Family and friends react to Onalaska native injured in protest

ONALASKA, Wis. — An Onalaska native injured in the Occupy Oakland protests has made national headlines and become the face of the protests overnight. His family and friends in Onalaska received some good news about his recovery Thursday.

Iraq veteran Scott Olsen’s condition has been upgraded to “fair.” The 24-year-old Marine veteran was in critical condition at an Oakland hospital after an object hit him in the face during a clash between police and protestors, fracturing his skull.

The video of Olsen’s head injury has been splashed across TV screens and newspapers all over the country.

Back in Chaseburg, it’s the only way his uncle George Nygaard– who’s also a Marine veteran– can get an idea of what happened to his nephew.

“I feel just helpless, powerless, and really deeply disturbed that this is going on,” said Nygaard.

The two talked frequently about Olsen’s views on the Occupy protests. And Nygaard says the patriotism that drove Olsen to join the military is also what inspired him to join the protests.

“I think he felt the same drive toward being a good citizen that he did when he joined. And that is that if he felt patriotic enough to actually risk his life to join the Marine Corps, he also felt patriotic enough to try to change their policies in order to make things better,” said Nygaard.


Olsen graduated from Onalaska High School in 2005. His yearbook teacher Lisa Reimler says she never would have guessed such a quiet student would be so involved in the occupy protests.

“If somebody had asked me of all the graduates I knew, I probably would not have guessed Scott. Because– again this was a few years ago– he was kind of a quiet, unassuming kid that kind of kept to himself,” said Reimler.

But Scott’s friend Christy Deruyter isn’t surprised at all. They were working together at Lindy’s Subs when he decided to become a Marine.

“When he really believed in something and was passionate about it, he went for it. And serving in our military, and now being passionate about being in the protest, I’m not surprised that he was there,” said Deruyter.

She tried texting Olsen when she found out about his injury, but she hasn’t heard from him.

Nygaard hasn’t been able to reach him either. But with the news that his condition is improving, he hopes he’ll be able to reach out to his nephew soon.

“I’m really proud of the kid. I mean, he’s super intelligent and he’s got concentration like a laser as far as what he wants to do and what this is all about. And obviously he’s not alone,” said Nygaard.

There is still no official word on exactly what type of object struck Olsen or where it came from. The group Iraq Veterans Against the War, of which Olsen is a member, claims police are responsible. The Oakland police chief has announced officials will investigate whether officers used excessive force.

Olsen’s parents, who still live in Onalaska, flew to California today to join their son at Highland Hospital. Nygaard tells News 8 they are declining media interviews at this time.