriot Park in Spotsylvania County speaking to the Fredericksburg Patriots, a local tea party group that held a "Constitution Day Jubilee" to celebrate the 224th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. That crowd of about 200 cheered and applauded Cuccinelli throughout.

At each event, Cuccinelli's remarks focused on the extent to which the federal government has overstepped its bounds, including with health care legislation and burdensome regulations. He said it was up to the states to protect the principles of the Constitution from federal overreach.

"Federalism is not being respected by the federal government," he said at UMW.

"Government isn't part of the solution, it's more of the problem," he said at Patriot Park. "We need to get it out of the way."

The Legislative Action Committee of the UMW Student Government Association invited Cuccinelli to the Fredericksburg campus to speak. The event had been scheduled for outside but was moved inside because of the threat of rain and also because event organizers thought it best to keep the protest in a less visible location. Many prospective UMW students were touring campus yesterday.

Cuccinelli's office was informed in advance that there would likely be many protesters at the event, said UMW President Rick Hurley, who attended.

A small group of protesters was inside when Cuccinelli began his remarks, and the crowd grew as he spoke. Protesters could be heard outside the lecture hall chanting, "Cuccinelli, you fail."

Despite that, Cuccinelli continued with his remarks and appeared mostly unfazed, welcoming the protesters as they entered.

By the end of the speech about 100 people--many of them holding up signs protesting Cuccinelli's views on abortion, health care, the environment, immigration and more--were in the room and at times interrupted the attorney general to give their own opinions.

Cuccinelli said afterward that the First Amendment gives people the right to protest, and he said some of the questions he received at UMW were thoughtful. But he said the people who interrupted him were denying his right to free speech, and he thought that reflected poorly on the university.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com