Representatives from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School have confirmed plans to look into their student body after several of their students appeared in a viral video harassing and mocking protesters at an Indigenous Peoples March.
The viral video above spread around the web Saturday (Jan. 19) a day after the protest that took place in Washington, D.C. Teens in the video were rocking “Make America Great Again” to support President Donald Trump and the anti-abortion March for Life demonstration that was also taking place on Indigenous Peoples Day.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Laura Keener, the communications director with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, released a statement about the video: “We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place. We are looking into it.”
In the video below, Indigenous elder Nathan Phillips of the Omaha tribe was reportedly performing a song meant to calm down the crowd when the large group of teens surrounded him, with one eye to eye as he and another elder chanted.
In tears, Phillips recalled the incident, calling for an apology and that the teens would “put that energy into making this country really great.” The teens also got their messages mixed up when they also screamed “build that wall” toward him.
“I heard them saying ‘build the wall, build that wall,'” he said. “This is indigenous land. We’re not supposed to have walls here. Before anyone came here there were no walls, we never even had prisons. We always took care of our elders, we took care of our children. We taught them right from wrong.”
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Speaking to The Enquirer Vincent Schilling shared how Phillips has been attacked in the past for standing up for indigenous peoples. Schilling, who is a member of the Mohawk tribe, said Phillips was pelted with trash just a few years ago by Eastern Michigan University students who hosted a Native American-themed party.
“As a Native American journalist, I find this to be one of the most egregious displays of naïve – I can’t even say naïve. It’s racism. It’s blatant racism,” Schilling said.
“The guy has just been through a lot. To see Mr. Phillips treated this way is an incalculable amount of disrespect, and it’s absolutely unacceptable in Native culture. As a Native man, I’ve got it countless times myself I’ve been mocked, I’ve been teased, my culture has been ridiculed. This is just another brick in the wall. I wanted so bad to walk up to those kids and say, ‘You know this is a Vietnam veteran, right?'”
Director Ava DuVernay slammed the teens for their behavior as well as a number of indigenous social justice figures.
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
Thank you for the kind shout-out @Ava
Nathan Phillips and I have shared in a sacred pipe ceremony to honor Native American veterans.
He is a Vietnam veteran, such behavior is terrible.
Again, thank you for your support. https://t.co/RRaQeEJFku
— Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) January 19, 2019
The teens in the video haven’t been identified.