Waupaca group holds rally for equality after incident during march

Published: Aug. 9, 2020 at 8:49 PM CDT
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WAUPACA, Wis. (WBAY) - About a week after a protester was arrested during an altercation with Waupaca Police, another event for racial equality was held.

Keaira Damron-Stine has been one of the people organizing events to encourage equality, inspired not just by national conversation but her own experience.

“[I] have experienced racism my whole life and have many friends in the community that have also experienced a lot of those issues,” said Damron-Stine, who grew up and lives in Waupaca.

The first event supporting Black Lives Matter was a peaceful rally held in June.

But during a march last week Waupaca Police arrested one protester, Matthew Lee Banta, accusing him of pointing a gun, kicking at, and biting a police officer.

After the incident during their last demonstration, organizers hope the Waupaca Rally for equality held Sunday can show they can move forward even when things don’t go according to plan.

“So we wanted to have another event right away which was a lot [like] our first event. Just kind of remind people we’re not here to cause trouble, we’re here to be heard,” said Brianna Sparkles, another organizer. “And there might’ve been trouble that happened but that’s not all we are - that’s not all we bring. That’s not all activism brings.”

“I am not responsible for individual decisions that are made during my events, however, I support anyone that comes out in support of our movement,” said Damron-Stine. “But moving forward, and that’s what we’re trying to do here, is show that even when things go wrong the movement doesn’t change, and that facts don’t change, and what we’re trying to accomplish doesn’t change.”

The Waupaca Rally for Equality allowed people to share their thoughts and experiences.

Waupaca Police did release a statement on Facebook prior to the event expressing appreciation that organizers worked with them and city leaders when putting the rally together.

The Waupaca Police Department wanted to provide a brief statement in regards to the Solidarity Event scheduled for this...

Posted by Waupaca Police Department on Thursday, August 6, 2020

Damron-Stine says some of the conversations have been tense, but it’s helping them grow as activists.

“We have now learned as organizers how to prevent that from happening and how to control our environment. So we’re learning through this, too,” said Damron-Stine. “I think for everybody, this entire movement with racial equality is a growth experience, a learning experience, and we’re just trying to meet as equals as we’re all learning, we’re all growing.”

Some in the community expressed their dislike of the event, with one homeowner across from the Rotary Riverview Park hanging a large sign stating solidarity isn’t achieved by inciting division and “no need for BLM here”.

Anti-BLM sign
Anti-BLM sign(WBAY)

Some attending the rally say they’ve received threats for their activism, but that it won’t stop them.

“This is going to be peaceful, we’re going to show them we’re not violent. They can think whatever they want because at the end of the day they’re always going to look at us a certain way. So let them think what they want, because change is happening and it’s not going to stop,” said Kaguya, an Appleton woman.

Organizers plan to continue hosting events promoting equality in Waupaca and beyond, hoping to change some minds along the way.

“Our experiences are different but, we have so many similarities too and we’re all learning and growing as human beings,” said Damron-Stine. “And I think as much difference as there is, there’s also that many similarities.”

The City of Waupaca also released a Facebook statement after the event, explaining it did end with a march and that the Waupaca Police Department was able to control traffic and assisted in assuring safety.

On Sunday afternoon a Black Lives Matter Solidarity Event was held in downtown Waupaca. Because of the attention...

Posted by City of Waupaca on Sunday, August 9, 2020

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