A white teenager from a Kentucky Catholic school wearing a Make America Great Again hat stood in the face of a Native American elder while he was surrounded by laughing and cheering classmates, many also wearing pro-Trump MAGA gear, during the Indigenous People’s Day March in Washington D.C. Friday.
While some have accused the boys of taunting the Native Americans, they say they were confronted by them and were not trying to mock or harass them.
In videos recorded from different angles, the students can be seen interacting with the group of Native Americans, who were peacefully chanting and playing musical instruments. The students, who attended Covington Catholic High School, were in D.C. for the anti-abortion March for Life rally. The students had previously been confronted by a group of protesters with the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, a fringe group.
“This is our reality. 2019. a swarm of young, unattended Trump supporters gathered to cause a scene, disrespect our cultures, and put fear into us,” the woman who filmed the video wrote on Instagram. “i was pushed and laughed at by teenage boys who grew up to believe their lives are more important than ours. they shouted things like “Gone in 2020” and mocked us. i am still in shock. i don’t know what to say other than that i’m sad and deeply shaken. this is our reality. 2019.”
The Native American is an elder, a Vietnam-era Marine veteran, musician, educator and youth leader named Nathan Phillips. Read more about him here.
The student at the center of the video has been identified as Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic, after he came forward to issue a statement. Sandmann says he and his classmates were not mocking or intimidating the Native American protesters and had started “school spirit” chants after being yelled at by an unrelated group from the Black Hebrew Israelites.
You can read the full statement from Nicholas Sandmann below:
In emails to Heavy, the mother of another Covington Catholic High School student who was at the march provided a first-hand account of what the students claim happened and said the story was “fake news.” Her son is not the boy at the center of the video.
Heavy has not identified the student because the mother would not confirm his name after Heavy reached out to her and asked if it was her son in the video. Heavy has confirmed that her son is a student at Covington Catholic High School and was at the rally. The woman, who Heavy is also not naming, and her husband claimed in the email that Phillips, who she referred as “this man,” in quotation marks, was drumming close to the teen’s face. And she said that the students themselves were harassed “by black Muslims.”
The Covington Catholic mother wrote, “Shame on you! Were you there? Did you hear the names the people where calling these boys? It was shameful. Did you witness the black Muslims yelling profanities and video taping trying to get something to futher (sic) your narrative of hatred?? Did you know that this “man” came up to this one boy and drummed in his face? Shame on you. Only reporting what you want. More fake news.”
When a Heavy reporter thanked her for the correspondence and explained that it would be reported on as part of the story, she demanded the emails be deleted.
“Delete my email. I want nothing to do with helping perpetuating (sic) your hate. I do not want to be a part of your story. You are ruining a boys life for fake news. Hate spreads like wildfire. I pray for you.”
When asked again whether it was her son in the video and about the boy’s actions, she did not respond.
Videos & Witness Accounts Provided to Heavy Provide Context, Albeit Differing Views
A witness to the events said she and her mother “saw the Catholic kids mocking native Americans.”
Jessica Travis and her mother were visiting the Lincoln Memorial as dancers at the Indigenous Peoples’ Day March were wrapping up. Travis said while she “did not see any direct bullying but I noted the kids appeared to be mocking and disrespectful.”
She recalled that as she walked away “I mentally noted the kids were still loud and disrespectful. We then walked out into the common area at the bottom of the stairs. There were about 5 black men there who had been ‘preaching’ but otherwise not bothering people. The kids – many wearing red MAGA hats – had surrounded the black men on the stairs. They were mocking them. I heard one tell them to just ‘drink the Trump water.’ I recorded a video and posted on Facebook about how disrespectful the kids were.”
“As my mother and I walked away, the kids started chanting very loudly. We were too far away to hear what they were saying but it was loud and aggressive and directed at the black men. I saw one kid jump down to where the black men were standing and rip off his shirt. Bare-chested, it appeared he beat his chest. The others laughed and jeered.”
But in reference to the Covington Catholic student’s mother’s claim about “black Muslims,” a near 2-hour long video shows members of the Black Hebrew Israelites demonstrating and the exchange between them and Covington students that led to the exchange with Phillips.
The video is cued to 1:09 where they BHI and MAGA kids intersect.
Many say the video confirms that the students as the aggressors and Phillips as trying to keep peace.
“WHY ARE WHITE NATIONALIST CLAIMING THE HARASSMENT NEVER TOOK PLACE AND BLAMING THE VIETNAM VETERAN Here are some facts…,” was the headline on this post from the Indigenous Life Movement pointing out that “Fox News and the community from which these Catholic students come from are turning the story around to shelter and protect these boys and girls.”
