If you went on social media over the weekend, you almost certainly saw a video clip of MAGA hat–wearing students from Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School in some sort of standoff with a Native American advocate and Marine Corps veteran, Nathan Phillips, after Friday's March for Life anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C.
The Catholic diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High did, and they said in a joint statement Saturday that they "condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students toward Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general. ... The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion."
After that clip went viral on Saturday, on Sunday "the nation picked apart footage from dozens of cellphones that recorded the incident," The Associated Press notes, and the student featured in the viral clip, Nick Sandmann, released a statement explaining his side of the story. He said Phillips approached him, and "I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation." He added that he is now "being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family's name." Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said the "honorable and tolerant students of Covington Catholic School" learned "a brutal lesson in the unjust court of public opinion and social media mobs."
Phillips told the Detroit Free Press that he stepped in to defuse a brewing brawl between the crowd of about 100 Covington students and a handful of confrontational men from a religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelites. "I'm a Marine Corps veteran and I know what that mob mentality can be like," he said. "I mean, it was that ugly." He said some Covington students started shouting "Build the Wall" and insulting Native Americans. Marcus Frejo, a member of the Pawnee and Seminole tribes, told The Associated Press that he and Phillips approached the Covington students in part because one of their school cheers was a haka, or war dance of New Zealand's Maori people, and they thought it was mocking. Some students are seen doing a "tomahawk chop."
When you watch the nearly 2-hour video of the incident and what led up to it, says Jorge L. Ortiz at USA Today, "the fuller video would seem to assign more blame on a small group of Black Hebrew Israelites," who hurled insults first at Phillips and other Indigenous Peoples March participants then called the Covington students "crackers" and disparaged Catholicism and President Trump, among other aspersions. Peter Weber
Annika Dean survived a mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport last January, shielded by a stranger she called her "guardian angel." On Wednesday, her son, 14-year-old Austin Foote, also became a shooting survivor: He is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 were killed. Nikolas Cruz, 19, has confessed to being the shooter.
"I had just finished teaching my classes, I was looking at my phone and my son began texting me about what was happening at Stoneman Douglas," Dean, who is an elementary school art teacher, told the Sun-Sentinel. "He said this is not a drill, this is actual, and my heart just sank. I knew what he was going through."
Upsettingly, it is not the only story of its sort. Carly Novell, 17, also survived the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, just as her grandfather had survived a mass shooting in 1949 by hiding in a closet while he heard his parents be shot outside. "My family has always been really supportive of gun control," she wrote at The Cut, adding: "Anytime there is a shooting we are always thinking about my grandpa. And now it is happening so much more often. I think my grandfather would be really angry and upset." Jeva Lange