The mother of the boy filmed allegedly confronting a Native American man this weekend in Washington D.C. says “black Muslims” were responsible for her son’s actions.
The teenager and a group of students, most of them wearing President Trump’s patented “MAGA” hats, encountered tribal elder Nathan Phillips, surrounding him while chanting slogans which they said were school spirit chants.
In an email to HEAVY.com, the boy’s mother said her son was only reacting to being taunted by “black Muslims” beforehand.
“Did you hear the names of the people where (sic) calling these boys? It was shameful,” she wrote. “Did you witness the black Muslims yelling profanities and video taping to get something to futher (sic) your narrative of hatred??”
She also claimed that Phillips came up to her son first and “drummed in his face.”
The boy, who is a student at a Kentucky Catholic school, was attending the anti-abortion March for Life rally in D.C. when the confrontation with Phillips took place. Phillips was participating in the simultaneous Indigenous Peoples Day March.
Multiple videos of the incident show the mass of students swarming and surrounding a group of Native Americans, including Phillips, who were singing and beating drums.
Phillips is an activist for indigenous water protections.
When HEAVY’s Ellyn Santiago told the boy’s mother that her comments would be published, she demanded that she “delete” their email correspondence and called the story “fake news.”
“I want nothing to do with helping perpetuating (sic) your hate,” she wrote. “I do not want to be a part of your story. You are ruining a boys life for fake news. Hate spreads like wildfire. I pray for you.”
The boy has still not been identified.
In an interview recorded after the incident, Phillips wept as he recalled the events of the day.
“I heard them saying, ‘build that wall, build that wall,'” he said. “This is indigenous lands. We’re not supposed to have walls here.”
Update: There are competing narratives surfacing about what transpired in the video. In regards to the “black Muslims” comment from the student’s mother, there’s a good chance she was referring to the Black Hebrew Israelites, who can be seen in one video yelling expletives and racial slurs at passersby. Many are saying the full-length clips show that Phillips intentionally provoked the group of students wearing MAGA hats, but it’s unclear if that’s true. From the video evidence, all that can be ascertained is that Phillips walked towards a large group of students, who immediately surrounded him and chanted slogans while jumping up and down along with some who were seemingly mocking him.
There is no video evidence of students chanting “build that wall.”
According to Phillip’s account, he was putting himself in between the Catholic school students and the BHI, who were apparently engaged in a back-and-forth shouting match with the students. Phillips even acknowledged that the BHI were acting up and “saying some harsh things.”
“So I put myself in between that, between a rock and hard place,” Phillips said.
What is clear is that one student, now identified as Nick Sandmann, stood in Phillips’ path and initiated a sort of ‘stare-down’ with him as a smirk emanated from his face.
In a lengthy statement issued to Cincinnati.com’s The Enquirer, Sandmann gives his side of the story, which readers can assess for themselves.
“Because we were being loudly attacked and taunted in public, a student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group,” Sandmann’s statement reads. “The chants are commonly used at sporting events.”
According to Sandmann’s account, the only chants he heard coming from his fellow students were “school spirit chants” and he never heard anyone chant “build that wall” as many news outlets reported. “Assertions to the contrary are simply false,” Sandmann claims. “Our chants were loud because we wanted to drown out the hateful comments that were being shouted at us by the protestors.”
From Sandmann’s statement:
The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him. 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.
I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.
Another student who claimed to be present during the incident sent an email to Cincinnati’s Local12, which more or less echoes Sandmann’s account. An excerpt from that email can be read below:
In the midst of our cheers, we were approached by a group of adults led by Nathan Phillips, with Phillips beating his drum. They forced their way into the center of our group. We initially thought this was a cultural display since he was beating along to our cheers and so we clapped to the beat. He came to stand in front of one of my classmates who stood where he was, smiling and enjoying the experience. However, after multiple minutes of Mr. Phillips beating his drum directly in the face of my friend (mere centimeters from his nose), we became confused and started wondering what was happening. It was not until later that we discovered they would incriminate us as a publicity stunt.
Update: The New York Times has published a much more detailed analysis of the competing narratives about the incident and what is currently known. Read it here.
Update: An earlier version of this article described Phillips as a Vietnam veteran, but according to a correction issued by the New York Times, Phillips “served in the U.S. Marines from 1972 to 1976 but was never deployed to Vietnam,”
A full length video of the entire incident can be seen below:
[Some elements of the this article have been updated to reflect the facts as they are currently known] Featured image via screen grab/YouTube