Native American Activist Nathan Phillips Speaks Out After MAGA Hat Teens Harassed Him And Others
"There was that moment when I realized I've put myself between beast and prey," Phillips said.
The Vietnam War veteran and Omaha elder was one of many attending the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington D.C. January 18 when the peaceful protest turned south. NBC News reports a group of "Make America Great Again" hat-wearing teens surrounded activists, who were singing "American Indian Movement."
They were reportedly in D.C. for the conservative March for Life. Numerous white male teens chanted "Build the wall" as a threat and used profane language to harass the mostly Native American group.
It is reported the teens were students from Covington Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky. In an interview with The Detroit Free Press, Phillips said the students and a group of Black protesters from the Black Hebrew Israelites exchanged barbs before he intervened.
"They witnessed these individuals on their soapbox saying what they had to say," Phillips told the Detroit Free Press. "They didn't agree with it and got offended."
Pure hate. Those red hats and maga gear are the same as a white hood. https://t.co/laPvorJKGL— Mari Copeny (@LittleMissFlint) January 19, 2019
Here you have a white boy wearing a shit-eating grin and a MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat mocking a Native elder during a song, standing aggressively close, as his friends laugh and jeer nearby. Racism against Natives is an ongoing, mawkish American tradition. https://t.co/U9Bi90HSl7— Simon Moya-Smith (@SimonMoyaSmith) January 19, 2019
Phillips witnessed the tension rise as some of the teens began attacking four members of the Black activist group. Without a second thought, he decided to get in between the two opposing groups.
"They were in the process of attacking these four Black individuals," Phillip said. "I was there and I was witnessing all of this ... As this kept on going on and escalating, it just got to a point where you do something or you walk away, you know? You see something that is wrong and you're faced with that choice of right or wrong. "
Footage from the hate-filled incident showed an unidentified white male smirk smugly at Phillips as he played his hand drum. Other white teens laughed, chanted and mocked a distance away.
Twitter users were quick to point out the lack of respect these teens had for a former marine and Native Americans. The absolute absurdity of Trump supporters yelling "Build the wall" proves, to many, the proposed structure is a symbol of racism not a structure for security.
"There was that moment when I realized I've put myself between beast and prey," Phillips said. "These young men were beastly and these old Black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that."
Laura Keener, a spokesperson from the archdiocese, condemned the actions of the teens and claimed their actions were not indicative of the school's teachings.
"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.," the archdiocese's statement read. "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."
Although they apologized to Phillips, he said he received threatening phone calls in wake of the video. The Covington Catholic High School will also be investigating the students involved in the incident.
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