"I heard them saying, 'Build that wall,'" said Nathan Phillips, who is a Vietnam veteran.
Students wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, who attend Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, K.Y., were in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the anti-abortion March for Life rally. When they encountered Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha tribe and a veteran, at the Lincoln Memorial, they mocked him.
The incident occurred as the Indigenous Peoples March was ending. Videos showing their despicable behavior went viral on social media on Saturday.
What is particularly disturbing to watch is one of the students, standing less than a foot away, trying to intimidate Phillips by staring him down with a mocking smirk on his face. Phillips was in the midst of drumming and singing a song of unity:
I've seen that look before — on the MAGA boy's face as he taunts a participant from the Indigenous Peoples March. Fueled by ideology and a desire to dehumanize, it frightens me and reminds me of other cruel youth groups from history.
(anyone know original source of video?) pic.twitter.com/Ka6t5HKmCz
— Melissa Chan (@melissakchan) January 19, 2019
Kaya Taitano, who shot the video, told CNN that MAGA hat-wearing-students and four Black teens, who'd been preaching about the Bible nearby, started yelling and calling each other names. That's why Phillips started drumming and singing a song to encourage unity trying to quell the argument.
President Trump, whom the students apparently idolize, posted a tweet last week to mock Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who plans to run for president in the 2020 election.
Trump made fun of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in response to a video Warren posted on Instagram.
If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash! pic.twitter.com/D5KWr8EPan
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2019
Phillips, a Vietnam veteran who said he served between 1972 and 1976, is in tears as he explains in a video how the incident on Friday made him feel:
"I heard them saying, 'Build that wall, build that wall.' This in indigenous land. You know, we're not supposed to have walls here. We never did …"
He continued, "Before anybody else came here, we never had walls. We never had a prison. We always took care of our elders. We took care of our children. We always provided for them. We taught them right from wrong."
He said he wishes the young men who taunted him would use "that energy to make this country really great."
Thank you to @VinceSchilling of @IndianCountry and many others who identified the proud Native man who is being harassed. He is Mr. Nathan Phillips. I'm reposting this video from “ka_ya11" on IG. This man's words pierce my heart. The grace. The wisdom. The hope. pic.twitter.com/BKOA40SVq5
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 19, 2019
Robert "Bob" Rowe is the principal of Covington Catholic High School (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
An investigation is now taking place, and the MAGA teens could be expelled. The Diocese of Covington and the high school issued the following statement on Saturday:
"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."
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org demanding changes at the high school.
Many are saying on social media that the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students mimics how whites tried to intimidate Blacks during the civil rights movement:
The MAGA-hat wearing Covington Catholic High School students mocking Elder Nathan Phillips at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington are direct descendants of the white privilege that empowered white kids to mock Elizabeth Eckford at Little Rock Central High School in 1957. pic.twitter.com/tQroBf6aPb
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 19, 2019
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