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Video shows Catholic students appearing to taunt members of the Indigenous People's March

Posted: 10:59 AM, Jan 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-22 08:45:27-05

Online videos showing students from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, confronting and mocking members of the Indigenous People's March in Washington, D.C., on Friday have brought widespread condemnation against them and their school.

Apologizing on behalf of CovCath and the Diocese of Covington, a spokesperson said Saturday that students involved could be expelled.

The videos show one person among a group of CovCath students face to face and smirking at an Indigenous People's marcher singing and playing a hand drum near the Lincoln Memorial. The marcher was identified as Nathan Phillips, an Omaha Nation elder and Vietnam veteran. Others surrounding the small group of marchers are shown laughing and taking pictures or videos with their phones.

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Some in the group are wearing "Make America Great Again" caps and clothing. A few can be seen wearing Covington Catholic spirit wear and some others can be seen wearing Cincinnati Bengals clothing.

Phillips, 64, told The Washington Post he felt threatened by the teens and that they suddenly swarmed around him and his group. He said he was singing the American Indian Movement song of unity that serves as a ceremony to send the spirits home.

“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,’ ” Phillips recalled. “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.”

Diocese of Covington spokesperson Laura Keener released this statement:

"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.

The Covington Catholic website shows the students were in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life.

The hashtag #nathanphillips has gone viral with condemnation of the students' actions. Rep. Debra Haaland from New Mexico was among the most vocal.

In a separate video, Phillips, a former director of the Native Youth Alliance, according to Indian Country Today , said the students approached him chanting, "Build that wall. Build that wall."

"We're not supposed to have walls here. This is indigenous land. We don't have walls here," Phillips said.

He called on young people to put their energy to better use, like "helping those who are hungry."

Haaland, who with Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) became the first Native American women elected to Congress last fall, said the video was difficult to watch, the Post reported.

“To see a group of students from a Catholic school who are practicing such intolerance is a sad sight for me,” said Haaland, who is Catholic.

Since the videos appeared online, the social media pages for Covington Catholic and some Covington Catholic faculty members have been set to private.

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