A student from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who says he was present at the incident where MAGA hat-wearing students from his class allegedly harassed a Native American activist says that the media has spun the story wildly — and that it was actually the Native American man who harassed them.
The incident went viral after a video that appeared to show the students sneering at the tribal elder, Nathan Phillips, as he was drumming elicited a firestorm of social media opprobrium directed at the youngsters.
The school is now investigating the incident and says it “will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”
“We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general,” a statement from school officials and the Diocese of Covington read, according to The Washington Post.
However, one of the teens who was present at the Friday incident in Washington says the narrative simply isn’t accurate — and video evidence from the scene backs him up.
The images of teenagers wearing Make America Great Again hats and allegedly harassing an elderly Native American man were just too good for the media to pass up.
“You have probably seen or heard of the video of students wearing MAGA gear supposedly ‘harassing,’ ‘bothering,’ and ‘jeering at’ a Native American veteran,” the teen said in a statement to WKRC-TV. “This is not true and taken entirely out of context.”
— Adam Clements (@AClementsWKRC) January 20, 2019
The teen went on to discuss the fact that Covington Catholic students attend the anti-abortion March for Life yearly and students often cheer during the rally — which, he says, they were doing near the Lincoln Memorial.
“In the midst of our cheers, we were approached by a group of adults led by Nathan Phillips, with Phillips beating his drum,” the account reads.
“They forced their way into the center of our group. We initially thought this was a cultural display, since he was beating along to our cheers and so we clapped to the beat. He came to stand in front of one of my classmates who stood where he was, smiling and enjoying the experience.
“However, after multiple minutes of Mr. Phillips beating his drump directly in the face of my friend (mere centimeters from his nose), we became confused and started wondering what was happening. It was not until later that we discovered they would incriminate us as a publicity stunt.
“As a result, my friend faces expulsion for simply standing still and our entire school is being disparaged for a crime we did not commit. To reiterate, we did not partake in any physical or verbal abuse, did not chant ‘build the wall’ or mock or anything of the like, and did not seek to incite violence.”
The teen went on to say that his group was verbally accosted by several African-Americans who were part of another demonstration who called them a gay slur and “berated one of our African-American students for being friends with us.”
This, apparently, referred to members of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement who apparently confronted both March for Life participants and Native American participants in the Indigenous People’s March, according to The Associated Press.
“The truth needs to come out,” the student said. “I pray that you read this and can speak for us who are silenced by the media.”
The teen then included links to three video clips that showed that Phillips was the first to approach them, that Phillips’ group was “inciting debates as well as harassments of the students by another group” and yet another video showing harassment.
“Covington Catholic student bothering elder man” yet here is evidence of the man approaching them during their school cheer not disturbing anyone. Doesn’t make sense pic.twitter.com/SRYRJOIoKf
— Maria Judy (@mariajudy_) January 19, 2019
The second video was removed, but the third seems to show members of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement harassing students. We must warn you that it contains some graphic language and that viewer discretion is advised.
Let’s end it with these. pic.twitter.com/QRbr3XVRbM
— Ava Quigley (@ava_quigley) January 20, 2019
The student’s account seems to align with other video evidence that indicates the original story — that the Covington students undertook to harass Phillips from the outset and that there were no other forces at play — was, at the very least, much less complicated than the narrative we have now.
While the media is backing away from the full-frontal outrage we were first presented with, they’re doing so quietly, so as not to look as if they railroaded a bunch of kids. They shouldn’t be allowed to do that. Our press ought to acknowledge this case is far more messy than it was originally framed as — and that the rush to judgment was unfair, both to these high schoolers and to America as a whole.
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