By Claire Yetzer
Friday, Jan. 18 marked a busy day in the capital as the March For Life and the first ever Indigenous People’s March coincided. Tensions became high between the two when a group of male high school students came up to participants of the Indigenous People’s March and seemingly harassed them.
The altercation was recorded and has become viral around the internet. The students were wearing the famous red hats with “Make America Great Again” and at one point seemed to be chanting “build that wall, build that wall”.
“We noticed the tensions were escalating so we decided to leave before we were caught up in it,” sophomore Alana Guzman said. She and two other students had attended the Indigenous People’s March along with the Women’s March that weekend in Washington D.C.
The main person targeted by the students was Elder Nathan Phillips, a Marines veteran and a former director of the Native Youth Alliance. The march he was participating in was organized to address issues facing the indigenous community like mental health, police brutality and violence against women.
The young men were identified as students of a private Catholic school in Kentucky.
The incident has now turned into a ‘he said she said’ scenario with both parties telling news outlets differing stories that paint them as without blame.
Hope Lopez, an attendee of the Indigenous People’s March, said that the March for Life participants were approaching the space reserved for the Indigenous People’s March. “They definitely were going into their space, I understand that these two protests were going on and they both the right to freedom of speech and express what they believe but they should respect each others’ platforms.”
A full video that has surface has shown a group of Hebrew Israelites and the high school students exchanging remarks. Phillips walked over to intervene in the scenario while playing a prayer song.
Phillips has given a full interview on CNN on Jan. 22 and Nick Sandmann, the student closest to Phillips, had given a full interview on the Today Show on Jan. 23. Both expressed their regrets for not having avoided the confrontation because of the controversy but maintain their part of the interaction to have been innocent.
Conservatives and liberals have taken opposing stances toward the event, with conservatives condemning the media for rushing to judge and treating the students unfairly.
President Trump has offered for the Covington High School students to visit the White House once the government has reopened.
Phillips has also offered to come and talk with the students about the importance of respecting other cultures and having a dialogue about racism and cultural appropriation.