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Black Lives Matter rally in Waupaca, WI takes the street

By Ryan Hamann

Protest march, led by a banner that reads We Can't Breathe

Waupaca, WI – Nearly 100 people turned out for a Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally in the rural Wisconsin town of Waupaca. This huge turnout for an action in such a small town came in the wake of two earlier events that faced a growing amount of harassment from police and white supremacists.

The violent arrest of activist Matt Banta at a march on August 2 and the subsequent rise in racist threats toward others contributed to the organizing of this larger event. Organizers of previous BLM actions in Waupaca have been targeted by white supremacists, with a mass armed counter-protest allegedly being planned.

Hosted at Riverview Park, the event started with an introduction from Kiki Monea, one of the lead organizers. A handful of speakers followed her, from the community and from different organizations from across the state that traveled to Waupaca.

One of the most significant speakers was Sarah Wunderlich or Big Sky Woman (her Oneida name translated into English), the aunt of Jonathon Tubby. She greeted the crowd in Oneida before continuing in English.

“The death of George Floyd has reopened old wounds that we are trying to heal. Our healing has been difficult as we try to make sense of losing our Jonathon,” Wunderlich said, reading from a statement prepared by the Tubby family.

She continued, “Jonathon’s death was preventable. The lack of communication between the Brown County Sheriff's Department and the Green Bay Police Department contributed to his death. To all those naysayers who are out there who keep telling us to let it go, accept it, move on – hell no.”

Jonathon Tubby was murdered on October 19, 2018 by Officer Erik O’Brien of the Green Bay Police Department. Green Bay is about an hour to the northeast of Waupaca. Monea explained afterward that the reason the Tubby family was invited to speak was to highlight that killer cops and police crimes exist everywhere, even just a short drive from the rural Wisconsin town.

After the comments, those in attendance took to Main Street in downtown Waupaca in spite of a heavy police presence. The march was led with a large banner made by the Coalition to March on the Democratic National Convention that read “We can’t breathe.” The white supremacists who threatened to organize a large, armed counter-protest were limited to less than a dozen people holding thin blue line flags, protected by a few police officers.

“Bringing the movement to small towns like Waupaca is crucial to the broader change. These communities have systematic oppression of minorities that has lasted generations,” said Monea, a Waupaca resident and one of the lead organizers. “We have been active in Waupaca for roughly three months, and are still faced with armed counter-protests, aggressive and heavy police presence, threats, and public defamation of those involved in event organization. Despite this, we will move forward.”

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