President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday evening about the viral video that showed an encounter between a Native American man and a Catholic high school student in Washington D.C. last weekend.
Trump’s comments were posted on Twitter amid the ongoing furor over the encounter between Nick Sandmann, a junior at a Kentucky Catholic school, and a Native American man named Nathan Phillips. Sandmann was recorded staring down Phillips near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. after attending an anti-abortion rally.
Many described the student’s expression as an example of racism. Phillips said he felt intimidated after he was swarmed by the group of students. He later clarified in interviews that he chose to approach the teenagers in an attempt to diffuse a conflict between the students and a group of men who identified themselves as Black Hebrew Israelites.
“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 told The Washington Post after the incident. “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.”
Witnesses at the scene also described hearing the students, many of whom were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, chanting “Build the wall!” Others said the teens were mocking Phillips and his companions with a tomahawk-chop gesture.
Sandmann later claimed that he was trying to defuse the situation when he stood in front of Phillips and that he “said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.”
“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 in a statement released through a public relations firm. “To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me.