Native American Antagonized by High School Students

James Ruggiero, Staff Writer

Washington D.C. was the stage for the annual March For Life demonstration, a pro-life movement typically held on or around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion. The main point of contention to come out of the event revolved around the now infamous encounter between a group of Make America Great Again supporting Catholic School Students and Native American activist, Nathan Phillips. The incident became the center of a media firestorm with massive amounts of misinformation being spread from all sides of the political spectrum. Now, with a nearly two hour unedited video of the entire event, dozens of camera angles, and statements from both sides, a more complete picture can be made.

The unedited video was filmed by protestors from an unidentified sect of Black Hebrew Israelites with a mirror upload on YouTube surmounting to over 2 million views.  When the story initially broke many where quick to condemn the students actions as racist, including a joint statement by The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School itself. This statement has now been retracted.

The encounter took place on the Lincoln Memorial steps after the March For Life demonstration had ended while the students had gathered to wait for buses back to Kentucky. The students eventually found themselves being taunted by a small group of protestors, one of which shot the unedited video. The protestors identify as members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a movement that believes some black Americans are the descendants of an ancient Israelite tribe.

In the video, the protestors are seen initially shouting racial comments at participants of the Indigenous Peoples rally and other people passing by. The Black Hebrew Israelites eventually began to confront the students, shouting racial and combative comments such as, “go back to europe,” and, “all you mother f—–s are school shooters,” In response, the students began chanting there school spirit chants in an attempt to drown out the protestors. And yes, one of the students did take his shirt off.

An hour into the video, Nathan Phillips, an Omaha tribe elder, and a few other participants from the Indigenous Peoples rally arrived playing drums and chanting prayers slowly inserting themselves into the group of students. Nathan Phillips eventually found himself face to face with Nick Sandman, a junior at Covington who in the video that originally went viral was the student in the MAGA hat seen smiling and standing still as Nathan Phillips played his drum.

As the standstill took place, most of the students showed confusion, with one students asking, “What is going on?” Some of the students did join in with Phillips’ songs a few did swipe their hands over their heads, potentially to mimic scalping. While Phillips remained in the crowd of students with his group, the Hebrew Israelites continued shouting from the outside. The encounter between Sandman and Phillips only lasted a little over six minutes.

Near the end of the footage, while the Hebrew Israelites are preaching homophobic rhetoric, one the students is heard saying, “birds aren’t real,” which shows how seriously the students where taking the whole situation. The next day, on Jan. 19, the original edit of the video goes viral and the students become the center of condemnation from both sides.

When asking the Neshaminy High School student body for thoughts on the situation there was a wide variety of opinions and it was difficult to come to a consensus on what actually happened. “I believe that although the conflict didn’t arise from the Covington boys, they were still incredibly disrespectful for jeering and smirking at a man who was exercising his right to protest and free speech,” said Taylor Creollo, a junior at Neshaminy High School.

“Don’t get sucked into just the soundbite,” said Mr. Greenberg, a teacher at Neshaminy High School and advisor for the Friends Helping Friends Club, “If you want to have a strong opinion, you have to understand the full picture. It’s kind of like how I teach my social studies class, not so much on the what but more on the why.”