Viral Video Shows Students Surrounding Native American Elder

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Viral Video Shows Students Surrounding Native American Elder

Maggee Chang, Staff Writer

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On January 19, Washington DC held several protest marches including the third annual Women’s March, Right to Life March, and Indigenous People’s March. In a viral video, a boy in a MAGA hat and his classmates are surrounding Native American elder Nathan Phillips, appearing to mock Phillips on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The boy stands extremely close to Phillips, smiling, as Phillips chants his prayer along with beating his drum. The student is Nick Sandmann, a high school student from Covington Catholic School, an all-boys private school in Kentucky, who was on a school trip protesting at the March for Life rally. Nathan Phillips is a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Marines and participated in the Indigenous People’s March.

According to Phillips, there was an altercation between the Covington Catholic students and a small group of protesters called the Black Hebrew Israelites. The Black Hebrew Israelites were taunting and verbally attacking the Covington Catholic students. The students retaliated, chanting. Phillips and his small group noticed the tension and approached the middle of the two groups with a prayer. “I found myself in the middle of it, sort of woke up to it,” he said in a candid interview with CNN about the altercation. “They were in this mob mentality. Where were their parents? Because they were obviously a student group.” While the viral video shows Sandmann and his students boxing in Phillips and his small group, videos from before the peak of the mob show Covington Catholic students chanting and jumping around Phillips until Sandmann approaches Phillips and stands uncomfortably close with a smug smile. Any viewer of this viral video can obviously notice the disturbing and intimidating tension between the two. Phillips said, “I realized I had put myself in a really dangerous situation. Here’s a group of people who were angry at somebody else and I put myself in front of that, and all of a sudden, I’m the one who’s all that anger and all that wanting to have the freedom to just rip me apart, that was scary. And I’m a Vietnam veteran and I know that mentality of ‘There’s enough of us. We can do this.’”

Sixteen-year-old Nick Sandmann, the student, released a statement the next day, telling his side of the story to “correct misinformation and outright lies being spread about my family and me [Sandmann.]” He claimed that he and his group were provoked, thus the retaliation in school chants: “They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school. Our chaperone gave us permission to use our school chants.” He then describes his personal altercation with Phillips: “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. […] I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.” In an interview with co-Anchor of the Today Show Savannah Guthrie two days after his initial statement, Sandmann continued to claim his smile and stance had no ill intentions: “I see it as a smile saying that ‘this is the best you’re going to get out of me. You won’t get any further reaction or aggression, and I’m willing to stand here as long as you [Phillips] want to hit this drum in my face. […] I would say Mr. Phillips had his right to come up to me. I had my right to stay there.” The student consistently claimed there was no disrespect, wished “in hindsight, I wish we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing,” and hopes to have a conversation with Mr. Phillips to clear the air.

This entire ordeal has caught the attention of President Donald Trump. In a tweet, Trump called Sandmann and his classmates “symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be.” Sandmann has commented on the president’s tweets and the overwhelming attention– he and his family have received several death threats and accusations of bigotry and racism. Covington Catholic, the school that Sandmann attends and also funded the trip to DC, has made all social media platforms private but has promised an investigation and that all students will be held accountable. The school closed the Tuesday after MLK Day.

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Maggee Chang, Staff Writer

Maggee Chang is a senior at NGHS, starting her second year at the Crimson Times. Writing has always been a hobby she has found limitless and convenient...

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Viral Video Shows Students Surrounding Native American Elder