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Video Shows Racially Charged Encounter Prior to Covington Catholic-Nathan Phillips Incident

UPDATE:

As of Monday, January 21, 2019, this story from D.C. has evolved and changed dramatically. The full story, at this point, can be found here.


This story has been updated with a second video from YouTube.

A black Covington Catholic High School student was repeatedly called the n-word by adult protesters on Friday in Washington, D.C. just prior to an incident involving students from the school and a Native American that drew international attention on Saturday. One parent believes that a new video sheds light on the events that led up to social media backlash against Covington Catholic this weekend.

See the original story and videos here.

Students from Covington Catholic were in D.C. to attend the national March for Life, an anti-abortion rally.

Also on Friday, the Indigenous Peoples March was also being held in Washington.

Video began circulating Friday showing a Native American man, later identified as Nathan Philips, playing a drum surrounded by students from Covington Catholic High School. The students are seen in multiple videos chanting. One student drew particular outrage online for appearing to stand very closely to the drumming man, a move that many viewed as an attempt to intimidate.

The backlash grew rapidly Saturday and Covington Catholic became the top trending topic on Twitter as state and national figures weighed in, condemning the students. Covington Catholic's website and Facebook page were removed and its Twitter account was set to private. By the mid-afternoon, the school and the Diocese of Covington issued a joint statement also condemning the students' actions.

"We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C.," the statement read. "We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.

"The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.

"We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement."

But other videos began to surface on social media with some showing that Phillips, the man who played the drum, approached the students rather than the other way around.

Another video shows students from Covington Catholic, prior to the incident with Phillips, engaging with a small group of adult black men who may have been on site to protest, though it is unclear what their issue was.

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In the video, one of the adult black men is seen shouting towards the Cov Cath students, "I don't see one (n-word) in the crowd." When the man sees one black Covington Catholic student and identifies him as "one (n-word)", one of the other Cov Cath students shouted back, "That's racist."

The adult protester told the black student, "When you get old enough, they're going to steal your organs.

The student, who is referred to in the video as Bo, lightheartedly rubs his stomach pretending to be concerned about what the man said. "Get out, (n-word)," the man shouts at the end of the video. The reference to organs may have been related to the 2017 film Get Out, a commenter at RCN's Facebook page noted.

One parent, who shared a video of that encounter on Facebook, told The River City News that the encounter between the protesters and the black Covington Catholic student happened just prior to the incident involving the Native American drummer.

"They were calling all the kids at Cov Cath crackers, they were telling the black kid that he needs to get out of the school, and the Cov Cath kids were rallying around (their classmate)," said Bill Gerdes, whose son was on the trip with Covington Catholic students to D.C. 

Gerdes said that the video he shared came from a Cov Cath student.

Two other videos described by Gerdes but not seen by The River City News year old kids do, and then the other people walked over there," Gerdes said, referencing the adult protesters.

After the incident with the adult protesters, Phillips began to approach with his drum. Gerdes said that the students mistakenly thought that Phillips was part of the group of adult protesters.

"This thing has been blown way out of proportion," Gerdes said. Of the student who stood closely to Phillips, Gerdes said, "The kid did not do anything. He was just standing there. He was smiling with a smirk on his face. Maybe he shouldn't have done that, he was uncomfortable with what had happened."

Gerdes said that the display was "probably disrespectful" towards Phillips.

"The guy deserved a lot of respect, and from what I understand, he was walking through the crowd to deescalate the situation because the other guys started it," Gerdes said. "(Phillips) didn't do anything. (Students) did not say anything to this guy."

The story was featured on numerous national news sites and broadcast and cable news shows throughout Saturday, and even prompted a rebuke from the City of Covington in an op-ed that affirmed the city's embracing of diversity, and also noted that Covington Catholic is not located in the city, but rather in the adjacent city of Park Hills.  

The response has been largely unfavorable for Covington Catholic.

"I just think it's unfair," Gerdes said. "I've been reading all the comments people are making all day. People comment these days and they don't know all the facts."

This video shows more of the encounter with Phillips, as well as more with the adult protesters:

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Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher