The MAGA hat-wearing teen who went viral over the weekend — after he was caught on camera smiling and staring down an elderly Native American war vet at the indigenous Peoples March in Washington — has come forward to defend his actions.
“I am providing this factual account of what happened on Friday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial to correct misinformation and outright lies being spread about my family and me,” explained Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky, the New York Post reports.
“I am the student in the video who was confronted by the Native American protester,” he said, speaking to reporters in an emailed statement.
“I am being called every name in the book, including a racist … I have received physical and death threats via social media, as well as hateful insults.
“One person threatened to harm me at school, and one person claims to live in my neighbourhood. My parents are receiving death and professional threats because of the social media mob that has formed over this issue.”
Sandmann added, “I am mortified that so many people have come to believe something that did not happen — that students from my school were chanting or acting in a racist fashion toward African-Americans or Native Americans.
“I did not do that, do not have hateful feelings in my heart, and did not witness any of my classmates doing that.”
According to Sandmann, the group he was with had arrived at the Lincoln Memorial around 4.30pm Friday and noticed “four African-American protesters” directing “derogatory insults” at them.
“We had been attending the March for Life rally, and then had split up into small groups to do sightseeing,” he said.
The black demonstrators were allegedly saying “hateful things” about Sandmann and his classmates — who were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and appeared to be predominantly white.
“They called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,’ ‘f**gots,’ and incest kids,” Sandmann said. “They also taunted an African American student from my school by telling him that we would ‘harvest his organs.’
“I have no idea what that insult means, but it was startling to hear.”
Sandmann claimed that since his group was being “loudly attacked and taunted in public,” one of his classmates thought it would be a good idea to begin their “school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted” at them.
“They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school,” the teen explained. “Our chaperone gave us permission to use our school chants. We would not have done that without obtaining permission from the adults in charge of our group.”
Sandmann said “at no time” did he hear any student yell anything other than the school spirit chants.
“I did not witness or hear any students chant ‘build that wall’ or anything hateful or racist at any time,” he said. “Assertions to the contrary are simply false. Our chants were loud because we wanted to drown out the hateful comments that were being shouted at us by the protesters.”
After several minutes, Sandmann claimed, a group of Native American protesters — which included Vietnam War vet Nathan Phillips, the activist who got stared down on camera — stepped in and began shouting hateful things at them.
“We had already been yelled at by another group of protesters, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers,” Sandmann said.
“The protester everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him. I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face.”
According to Sandmann, a member of Phillips’ “entourage” began yelling at one of his classmates — saying the group “stole our land” and telling them to “go back to Europe.”
“I heard one of my fellow students begin to respond. I motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protester, as I was still in the mindset that we needed to calm down tensions,” Sandmann said.
“I never felt like I was blocking (Phillips). He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.”
This Veteran put his life on the line for our country. The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking. https://t.co/NuPnYu9FP4
— Congresswoman Deb Haaland (@RepDebHaaland) January 19, 2019
While some believe Sandmann was taunting the 64-year-old, he insisted that he was “not intentionally making faces” at him.
“I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation,” Sandmann remembered.
“I am a faithful Christian and practising 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.
“I harbour no ill will for this person,” the teen added. “I respect this person’s right to protest and engage in free speech activities, and I support his chanting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial any day of the week.
“I believe he should rethink his tactics of invading the personal space of others, but that is his choice to make.”
In the end, Sandmann said he was ultimately trying to “diffuse the situation” by “remaining motionless and calm”.
“I realised everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict,” he explained.
“I am not going to comment on the words or account of Mr Phillips, as I don’t know him and would not presume to know what is in his heart or mind. Nor am I going to comment further on the other protesters, as I don’t know their hearts or minds, either.
“I have read that Mr Phillips is a veteran of the United States Marines. I thank him for his service and am grateful to anyone who puts on the uniform to defend our nation. If anyone has earned the right to speak freely, it is a US Marine veteran.
“I can only speak for myself and what I observed and felt at the time. But I would caution everyone passing judgment based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington has since apologised for what happened and condemned the actions of the students — saying “this behaviour is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.”
Church officials have also vowed to take “appropriate action, up to and including expulsion”.
“I provided this account of events to the Diocese of Covington so they may know exactly what happened,” Sandmann said. “I stand ready and willing to co-operate with any investigation they are conducting.”
This article originally appeared on the NY Post and is republished with permission.