23-year-old Matthew Banta was arrested after he was caught with a flamethrower, smoke grenades, and fireworks while headed toward a protest in Green Bay over the weekend, WBAY-TV reported.
On Saturday Night, Police were called alerting them that “a whole bunch of white people with sticks, baseball bats and helmets headed… towards the police”
A responding officer says he saw four individuals walking towards a protest with baseball bats. One man was wearing a metal helmet with goggles and military-style gear with multiple pouches, and was carrying an Antifa flag. When the officer pulled his squad car in front of the group, they ran away. The officer caught Banta, who was carrying the flag, and says Banta “dropped into the fetal position and began crying.” He accused the officer of lying on him; the officer replied nobody was on him.
Matthew Banta, 23, is charged with obstructing an officer and two counts of felony bail jumping, the station reported. He’s also “known to be a violent Antifa member who incites violence in otherwise relatively peaceful protests,” WBAY said, citing a criminal complaint.
Banta also is known as “Commander Red,” police told the station.
“I don’t know who comes to a protest with a baseball bat for anything other than criminal or illegal activity,” Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith noted to the station.
Banta acknowledged he was headed to the Green Bay protest but denied he was planning to incite a riot.
A Brown County Court Commissioner set a $2,500 cash bond during his initial appearance on Monday.
Three others were caught trying to get into a house on Walnut Street. The person inside wouldn’t let them in and told officers they didn’t know who the people were. The three dropped what was in their hands. One told an officer they were bringing them to the protest for self-defense.
Banta is accused in Waupaca County of pointing a loaded gun at a police officer and biting and kicking an officer during a protest earlier this month.
He’s also charged there with second-degree recklessly endangering safety and four other charges (related story at WBAY). He posted a $10,000 cash bond. A condition of his bond was that he can’t have a dangerous weapon, according to the Brown County district attorney’s office.
“It’s worrisome when people associated with Antifa come here to Green Bay from out of town for the purpose of protesting here or for the purposes of committing violent acts,” said Chief Smith.
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