Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann received a wave of vicious attacks after a brief video emerged showing his encounter with Nathan Phillips, a Native American protester, on Friday.
Many accused Sandmann and his classmates of racism and chanting in a way that treated the protester inappropriately, an impression that seemed to change when longer videos surfaced, showing different angles of the incident.
Watch the original video below:
This is painful to watch. A group of teenagers in MAGA hats surrounded and harassed an elder Native American veteran yesterday at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. #ResistTrump #EndWhiteSupremacy #indigenouspeoplesmarch pic.twitter.com/w57wU375Ju
— MoveOn (@MoveOn) January 19, 2019
Now, Sandmann is attempting to set the record straight and explain that he had no intention of harassing Phillips.
“I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name,” he said in an official statement.
“My parents were not on the trip and I strive to represent my family in a respectful way in all public settings.”
Read his full statement below:
Just in: Statement of Nick Sandmann, Covington Catholic High School junior, about the event at the Lincoln Memorial: pic.twitter.com/PkuMh2cVZM
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 20, 2019
Sandmann explained that he and his classmates were waiting at the Lincoln Memorial —where protesters also happened to appear as part of the Indigenous People’s March — for their buses to arrive for their trip back to Kentucky.
He and his classmates started chanting in order to drown out other protesters who hurled inflammatory insults — “bigots,” “white crackers,” “faggots,” “incest kids” — at them.
Sandmann refuted Phillips’ claims that the boys chanted “build the wall,” by saying that he didn’t hear anyone chanting anything racist.
“Assertions to the contrary are simply false,” he said. “Our chants were loud because we wanted to drown out the hateful comments that were being shouted at us by protesters.”
Sandmann also pushed back on the idea that he confronted Phillips or blocked his path, something Phillips later claimed during an interview:
“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. 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. 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.”
Sandmann added that he said a silent prayer for a calmer atmosphere and told his classmate to stop engaging after another protester told his classmate to “go back to Europe.”
Watch that exchange below (around 2:00):
Some also criticized Sandmann for giving an allegedly “smug” smile to Phillips.
One theme of the conversations over the past 24 hours = how deeply familiar this look is. It's the look of white patriarchy, of course, but that familiarity — that banality — is part of what prompts the visceral reaction. This isn't spectacular. It's life in America. pic.twitter.com/TmziDwAjYA
— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) January 21, 2019
But according to Sandmann, he “was not intentionally making faces at the protestor.” He claimed that his smile was a way of letting Phillips know that he “was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation.”
“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,” he said.
He went on to defend his school and thank Phillips, a veteran, for his service to the country.
He concluded by saying that he provided his account so that his Diocese, which criticized the boys’ behavior, could know “exactly what happened.