Crime

He “Dropped Into The Fetal Position And Began Crying”: Man With Flamethrower Arrested At Green Bay Protest Known To Be “Violent Antifa Member”

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – A Neenah man had a flamethrower, smoke grenades and fireworks during a demonstration in Green Bay Saturday night, according to police and prosecutors.

Matthew Banta, 23, is charged with obstructing an officer and two counts of felony bail jumping.

The criminal complaint says Banta “is known to be a violent Antifa member who incites violence in otherwise relatively peaceful protests.” Police say he’s known as “Commander Red.”

Green Bay police say they were called for “a whole bunch of white people with sticks, baseball bats and helmets headed… towards the police” on Walnut St. near Webster Ave.

“I don’t know who comes to a protest with a baseball bat for anything other than criminal or illegal activity,” said Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith.

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.

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 charged there with second-degree recklessly endangering safety and four other charges (see related story). 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.

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