Viral video footage portrays a group of white teenage boys wearing “Make America Great Again” hats harassing a Native American elder while at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, DC. Nathan Phillips, 64, the man central in the video, is a Vietnman War veteran, an Omaha elder, and a widower.
The MAGA-hats-wearing teens, hailing from a Catholic high school in Kentucky, were apparently in D.C. on a high school field trip. For the Women’s March? For the Indigenous People’s march? No and no. For the March for Life, an anti-abortion demonstration, as reported by the New York Times.
They decided to harass Phillips while they were at it. Mocking, sneering, crowding… Oh, and chanting “Build that wall, build that wall,” which has a special kind of belligerent ignorance when sung at indigenous populations.
As seen in the viral video, a mob essentially formed around Phillips. Snearing faces get way too close to him as he plays a ceremonial drum. In spite of the snickering teens surrounding him, Phillips continued to sing the American Indian Movement song, which is intended to send spirits home.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Phillips stated, “It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial...I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”
“I felt like the spirit was talking through me,” Phillips said to the Post, explaining that he thought of his late wife, Shoshana, who passed as a result of bone marrow cancer four years ago. He thought, too, about all the violence indigenous communities face.
Darren Thompson, an organizer for The Indigenous Peoples Movement, said in the statement:
“It clearly demonstrates the validity of our concerns about the marginalization and disrespect of Indigenous peoples, and it shows that traditional knowledge is being ignored by those who should listen most closely… [The incident is] emblematic of our discourse in Trump’s America.”
Phillips, who said he feels overwhelmed by all that happened, ultimately hopes the teens who harassed him will learn from this experience.
“That energy could be turned into feeding the people, cleaning up our communities and figuring out what else we can do,” Phillips told the Post. “We need the young people to be doing that instead of saying: ‘These guys are our enemies.’ ”
Covington Catholic High, along with the Diocese of Covington, issued a statement on Saturday which condemned the student’s actions, and suggested the students may be expelled:
"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.”
Oh, and the especially smug teen’s mother? She reportedly wrote an email to Heavy.com, in which she attempts to deflect to alleged “black Muslims” instead of her son’s behavior:
“Did you hear the names of the people where (sic) calling these boys? It was shameful. Did you witness the black Muslims yelling profanities and video taping to get something to futher (sic) your narrative of hatred??”
“You are ruining a boys life for fake news,” the email reportedly continues. “Hate spreads like wildfire. I pray for you.”