GREEN BAY, Wis. — An Antifa leader known as “Commander Red” was arrested carrying a flamethrower to a Wisconsin Black Lives Matter rally. As he was taken into custody he “dropped into the fetal position and began crying,” officials said.
Matthew Banta, 23, is “known to be a violent Antifa member who incites violence in otherwise relatively peaceful protests,” a criminal complaint in his Green Bay arrest record asserted, WBAY reported.
He was carrying stickers and a flag for the hate-filled group along with “military-grade 5-minute” smoke grenades, fireworks rockets, and a flamethrower, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
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.
“It’s worrisome when people associated with Antifa come here to Green Bay from out of town … for the purposes of committing violent acts,” Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith said.
“I don’t know who comes to a protest with a baseball bat for anything other than criminal or illegal activity,” he emphasized.
At the time of Saturday’s arrest, Banta was out on a $10,000 cash bond after being accused of pointing a loaded gun at a police officer as well as biting and kicking an officer at a protest earlier this month, the report said.
A condition of his bond was that he can’t have a dangerous weapon, according to the Brown County district attorney’s office.
The “crying commander” is from Neenah, about 40 miles south of Green Bay. He has been charged with obstructing an officer and two counts of felony bail jumping after Saturday’s arrest, the report said. He was released late Monday on $2,500 bond, reported the New York Post.
He was one of 15 arrested at Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest that turned violent in the city and was deemed an unlawful assembly, police said.
“Burning buildings, hurting people, shooting, looting, vandalizing — there’s absolutely no way that is a form of protest,” Chief Smith told Fox 11 of his zero-tolerance stance.
“That’s criminal behavior,” he said.