Commentary Magazine

The American Red Army Faction

AP Photo/John Rudoff

The Oregonian newspaper on Monday ran a disturbing item, which should have received a great deal more national attention than it did. It told the story of Paul Welch, a 38-year-old line cook who showed up to a right-wing rally in Portland earlier this month and ended up having his head smashed in by members of “Antifa,” the hard-left group that is fast emerging as contemporary America’s answer to the Red Army Faction.

Welch’s ideological error, which resulted in being beaten nearly to death by Antifa, was his decision to carry an American flag in protest against the right-wingers who had descended on his city. “Welch was not a Proud Boy, a Patriot Prayer supporter or among the other conservative activists” who marched in Portland on Aug. 4, per the Oregonian. Rather, “he was one of hundreds of progressive Portlanders who had turned out to oppose the right-wing rally.”

Welch, voting records show, supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary and cast his ballot for Hillary Clinton in the general election. “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 told the paper. “Part of my thinking was to take it back.” A noble gesture. Too bad the hotheads on his own side loathe the American flag.

The Oregonian reports:

As he carried his flag, two people dressed in black and covering their faces approached Welch and demanded he turn it over to them, calling it ‘a fascist symbol,’ he said.

Welch refused, and the counter-protesters ripped it out of his hands, he said.

Welch wouldn’t relinquish the flag.

Video captured by Mike Bivins, a freelance journalist, shows what happened next.

As Welch and the counter-protesters wrangle over the flag, another masked counter-protester begins to strike Welch’s body from behind using a weapon concealed in black fabric.

That person then uses the weapon to club Welch on the back of the head, causing him to collapse instantly. The demonstrator with the weapon wanders off.

American law enforcers at all levels must confront this menace and treat it like the domestic terrorist threat that it is. As my colleague Noah Rothman has noted, it is chillingly easy to imagine the group’s further radicalization. The road from brutalizing a fellow leftist for waving a flag to bombing police stations and post offices is all too short. It took a severe crackdown by the former West German government to break the Red Army Faction for good, and the American variant is likely to require similar vigilance.

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