Aqua Turf the Target of Anti-NRA Protest

The Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville has been identified as a new target for anti-NRA activists as the banquet venue was poised to host a Friends of the National Rifle Association fundraiser.

The Newtown Action Alliance, a group formed following the shooting at Sandy Hook that left 26 people dead, called on future patrons of the Aqua Turf Club to end their relationship with the facility.

"I think it’s time for corporations to be held responsible for supporting the National Rifle Association who stands in staunch opposition to any common sense gun reform in our country," said Heather Whaley, who is also associated with Women’s March Connecticut.

The Newtown Action Alliance is calling for high schools who may have participated in the nationwide walk out to rethink their plans if they have a major event like a prom planned for the Aqua Turf.

"It’s got to be a rude awakening that the place that’s holding their prom is also participating in a fundraiser for the National Rifle Association," Whaley said. "I hope that the Aqua Turf ends their relationship with the NRA just like many corporations have decided to boycott the NRA and I would be happy to, in the future, attend any event at the Aqua Turf."

NBC Connecticut reached the Aqua Turf’s longtime general manager, Tim Needham, by phone several hours before the fundraiser.

Needham said it’s not fair to attack the Aqua Turf for hosting the event.

"To be put in a category that these people are putting us in is totally unfair," Needham said. "There’s 1,000 people coming here this evening. I have 50 staff working today and I have 150 staff working tonight. What am I supposed to say to these people?"

Needham also pointed to contributions the owners of the Aqua Turf made to Sandy Hook-related causes several years ago. The Calvanese Foundation, founded by the owners of the club, hosted a gala that provided more than $60,000 in donations to the Newtown Sandy Hook Private Purpose Fund.

He said the Aqua Turf does not discriminate against clients for any reason and said, for the sake of his employees, he can’t pick and choose which events are held based on political preference.

"Where does it stop?" Needham asked.

Scott Wilson with the Connecticut Citizens Defense League said gun rights groups have the same right to gather as any group.

"People have the right to assembly and do have dinner and share their common interests with each other and raise funds for the projects and the causes that they believe in," Wilson said. 

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