New video sheds light on students’ confrontation with Native American
Initial footage appeared to show students taunting an Omaha tribe elder
A still from the original video depicting Nick Sandmann (L) and Nathan Phillips. Photograph: Kaya Taitano/Social Media/via Reuters
Longer video footage of a confrontation between a Native American activist and Kentucky high-school students at a protest has surfaced, providing fresh insight into the controversial encounter and offering a broader view of deepening divisions in America.
Initial footage circulated online appeared to show students from the private, all-male Covington Catholic High School taunting Native American demonstrators, and prompted extensive condemnation.
The students have denied wrongdoing and their supporters urged against rushing to judgment.
In this initial short footage, the boys – some of them wearing pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” (Maga) apparel – appear to surround a group of Indigenous Peoples’ March participants on Friday, near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
The students were in the city for the anti-abortion March for Life, which took place the same day.
One of the students in a Maga cap, who was later identified as Nick Sandmann, appears to be standing face-to-face with Nathan Phillips, an Omaha tribe elder.
As Phillips chants and plays a drum, Sandmann appears to snidely grin at him.
Phillips, a Vietnam-era veteran, appears to look back calmly with a smile.
The 64-year-old later told Detroit Free Press that he was trying to maintain calm between the predominately white students and several members of another protest group of Black Hebrew Israelites.
According to Mr Phillips, the students came over to watch the Black Hebrew Israelites, and were offended by their comments.
Tensions mounted as the high-school group swelled to approximately 100 students.
“They were in the process of attacking these four black individuals,” Mr Phillips claimed. “So I put myself in between that, between a rock and hard place.”
Mr Phillips told the paper that some of the four Black Hebrew Israelite members present group did say “some harsh things” and that one spat toward the Catholic students.
In a statement released on Sunday, the student Mr Sandmann insisted he was trying to be the peacemaker.
“When we arrived, we noticed four African American protestors who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,” Mr Sandmann said in a statement published by WKRC, a local media outlet. “I did hear them direct derogatory insults at our school group. They called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,’ ‘faggots,’ and ‘incest kids’.”
Several minutes later, a group of Native Americans, including Mr Phillips, approached.
“He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face,” Mr Sandmann claims. “I was not intentionally making faces at the protester. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation.”
Mr Phillips alleged that the students directed their anger toward him, however.
“When I was there singing, I heard them saying, ‘Build that wall! Build that wall!’” Mr Phillips claimed in a Twitter video.
Among those outraged by the initial video were New Mexico representative Deb Haaland, who was among the first Native American women elected to Congress last year.
“The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking,” Ms Haaland said on Twitter late on Saturday morning.
Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes wrote on Facebook: “I refuse to shame and solely blame these children for this type of behaviour,” but “instead, I turn to the adults and administration that are charged with teaching them, and to those who are silently letting others promote this behaviour”.
The alleged mocking of Native Americans by mostly white teens, some of whom wore Maga apparel, comes after Donald Trump has used rhetoric inflaming racial tensions.
The fresh video, which runs much longer to one hour and 46 minutes, suggests that the four Black Hebrew Israelites might be more culpable than Covington students in instigating the apparent standoff than the initial footage suggests.
Tensions start heating up at the one-hour eight-minute mark. Someone among in the Black Hebrew Israelites – who had been long shouting at passersby – appears to call these students “a bunch of incest babies”.
The Black Hebrew Israelites later seem to continue taunting the teens, referring to them as future “school shooters” and calling African American students the N-word.
The school and Diocese of Covington issued an apology and hinted at harsh discipline for the students involved in the scene.
“This behaviour is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person,” they said jointly in a statement.
“The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.” - Guardian