TEA Party draws hundreds in HudsonHundreds of people headed to Hudson’s Lakefront Park for a TEA Party and Open Carry Event on Saturday afternoon, organized by Ole Olson and his family.
By: By Laura Kruse, Hudson Star-Observer
Hundreds of people headed to Hudson’s Lakefront Park for a TEA Party and Open Carry Event on Saturday afternoon, organized by Ole Olson and his family.
The event was designed for people to exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly and their Second Amendment rights to own and carry firearms.
On top of that, Olson said he hoped people would learn things while there.
“I’m all about education,” he said. “People go along with their blinders on, and that’s why we’re at where we’re at.”
Large posters outlining laws and information booths were set up around the park.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Olson said Monday. “I’m pleased with the turnout.”
Olson estimated there were between 550-600 people who stopped by the event. He’s aided in his estimation by a tally taken by a person using a number counter and a sign-in guest book.
About half the people in attendance carried a handgun with them, Olson estimated. That’s slightly more than the Open Carry event held in Glenwood City earlier this summer. Olson said about 35 percent of the people there had weapons.
The Glenwood City event was strictly related to Open Carry, Olson said. He and his family planned that event too.
Their family, including wife Annette, three daughters, son-in-law and two grandkids, got involved with organizing TEA Parties after a discussion about things in general, Olson said.
“We finally realized that if we don’t do something, we’re part of the problem,” he said. “This isn’t the America I was raised in.”
Fourteen invited speakers took the microphone at Saturday’s event.
Five speakers are running for office, but were asked to talk about political ideologies rather than their campaigns, Olson said.
Of all the legislators in western Wisconsin, Sen. Dan Kapanke (R) was the only one to accept an invitation to speak, Olson said.
Hudson Mayor Dean Knudson, who wasn’t carrying a weapon, took the microphone first, speaking as a citizen. He said he’s taken some heat for allowing the event to happen in Hudson, but said people should be able to express their views.
Knudson asked the crowd if they support the right to free speech, right of peaceably assemble and right to petition the government, right to address grievances and right to keep and bear arms.
The crowd responded to each question with a loud, unified “yes.”
“That’s why this needs to happen,” Knudson said, adding that representatives need to put principle over party.
Sue Jeffers, talk show host on KTLK, roused the attendees to stand up for what they believe in.
“We need to stand up for what this country was built on,” she said. Electing different representatives is one step, she said. “We need to throw a lot of these bums right out of office.”
Steve Gibbs, who is one of the few attorneys in Wisconsin the National Rifle Association refers cases to, talked about open carry statistics, and called for participants to get involved in passing some form of open carry legislation in Wisconsin.
“You need to start getting involved. You need to get your friends here,” he said. “Join gun clubs, take a kid hunting, encourage women to start shooting. Can you imagine the political force if all club members unite and become one voice in Madison?”
Not everyone was happy with the TEA Party and Open Carry event or message. There were about 11 protesters during the three-hour event.
One couple yelled their thoughts — including that Jeffers should go back to Minnesota — during Jeffers’ speech.
Olson said he invited those protesters to speak at the microphone, which they declined.
Three others quietly stood at the back of the park, holding up posters and passing out flyers. Flyers listed “gun facts” cited by organizations like John Hopkins University of Gun Policy and Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Journal of Trauma, among others. Those facts differed from those presented by Gibbs.
“It (the event) is very interesting,” said sign-holder Susan Stori, who lives between Hudson and River Falls. She and her counterparts came to the event to offer a different point of view, she said.
A few hours into the event, Stori and Bill Campbell, also of the Hudson/River Falls area, said they had been confronted multiple times. Some people thanked them for protesting while others called them unpatriotic, among other things.
“We welcome their right to their opinion,” Olson said after the event.
All expenses for the TEA Party and Open Carry event were covered by Olson’s family, including a $150 deposit to reserve the park.
T-shirts, bumper stickers and refreshments were for sale throughout the event. Guessing games were also set up.
They came up just short of covering their expenses, Olson said. Any extra money they made would have gone to the Soldiers’ Angels organization that ships care packages to deployed troops.
Prizes including T-shirts, books, an American flag and firearms classes, were given away through drawings.
Olson said he was approached by at least six people who wanted guidance in organizing their own events.
“There will be more,” he promised.
Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen said there were no instances related to the TEA Party on Saturday. There were extra patrols but no officers stationed at the park.
“We didn’t expect any problems,” he said Monday.