COVINGTON, Ky. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Students at a Catholic school are getting demonized both in the media and by Catholic leaders after a misleading video clip cast them as racists.
Students at Covington Catholic High School were waiting for their bus at the Lincoln Memorial when Black Hebrew Israelite protestors started shouting insults and slurs at them, using words like "cracker" and "faggot." The students did school spirit cheers to drown out the insults when a small group of Native American protestors came into the crowd. One Native American, beating a drum and singing, waded into the crowd of high school boys and walked up to one boy wearing a Make America Great Again hat. The man stood face to face with the boy, beating the drum just a few inches from his face.
The man beating the drum, activist Nathan Phillips, told the media that the high schoolers surrounded him, threatened and mocked him and chanted "build the wall." A short video clip from the encounter was deceptively edited to make it look like all the high school students, including the boy face to face with Phillips, had surrounded Phillips and were all mocking his Native American heritage.
One video clip shows at least one high schooler in the crowd apparently making the "hatchet" hand motion, which is widely considered offensive to Native Americans. Many of the students in the crowd are wearing spirit wear from Covington Catholic High School — a Catholic all-boys school in Northern Kentucky.
The diocese of Covington, Covington Catholic High School and even the U.S. bishops' conference quickly condemned the high schoolers seen in the edited video clip, accusing them of engaging in "raw partisan activism" and lacking "respect of the human person."
Now, that teenage boy and his colleagues are facing threats of violence from leftists on social media, even though later video evidence shows that Phillips was the instigator of the encounter, not the high schooler.
In fact, video footage taken by one of the Black Israel activists shows Phillips and the other Native Americans approaching the high schoolers peacefully, and it seems as though their drumming is joining in on the high schoolers' cheers.
A spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gave a thinly veiled criticism of the high schoolers on Twitter, writing, "The Pro-Life movement is not merely a political movement and should never be reduced to raw partisan activism. It is an invitation to treat one another, born and unborn, as children of God. Ugly examples to the contrary are unacceptable to the authentic pro-life generation."
Meanwhile, the diocese of Covington released a joint statement on the incident, along with Covington Catholic High School, condemning the students while also admitting that the incident is still "being investigated."
The brief statement reads, "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."
It continues, "The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion."
Even the mayor of Covington joined in on the condemnations in an op-ed for local newspaper The Cincinnati Enquirer. Covington, Kentucky is just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio.
More recently, some headlines online hinted that the school might be considering a lawsuit against the media for slandering the students. But it is unclear what the sources are for this, and the statement condemning the students remained on the diocese's website at the time of publication.
The boy that Phillips got face to face with later identified himself as Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic. He and his family released a statement to the media on Sunday through an attorney and spokesperson. In this statement, Sandmann said, "I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me."
He went on, "We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers."
"I believed that by remaining motionless and calm," Sandmann wrote, "I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand."
Sandmann added, "I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me — to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence."
Phillips, a lifelong activist, was in the nation's capital for the Indigenous Peoples' March.
There is a Change.org petition siding with the boys of Covington Catholic High School and opposing their expulsion from the school. At the time of publication, it had nearly 13,000 signatures.
Another petition calls for all the news outfits who smeared the high schoolers to issue an "immediate apology." This petition has garnered nearly 9,000 signatures.