More video emerged on Sunday of the viral moment between a Native American man and a student wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, complicating an incident that has already been cast as yet another parable of the nation’s heavily divided politics and growing racial tension.
More than an hour of footage shot before the encounter was uploaded on YouTube on Sunday, and appeared to show a confrontation between a large group of Catholic students instigated by black men who identified themselves as Hebrew Israelites. In the clip, the men can be heard shouting at anyone on scene at the Lincoln Memorial, including other black visitors and Native Americans.
The camera then turns to the students, who were in Washington for an anti-abortion rally, some of whom were wearing hats with President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
“And you got these pompous bastards coming down here in the middle of a native rally with their dirty ass hat on,” a man in the video says. Another person later screams at the students: “A bunch of incest babies. This is what ‘Make America Great’ looks like.”
One of the activists in the video denied on Facebook that his group had instigated the incident, saying in a comment that the “devils are trying to be sneaky.”
The Native American elder at the center of the viral video, Nathan Phillips, comes into view shortly thereafter, the short encounter that has become a viral moment. Phillips is quickly surrounded by the teenagers in the clip, during which he said he felt intimidated when some began jeering and one student in particular stood staring in front of him.
Late Sunday, the student at the center of the video, Nick Sandmann, released a statement through a public relations firm attempting to distance himself from allegations of racism and intimidation. Instead, the Covington Catholic High School student said he believed he was helping to defuse the situation.
“I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves,” Sandmann wrote. “To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. … I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.”
The incident has prompted nationwide outrage and Sandmann said Sunday he had received death threats and calls that he be expelled from school. In several interviews, Phillips clarified that he had approached the students himself in an attempt to defray some of the tension between the white students and the black men who were yelling.
“I stepped in between to pray,” Phillips told The New York Times in an interview, saying he was worried that racial tensions were “coming to a boiling point.”
Tensions remained high after the encounter, and Sandmann’s school and the Diocese of Covington in Kentucky released a joint statement apologizing to Phillips on Saturday. Amid the threats, the student said he harbored “no ill will” for the Vietnam War veteran, but moved to direct some of the responsibility for the situation on Phillips.
“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,” Sandmann wrote. “I believe he should re-think his tactics of invading the personal space of others, but that is his choice to make.”