By Andrew Hay
(Reuters) – A Catholic school in Kentucky condemned a group of its students, many of whom wore “Make America Great Again” hats, after they were recorded harassing a Native American Vietnam veteran in a video that went viral on Saturday.
The students from private, all-male Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, were in Washington for an anti-abortion rally on Friday when they were filmed surrounding Nathan Phillips and mocking the Native American’s singing and drumming.
One teen in particular is seen standing in front of Phillips, staring into his face with a smile. Fellow students, many in hats and sweatshirts with President Donald Trump‘s “MAGA” slogan, cheered him on and chanted, “build the wall, build the wall,” Phillips said.
The footage was shared online by organizers of an indigenous peoples’ march that also took place on Friday.
In a joint statement, the high school and Diocese of Covington condemned the actions of the students “towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general.”
“The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to an including expulsion,” the statement said.
In a separate video https://bit.ly/2FKUUnM uploaded to social media, the 64-year-old Phillips, an elder of Nebraska’s Omaha tribe, wiped away tears as he described the incident.
“I heard them saying ‘build that wall, build that wall’. These are indigenous lands, we’re not supposed to have walls,” he said. “I wish I could see that energy of that young mass of young men, put that energy into making this country, really, really great, helping those that are hungry.”
Phillips holds an annual ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to honor Native American veterans, according to media reports.
Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Deb Haaland, a member of New Mexico‘s Laguna Pueblo tribe, said on Twitter that Phillips had risked his life for his country, and that the students showed “blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance”.
(Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Daniel Wallis)