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Waupaca, WI: Black Lives Matter protest disrupted by cops, protester violently arrested

By staff |
August 6, 2020
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BLM activist being violently arrested at a march in Waupaca, WI
Black Lives Matter activist being violently arrested at a march in Waupaca, WI on August 1. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Waupaca, WI - On the afternoon of August 1, members of United Action Oshkosh (UAO) and supporters of Black Lives Matter from the Fox Valley area gathered with local supporters in the small town of Waupaca for a march. Nearly 30 people plus a small caravan of cars turned out for the rural action.

The Black Lives Matter march was the second in Waupaca for many of those in attendance, including the organizers from UAO. At the first march, the protest was greeted by a resistant police force and a slew of racists in their cars. At one point, one of these cars tried to drive through the back of the small march, nearly running over several of the protesters and leaving significant bruises.

As a result of their first interaction with detractors in the Waupaca community, the activists came to the second demonstration with the means for self-defense, including some members legally open-carrying. They organized the car caravan to protect themselves from racists in pickup trucks and had a larger group.

Despite the precautions, the action was met with counter-demonstrators who followed the march, brandishing weapons and making violent threats. The Waupaca police came with a more determined approach than the first time around. They were there to stop the protest and to make an example of the marchers.

After harassing the marchers for much of their route, the police finally succeeded in pulling over the lead cars and halting their procession. As protesters milled along the side of the road chanting in support of Black lives and against police crimes, a scuffle broke out. Before anyone knew what was happening, one of the armed protesters, Matt Banta, was shoved into the ditch by a Waupaca police officer.

Video of the incident shows Banta regaining control of his firearm to avoid any unforeseen misfires after being thrown to the ground unexpectedly. Officers descended on him as he tried to stand up, grabbing a hold of him and tackling him face-first into the grass. Banta was then handcuffed as several officers restrained him, including one who appeared to put his hands around Banta’s neck.

The arresting officers refused to tell the protesters why Banta was being arrested or where they were taking him as they hauled him into the back of a squad car. As the police drove away, the crowd made their way to the Waupaca Police Department to demand for Banta’s immediate release. Unfortunately, their demands went unheeded.

On August 3, a story was published that highlighted the laundry list of federal charges Banta is facing, including two counts of battery of a law enforcement officer, one count of resisting arrest, one count of disorderly conduct, and one count of second-degree recklessly endangering safety. In addition to these charges, he was given a $10,000 cash bail.

In a show of solidarity, the money needed to secure Banta’s release from jail was raised in less than a day. However, he is still facing the ridiculous trumped-up charges and, if sentenced, could be sent to prison. He has a public hearing scheduled for August 11.

“By doing everything they could to shut down a peaceful march, and framing an innocent protester with a long list of bogus charges, WPD has sent a clear message: they will not tolerate any political dissent in their town,” said Dan Pratt, a member of United Action Oshkosh. “The racist police force and their white supremacist supporters have planted their feet firmly on the wrong side of history, but the brave activists in Waupaca and their supporters from the surrounding areas won’t be so easily discouraged.”

For those interested in making sure justice is done, call Waupaca County District Attorney Veronica Isherwood at 715-258-6444. Others were targeted by Waupaca police for their participation in the Black Lives Matter protest, including a number of those in the car caravan who are being hit with fines. People who call DA Isherwood should demand that Banta be cleared of these bogus charges and that all fines incurred by the activists be dropped immediately.

Local activists and their supporters in the surrounding communities, particularly in Oshkosh and the broader Fox Valley, intend to keep the pressure on until the charges against Banta are dropped, and the fines incurred by other protesters are done away with.