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Nathan Phillips and MAGA hat teens: Extended footage shines new light

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Newly released extended video footage has cast a new light on an apparent standoff between a group of teenagers wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and a Native American protester last Friday.

Partial footage of a group of students chanting and smiling along, as the tribesman sang and beat a drum, sparked controversy on social media over the weekend, as people accused the students of sneering at, and harassing, Phillips.

The group was identified as students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, and the Native American man as Omaha tribe elder and Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips. The students were at the March for Life rally, while the Native Americans were at the nearby Indigenous Peoples March.

Phillips (center) and other tribesman were at at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, DC, while the students were at the March for Life. Here Phillips is at a protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in February 2017.
Terray Sylvester/Reuters

Criticism of the students ratcheted up further as the students’ school and local archdiocese condemned the boys and apologized to Phillips over the weekend, and Phillips claimed he heard them chant “build that wall.”

But a 106-minute-long video of the event and a statement by one of the teenagers, both published on Sunday, present the episode with a different angle and cast doubts on many of these allegations. The new video shows the teens do not appear to be harassing Phillips, and the “sneer” on one boy’s face might simply be the look of a young boy who is baffled as to why an older man with a drum has singled him out for attention.

Here’s what the video and statement say:

  • The first 45 minutes (00:45) show a group of African-American men, who identify themselves as Hebrew Israelites, protesting in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, at the same time as the March for Life.
  • At about 00:49, the Israelites appear to address the group of MAGA hat-wearing students as “dirty a-s c——s” with “racist a-s ‘Make America Great Again’ hats on,” and “future school shooters,” among other offensive terms.
  • The students do not appear to react to the Israelites, and walk away around the 00:50 mark.
  • Nick Sandmann, the student filmed standing directly in front of Phillips, said in his statement that he heard the Israelites “direct derogatory insults at our school group.” (Read the full statement here.)
  • The group of appears to migrate to the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial by the 1:00 mark.
  • The group of students start chanting and jumping from the 1:10 mark. One of them takes his shirt off and starts jumping, while other students cheer on.
  • It is not clear what they are saying, INSIDER can hear repeated chants of “CCH,” which could mean “Covington Catholic High.” INSIDER did not hear them yell “build that wall.”
  • Sandmann said these were “school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group.” He added that they obtained their chaperones’ permission before chanting them.

A composite image of Hebrew Israelites shouting at a group of students wearing red MAGA hats, the students chanting, and Native American tribesman Nathan Phillips beating his drum in front of the students on Friday.
John Duncan/YouTube

  • Phillips and other Native American protesters enter around the 1:12 mark and can be seen banging drums.
  • They approach the high schoolers, who appear to be chanting school spirit anthems.
  • As the Native American protesters come closer to the students, the group appears to jump and chant to Phillips’ beat.
  • Sandmann said he was “startled and confused as to why he [Phillips] had approached me,” and that he was “worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers.”
  • Friday’s video, which purported to show Sandmann and his schoolmates mocking the tribesmen, was filmed at some point here.
  • The Israelites continue to shout insulting terms at the group, and some students can be seen saying “Boo” and “No” to them.

Sandmann, one of the students in the group, said he was “startled and confused” when Phillips approached him. Here, Phillips at a protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in February 2017.
Terray Sylvester/Reuters

On Friday, the mother of one of the students in the group also told Heavy.com the boys were provoked by “black Muslims yelling profanities and videotaping to get something to further your narrative of hatred.”

Sandmann, in his Sunday statement, said that by staring at Phillips, he was “helping to diffuse the situation.” He also claimed that Phillips “had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.”

“I believe he should re-think his tactics of invading the personal space of others, but that is his choice to make,” he said, adding that he and his parents had received death and professional threats.

Watch the full video of the encounter below. Note: Offensive language.

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