Nathan Phillips, the 64-year-old Vietnam Veteran and Native American elder who found himself being mocked and taunted by a group of high school boys from Covington, Kentucky, shared his view of the appalling incident with The Washington Post.
Phillips, who was singing the American Indian Movement song that serves as a ceremony to send the spirits home, said he noticed tensions beginning to escalate when the teens and other apparent participants from the nearby March for Life rally began taunting the dispersing indigenous crowd.
A few people in the March for Life crowd began to chant, “Build that wall, build that wall,” he said.
“It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ ” Phillips recalled. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way, and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”
Phillips kept drumming and singing, thinking about his wife, Shoshana, who died of bone marrow cancer nearly four years ago, and the various threats that face indigenous communities around the world, he said.
“I felt like the spirit was talking through me,” Phillips said.
Defenders of the young boys shared on social media a video clip that appeared to show Phillips approaching the school group at one point.
They claimed Phillips was the instigator, but other witnesses say Phillips saw the teens taunting another group and was trying to peacefully defuse a situation before it escalated.
More from The Post:
Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney with the Lakota People’s Law Project, said the incident lasted about 10 minutes and ended when Phillips and other activists walked away.
Phillips and the people involved in the Indigenous Peoples March had been using what he described as a “permitted space” near the Lincoln Memorial for hours. But as they were wrapping up, other people with opposing viewpoints — including some from the March for Life — had entered that permitted space and were making demonstrations of their own.
He told The Post that he hoped to get closer to the Lincoln Memorial to conclude the ceremony. That’s when he encountered the large group of boys.
“It was an aggressive display of physicality. They were rambunctious and trying to instigate a conflict,” Iron Eyes said. “We were wondering where their chaperones were. [I] was really trying to defuse the situation.”
A group of students from @CovCathColonels harassed & bothered this Native American protestor at the Indigenous Peoples March. Appalling.pic.twitter.com/bYCdxApcLG
— Simar (@sahluwal) January 19, 2019
In fairness, when the young man at the center of the scandal publicly shares his perspective I’ll be sure and post that as well.
Here is another infuriating clip from the MAGA mob of kids from #CovingtonCatholic
An indigenous man politely reminds them they are on stolen land and a student responds, “Land gets stolen. That’s how it works. It’s the way of the world.” via @ka_ya11 IG #IndigenousPeoplesMarch pic.twitter.com/SYun9wkzpY
— Andrew Kimmel (@andrewkimmel) January 19, 2019