Covington Catholic Said an Investigation Is Underway After Shutting Down Its Social Media
The school has shuttered its Facebook page.
And it’s not just the school’s Facebook page, but its alumni page and other fan pages are also deleted.
Similarly, comments have been disabled on videos on the Covington Catholic YouTube channel, and in particular, the video that promises, “When you come to Covington Catholic High School you are going to be a well-rounded individual.”
The spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington said Saturday afternoon, “We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place. We are looking into it.”
Mike Clines, the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Covington, had not as of early Saturday afternoon commented.
By early evening, a new statement was issued: “This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”
On Sunday this statement was posted on the school’s website from the The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School:
“We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.
The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.
We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.”
This Is One Account of What Occurred
It reads, “A the close of the Indigenous Peoples’ March and rally, the few of us left lingering to chat and meet were confronted and surrounded by 50 to 70 young people wearing Trump’s hats, T-shirts and other apparel. The group consisted of mostly young white men who started to intimidate, mock and scare us with a mop mentality in order to silence a demonstration that was mostly concluded. The group outnumbered us and enclosed our small group, chanting ‘build the wall’ another Trump-isms. The group was clearly looking for ANY opportunity to get violent and they consistently infringed upon our space, inching closer and closer, bumping into us and daring us to get physical. They surrounded us screaming, cajoling and mocking the elder singing with intentionally disrespectful dancing and attempting to chant\sing louder than him. He did not break focus on move inch for the entirety of the encounter. And perhaps the saddest part of all is that this song was medicine to calm the anger and toxicity of these men.”
The School’s Code of Conduct Calls for Possible Expulsion for ‘Assault or Harassment’
The school, founded in 1925, is located in Park Hills, Kentucky, and part of the Catholic Diocese of Covington and is an all-boys parochial school with around 600 students, the overwhelming majority white based on photos from its website. Its Twitter account, previously public and now private, has a profile blurb that reads, “With Spirit that Will Not Die! Educating Young Men Spiritually, Academically, Physically and Socially.”
The school’s Code of Conduct page reads that “act(s) of assault or harassment on or off campus of any kind…” will result in “SUSPENSION WITH POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION FOR EXPULSION.”
On its website, its mission is described as existing to “embrace the gospel message of Jesus Christ in order to educate young men spiritually, academically, physically, and socially. With this focus, we are Building Minds and Living Faith.”
In a statement, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington said, via WLWT, that they “condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically.” The statement says the actions of the students is against the Church’s teachings.” The statement closes by saying that the events “tainted” the anti-choice movement.
A separate statement, via Cincinnati.com, says that the school will explore all discipline options for the students in question “up to and including expulsion.”
Widespread Outrage Over the Incdient Filled Social Media, but Some Are Defending the Teens
“I’ve seen this video from three different angles. These are apparently students from Covington Catholic HS in Kentucky being encouraged by their chaperones to mock indigenous elders. Sickening.”
According to the calendar of events on its website, students from Covington Catholic were in D.C. for the March for Life, but appear to have strayed from that event to harass people marching int the Indigenous Peoples Day March.
Comments on various sites where the video has been published share a similar sentiment, like this one from Reddit.
“He seems like the kind of little shit that says I dare you to punch me and when he gets decked he goes home crying to his mom and then calls the cops.”
Beyond Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and other online social locations, people have taken to Yelp! to share their disdain for the actions of the Covington students and, presumably, the adults educators with them who allowed the swarming of Native American elders.
“Your students are little klansman in the making. Makes sense to me! They’re getting that good Christian education that teaches them to hate everyone. Great job educating the youth!”
“This school is a shameful place where students are encouraged to harass peaceful protesters! The students’ racist behavior in public is a window into the dark heart of this school.”
Some Trump supporters and conservative Twitter users are defending and supporting the students, claiming that the boys were approached first by Phillips and the Native Americans, and were targeted by insults by other groups.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report identified a woman who had emailed a statement to Heavy as someone believed to be the mother of the Covington Catholic student seen immediately in front of Nathan Philips in the video. Heavy did not identify the woman or her son by name.
Nick Sandmann, a Covington student, has since issued a statement identifying himself as the student shown in front of Phillips. The woman quoted in Heavy’s original report is the mother of a different Covington student, not of Nick Sandmann.
Heavy can confirm that the Covington parent quoted in the report is not Julie Weis Sandmann, Nick Sandmann’s mother.
The statement was falsely attributed in other news reports to Julie Sandmann. Heavy apologizes for the confusion that led to that incorrect attribution.