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Freedom Rally draws 500 in search for information

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
October 17, 2010
— There were almost as many hip-holstered guns as there were American flags flying at the Southern Wisconsin Pre-election Freedom Rally on Janesville’s north side on Saturday.

In the end, it wasn’t just about guns. Or taxes. Or the nation’s health care system.


Or even “tea,” really.


About 500 people turned out for the rally, which was behind Verlo Mattress off Highway 14.


The event included issue-oriented information booths and speeches from local, state and national politicians running in the November midterm election.


Organizers of the Freedom Rally are members of the Southern Wisconsin Patriot Alliance, a group of activists associated with the “taxed enough already,” or Tea movement.


The event was nonpartisan, organizers said, although no Democrats turned out to speak.


“They were invited though,” organizer Sally Horton said.


Organizers said the rally was a chance for people to get out information on a lot of small battles for “freedom.”


The “freedoms” that the politicians and organizations spoke of at the event Saturday seemed to vary, and included: Open firearm carry rights, the right for farmers to market raw milk and the right to contest eminent domain for local property owners. Those were just a few.


“It’s a lot of small fights,” said Georgia Janisch, of Janesville, an organizer of the rally. “People today came into this naturally. They’ve felt harmed in some way.”


Janisch has been interested in health care and fiscal freedom since the 2008 general election.


Although she indicated some of her views lean conservative, she corralled Tim Cullen, a Janesville Democrat running for the 15th Senate District as he walked past.


“He was a classmate,” Janisch said.


Cullen told the Gazette he hadn’t come out to the rally Saturday to speak. He had come to listen.


“I just came out here to hear what people think, to hear what they’re feeling,” Cullen said. "I know that some of them disagree with some of my views, but everyone I’ve spoken with today has been respectful.”


Noah Keller, 16, of Footville, said he had come to the rally to hear a speech by his grandfather, Gary Keller, a Republican candidate for Rock County sheriff.


Noah was just south of the concourse’s hay bale-strewn amphitheater, sitting in the bed of a white GMC pickup.


Stuck in the truck’s ladder rack peg holes were two American flags and a Gadsden flag—the kind with the coiled rattlesnake that says, “Don’t Tread on Me.”


It was Noah’s first political rally, and he had his hair spiked up in a blond Mohawk.


“I just came out here for something to do today,” he said.


Josh Teske, 28, of Janesville, was at the rally to learn more about gun owners’ rights. Although organizers said no police were present at the rally, Teske was one of dozens carrying a holstered gun.


He had a .45 caliber pistol slung on his hip.


“I call myself a Republican because it’s the lesser of two evils,” Teske said.


Teske, who is unemployed, said he’s tired of politicians who make promises and then stop listening to constituents once they enter office.


“Government is messed up right now. It’s like being rich. These people get into office and they forget about the people they represent,” Teske said.


Whitewater Republican Evan Wynn, who is running in November for the 43rd District Assembly, said regardless of their political leanings, people at the rally Saturday seemed to have desires similar to Teske’s.


“This whole tea party issue is really about one thing. People want their government representatives to reply, and they’ve gotten the impression that these people just aren’t listening,” Wynn said.


Wynn said he believes Saturday’s rally was about something simpler than taxes, health care or someone’s partisan slant on the Constitution.


“It’s about being clear in what you believe,” he said.



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