During a protest against fascism in Oregon earlier this month, Black-clad members of Portland's Antifa cell saw a man holding an American flag and proceeded to beat the shit out of him.
Soon a group of black-clad anti-fascist protesters, also known as antifa, demanded he lose the flag, calling it a fascist symbol. Welch refused, and a tug-of-war ensued. -Oregon Live
And while Antifa violence is nothing new, the American flag that set them off was held by 38-year-old cook Paul Welch, a Bernie Sanders supporter who was moving among the crowd of counter-protesters opposing a right-wing rally held at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
"I didn't come as a part of any one group," Welch said in an interview with The Oregon Live. "I was just protesting outsiders coming here for their tacitly fascist event."
Ironically, Welch was trying to show people that Porland liberals are patriotic: "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," he said.
A "slightly progressive leftist" by his telling, Welch is a registered Democrat in Oregon, voting records show. He cast his ballot for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary and Hillary Clinton in the general election, he said.
The 38-year-old line cook is also no stranger to street protests in Portland. He said he attended the Women's March held during the weekend of Donald Trump's inauguration.
This summer, Welch, who works six days a week at a catering company, stopped by the Occupy ICE encampment on his days off to bring protesters water, toilet paper and sunblock, he said. -Oregon Live
Welch told Oregon Live that he's no fan of Trump or his policies, nor of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, whose Portland rallies Welth believes are intended to inflame the city's liberal residents - calling them "just offensive." He says that his decision to counter-protest with an American flag was to "take back" a symbol used more often by conservatives.
"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,'" he said. "Part of my thinking was to take it back."
Instead, the only thing Welch took back was a solid blow to the back of his head.