Breaking Down the Longer Video of Covington Catholic Students in D.C.

The tweets of a nation descended upon Covington Catholic High School this weekend sending the Park Hills school to the number one spot of Twitter's trending topics. But more video from the controversial encounter have bolstered claims that the students did not behave the way initial reports indicated, and that the students, in fact, were the target of racist and homophobic epithets from another group that was not part of the original video: Black Hebrew Israelites, seen harassing a variety of different people with verbal attacks.

As the story first emerged on social media before being picked up by traditional news outlets, including The River City News, it appeared that students from Cov Cath had surrounded a Native American elder who was playing a drum as part of a prayer ritual. The students are seen on video chanting and jumping up and down, and one student in particular drew widespread ire for allegedly smirking at the Native and refusing to move from his path.

The characterization was that the students, many of whom were wearing Make America Great Again hats and apparel, products of the campaign of President Donald J. Trump, were taunting the elder and disrupting a sacred ritual.

This is an example of one of the early videos that drew the ire of social media users, and ultimately well-known celebrities and politicians, and eventually Covington Catholic High School, the Diocese of Covington, the mayor of Covington, and the Archbishop of Louisville:

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Here is another angle:

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With those messages accompanying those scenes, the videos swiftly went viral, drawing immediate attention to and demand for action from the school, which ultimately removed its website, its Facebook page, and made its Twitter profile private in the wake of the criticism. 

There were comparisons that characterized the Cov Cath students' actions were reminiscent of iconic scenes from the American Civil Rights movement, when black patrons were attacked by whites for sitting at forbidden lunch counters, or when black students were taunted after gaining admission to Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

The Native elder, later identified as Nathan Phillips, spoke to multiple national media outlets, and in one interview said that he heard Cov Cath students shout, Build that wall, an apparent reference to Trump's signature campaign promise to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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So far, no video evidence has surfaced that conclusively shows the students shouting, Build that wall. 

But one longer video, apparently recorded by a member of the Black Hebrew Israelites, did emerge, adding far more context to the events leading up to the face-to-face video between Cov Cath students and Nathan Phillips. 

In the video, nearly one hour and forty-five minutes in length, the Black Hebrew Israelites are seen engaging a variety of people near the Lincoln Memorial, hurling insults and religious verses towards all of them. At one point, the Black Hebrews turned their attention to a smaller group of Cov Cath students, some of whom were wearing their Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats or other Trump-supporting apparel. The Black Hebrews referred to the boys as "dirty ass crackers", used anti-gay epithets, and suggested that they are pedophiles and would grow up to be school shooters.

As more and more Covington Catholic students arrived near the Lincoln Memorial, some got closer to the Black Hebrews and an unidentified white adult began to urge them to move back. The Black Hebrews continued their verbal assault on the students, with some students engaging with them.

Ultimately, the Cov Cath students moved further away and grouped together with their larger number on the steps that lead up to the Lincoln Memorial. Then, one Cov Cath student runs to the front of his schoolmates as they begin to cheer. He removes his shirt and the students become more raucous and then begin a series of school spirit chants that are familiar to people who have witnessed the "Colonel Crazies" at sporting events.

Later, the student who stood face to face with Nathan Phillips said that the boys asked permission of a chaperone to break into school chants in an effort to drown out the Black Hebrews.

During the school chants, Phillips begins to approach with his drum and his own chanting. Most of the crowd parts as he enters and then he arrives at the student from the image of the event that drew the most commentary. Then, Phillips arrives at the moment that went viral.

The student, in a statement released late Sunday evening, said that he was not attempting to intimidate Phillips, but stood still and quietly, even claiming to be praying, as a way to diffuse a situation that had escalated. He said that he did not make faces at Phillips, and only smiled as a way to further diffuse it.

Phillips claimed that the student blocked his path, but there is no clear video that demonstrates that.

Below is the full video, with the most relevant part starting at 1:07:00 as the Cov Cath students are fully assembled near the steps, and the Black Hebrews are still shouting at them. At 1:09:45, one student rushes to the front of the other students and begins to lead them in a cheer.

The impromptu pep rally continues as more Cov Cath students arrive at their designated pick-up spot, and the Black Hebrews continue to offer commentary. At 1:11:00, the students' chanting becomes louder, aimed at the Black Hebrews. 

