After Friday’s “March for Life” in Washington, D.C., a group of boys from an all-boys Catholic high school in Kentucky were assembled near the Lincoln Memorial, awaiting the buses that would take them home. During the wait some of the boys encountered a Native American Vietnam Veteran, Nathan Phillips, who was beating a drum. A brief video of the incident, which many claimed showed a student mocking or “jeering at” Phillips (as covered by our Sarah Quinlan) went viral. By Saturday afternoon the student was doxxed, threatened with expulsion, and the incident was being used by the usual suspects as yet another example of toxic masculinity and white privilege.
No one, apparently, attempted to talk to the students involved to hear their side or to see if there were any misunderstandings. One student who was in attendance emailed a local television station, then spoke to one of their reporters on the telephone, to share his version of events. WKRC’s Adam Clements tweeted screenshots of the email.
— Adam Clements (@AClementsWKRC) January 20, 2019
The email reads, in part:
Every year, my school attends the March for Life in D.C. and afterward tours the city. Our chaperones and teachers told us to be at the Lincoln Memorial at 5:30 to be ready for the buses to pick us up. 5:30 came around and we were all gathered at the Memorial. As we are an all-male school that loves to get hyped up…and as we have done for years prior, we decided to do some cheers to pass time.
Personally, I don’t think it’s appropriate to be doing school cheers in that environment. But that’s just me. There is nothing wrong with what is described so far. The student continued:
“In the midst of our cheers we were approached by a group of adults led by Nathan Phillips, with Phillips beating his drum. 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 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 drum directly in the face of my friend (mere centimeters from his nose) we became confused and started wondering what was happening.”
The video posted to YouTube by the Indigenous Peoples March, which Phillips had attended, bears this out. At around 2:20 into the video a boy’s voice is heard saying, “I don’t even know what’s going on.” In response, a female who was with Phillips replied:
“You guys are acting like a mob. That’s what’s going on. F***ing mob mentality. It’s awesome, because you guys are what, 16? How old are you?”
Immediately after that exchange, the camera turns to a black Covington student, who is dancing along to the drumbeat. Some of the boys were chanting along, which could be taken as mocking – or it could be taken as boys who are experiencing a different culture up close and personal for maybe the first time attempting to enjoy it and not really knowing how to appropriately respond.
The email from the Covington student elaborated:
“We did not partake in any physical or verbal abuse, did not chant “build the wall” or mock or anything of the like, or seek to incite violence.”
The student linked to three videos, one of which had been taken down from YouTube at the time this article was written. This video shows Phillips approaching the high school students and walking in to the crowd:
“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
This video shows the two sides debating, and the one exchange that stood out to me was when one adult told a black Covington student, “When you get old enough, they’re going to steal your organs.”
One video that was not linked by the Covington student gives even more context, starting around 1:12:00. In that video, the narrator mentions how disrespectful it was to wear MAGA hats to an Indigenous Peoples Day rally. But did the Covington students know they were at said rally, or were they simply obeying their chaperones’ directions?
#CovingtonCatholic Look at reporter @AClementsWKRC 's Twitter page. he's got a different side of this story and there is a new video that shows stuff at 1:12:00 that's different than the news that came out earlier. https://t.co/YVs7t8LWoB
— MayVary (@MayVary1) January 20, 2019
Another student said that even before they started chanting, they’d been called “crackers” and “school shooters,” probably because many were wearing MAGA hats.
I’ve scoured the videos of this incident and have yet to find one in which the students acted disrespectful or in which anyone chanted, “Build the wall.” If such video existed I believe it would be played endlessly on CNN and MSNBC, which leads me to believe it doesn’t exist.
Sadly, because of their Trump Derangement Syndrome or some other type of superiority complex issue, people in the “media” have tied this incident to toxic masculinity, judged the content of the boys’ character and hearts by their perception of what a MAGA hat means, and sought to slander the Covington Catholic students attending this march by tying them to another student who committed brutal rape. (The only thing the two incidents have to do with each other is that both involved Covington Catholic students. But hey, that means they have a culture of toxic masculinity, racism, and disrespect, right?)
Salads is half right. There is no evidence Phillips was harassed. But because these boys wore MAGA hats and were in the wrong place at the wrong time, they’re fearing for their lives and future.
It’s probably hopelessly naive and overly optimistic, but I hope that all of the adults involved in shaming these boys and ascribing malicious intent will at apologize for their rush to judgment, or at the very least honestly look at the other side of the coin.