Teenagers have allegedly harassed a Native American war hero on their way home from an anti-abortion rally.
A video has gone viral of a group of Catholic high school teens who faced off with a group of Native Americans in Washington DC.
The teens, who were wearing Make America Great Again hats, had been attending an anti-abortion rally, chaperoned by staff from their school.
Their behaviour has been criticised by anti-abortionists, the local Roman Catholic Diocese of Kentucky, the Covington mayor, the worldwide media and found them facing expulsion from their school. The teens have posted online saying the incident has been misunderstood.
The boys, who had been attending March for Life, a pro-life rally, allegedly surrounded the group of native Americans taking part in the Indigenous People’s March.
Videos posted online shows groups of the teenagers giggling and standing in groups wearing Trump merchandise as members of the indigenous protest group beat drums, singing protest songs.
In one particular video, a teenager is standing inches away from the face of Omaha tribe elder Nathan Phillips. The video, which can be seen on social media shot from a number of different angles, shows the stand-off goes for an extended period of time. Mr Phillips was filmed saying he could hear the teens chanting, “Build that wall!”
“I wish I could see that energy of the young men, and making this country really great, you know? Helping those that are hungry,” he said in a video that appears on social media.
After the incident gained widespread attention, the teenagers were roundly criticised.
Mr Phillips is a veteran who served in the Vietnam War and previously directed the Native Youth Alliance, which, encourages Native American youth to spark cultural change.
Joe Meyer, the Mayor of Covington, Kentucky, said the teen’s parents should be ashamed “of this smirking young man and the scores of other (nearly all white) students from a Catholic school in Kentucky”. He also shamed the teachers and guardians present who failed to step in and control the misbehaving teenagers.
Mr Phillips, who had organised the Native American march, said he felt compelled to get between a group of black religious activists in the area and largely white students to defuse a potentially dangerous situation. Videos on social media show the white and African-American protesters swearing and exchanging racial epithets.
Mr Phillips told CNN that the teen had approached him as he walked forward while others had stepped aside, forcing them to stand face-to-face.
“I realised I had put myself in a really dangerous situation,” he told CNN. “Here’s a group of people who were angry at somebody else and I put myself in front of that.”
The kids, at large, deny all the serious charges of “racism” and “shameful behaviour”, lamenting the school’s serious discussion of their possible expulsions as political and saying they have been misunderstood.
Text messages between students allege their boisterous chants were misinterpreted by the other protesters
New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland has taken to social media to slam the teens, calling the incident a display of “how common decency has decayed under (Trump’s) administration”.
Congresswoman Haaland is one of the first female Native Americans nominated to serve in the House of Representatives.
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
The school itself also issued an apology to Mr Phillips and more generally to Native American people.
In a joint statement, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School apologised and said they are investigating and will take “appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”