At 1:12:00, Nathan Phillips and his drum enter the scene, trailed by a few others apparently from the Indigenous Peoples March. The students continued their chants and began dancing along to the drum-playing, as did a couple of other people who appeared to have accompanied Phillips.

The students' chanting rhythm then began to mirror that of Phillips. 

"Oh, they joining in," one Black Hebrew is heard saying.

By 1:15:00, the drumming appears to have stopped, though the camera angle does not show the placement of Phillips, who does not appear in the longer video again. Students are then seen more actively engaged with the Black Hebrews. 

"School shooters, that's your future," one Black Hebrew yells at the students. 

An example of one of the exchanges:

One Cov Cath student appears to shout the word "what" loudly multiple times. One of the Black Hebrews responds, "What you about to go postal?"

"I have to go and take a shit," the Cov Cath student responded. 

"Go take a shit, but go shoot up a school before you do it," the Black Hebrew responded. "All of you got the school shooter haircut."

"You're stereotyping," one student shouts back. 

At 1:17:00, during the encounter between the students and the Black Hebrews, a man is heard of camera telling the boys to "back it up", as the two parties had become closer to one another.

At 1:17:55, the Cov Cath students begin another cheer.

At 1:18:35, a Black Hebrew is heard shouting at the boys, "Y'all got one (n-word) in the crowd."

One student turns to the Black Hebrews and says, "No, we have two of them."

"Oh, two (n-word) in the crowd," the Black Hebrew shouts back. 

The black Cov Cath student then comes to the forefront of the group and was singled out by the Black Hebrews and referred to as the n-word and warned that his white classmates would harvest his organs, an apparent reference to the 2017 film Get Out.

"Come on, shorty," a Black Hebrew yells towards him. In the longer video posted below, the exchange about harvesting organs isn't heard. It is, however, heard in the video previously posted, but since removed by its owner, in a story written by The River City News on Saturday night in which a father of one of the students said the Cov Cath students were harassed by activists leading up to the viral encounter with Nathan Phillips. The black student is seen in the longer video below reacting as he had in the shorter video shot from another angle that was previously posted and removed. In that story, it was reported that the exchange happened before the encounter with Phillips, per the father's report, but the longer video shows that it actually happened after.

"Why are you telling a 16-year old kid that?," one student asks.

At 1:19:22, one of the Black Hebrews yells, "Hey, is that the only one you can bring to the front?"

A student replies, "We got one at home but he ain't here."

At 1:19:45, the Black Hebrews ask the students to step back. "We respect the dialogue. Keep your distance, man."

For the next couple minutes, the conversation between the students and the Black Hebrews ranges from whether Trump-branded water tastes like incest to the true ethnicity of Jesus Christ. 

At 1:21:45, a chaperone who is off camera is heard saying, "The next Cov Cath guy (unintelligible), you're getting DT from me (unintelligible). Back up."

"Listen to him because you might lose your scholarship," a Black Hebrew shouts back. 

The students move back but continue to listen to the Black Hebrews with some back and forth sprinkled throughout. 

At 1:26:42, the students get the cue that it's time to go to the bus. They leave, chanting, "Let's go home! Let's go home!"

The video continues for another twenty minutes as the Black Hebrews turn their attention to an apparent prayer circle.

Following the release and circulation of the longer video adding more context to the event and seemingly debunking the original narrative from social media posts that the students disrupted a Native American demonstration, there were calls for apologies to the students.

Congressman Thomas Massie, the Republican who represents Covington and Northern Kentucky in the U.S. House, took to Twitter.

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(4/5) In the face of racist and homosexual slurs, the young boys refused to reciprocate or disrespect anyone. Even when taunted by homophobic bigots, which was obviously bewildering to them, they insulted no one.

— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) January 20, 2019 >

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(5/5) In the context of everything that was going on (which the media hasn’t shown) the parents and mentors of these boys should be proud, not ashamed, of their kids’ behavior. It is my honor to represent them.

— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) January 20, 2019 >

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Some have called for the Diocese, the school, the Covington mayor, and the news media to apologize to the students. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the Archbishop of Cincinnati weighed in on the matter, but that was not correct. It was the Archbishop of Louisville. RCN regrets the error.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher