A progressive Democrat earned his fellow left-wing protesters’ wrath earlier this month for the act of carrying an American flag.
Paul Welch, who describes himself as a “slightly progressive leftist,” was protesting the right-wing group Patriot Prayer’s August 4 rally in Portland, Ore. As he carried his American flag alongside other counterprotesters, several black-clad Antifa members carrying various weapons demanded he hand over the flag, calling it a “fascist symbol.” A viral video captured Welch clinging to his flag as several masked men in makeshift armor try to wrest it from his hands. One of them can be seen hitting him repeatedly and then clubbing him on the back of his head, which causes him to collapse instantly and lie curled up on the ground in his own blood.
“I remember thinking there was a very good chance that I could be beaten to death,” Welch told the Oregonian. A three-inch slash on his head required four staples, and he missed two days of work to heal from the concussion he suffered.
“The Right and certainly a lot of smaller groups like Patriot Prayer might rush to things like the flag and try to take it up as, ‘This is our symbol exclusively,'” the 38-year-old line cook said. “Part of my thinking was to take it back.”
“I had felt like showing that a liberal, free Portland — or any major city, really — is much more American and much more numerous and strong than any of these interloping groups.”
Welch, who has filed a police report over the incident, said he voted for Bernie Sanders and then for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election cycle. He did not attend the Portland event as part of a group and even recalled seeing a few other American flags among his fellow counterprotesters.
“It strikes me as the worst sort of political theater,” he remarked of his beating. “It’s kind of like you’re playing into your opponents’ hands when you do that sort of thing. That’s not what I was there for.”
“We make no apologies for the use of force in keeping our communities safe from the scourge of right-wing violence,” read the event page for the counterprotest.
Popular Mobilization, which organized the counterprotest, did not respond to National Review‘s request for comment.
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