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Details continue to emerge in controversial viral CovCath video showing incident in D.C.

High schoolers could face expulsion, diocese says
Posted at 1:10 PM, Jan 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-23 16:19:02-05

Tension surrounding a video showing students from Covington Catholic High School interacting with members of the Indigenous People's March in Washington, D.C., on Friday has gained momentum throughout the weekend as details continue to emerge.

Apologizing on behalf of CovCath and the Diocese of Covington, a spokesperson said Saturday that students involved could be expelled.

The videos show one person among a group of CovCath students face to face and smirking at an Indigenous People's Marcher singing and playing a hand drum near the Lincoln Memorial. The marcher was identified as Nathan Phillips, an Omaha Nation elder and veteran. Others surrounding the small group of marchers are shown laughing and taking pictures or videos with their phones.

"I was scared, I was worried for my young friends. I don't want to cause harm to anyone," Philips told CNN's Sara Sidner. "I don't like the word 'hate.' I don't like even saying it, but it was hate unbridled. It was like a storm."

The crowd kept growing as Phillips and the boy stood face to face, but Phillips kept on chanting and playing his drum.

"What the young man was doing was blocking my escape. I wanted to leave. I was thinking, 'How do I get myself out of this? I want to get away from it,'" Phillips said.

Some in the group were wearing "Make America Great Again" caps and clothing that connected them to the Tri-State. A few can be seen wearing Covington Catholic spirit wear and some others can be seen wearing Cincinnati Bengals clothing.

Diocese of Covington spokesperson Laura Keener released this statement:

"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. 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.

The Covington Catholic website shows the students were in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life.

Multiple angles are offered in varying videos released to media and online Saturday. There are several views — and a lot of tension — on what exactly happened at the Lincoln Memorial that day.

According to CNN, a woman in the crowd, Kaya Taitano, said the incident started when the teens and four young African-Americans, who'd been preaching about the Bible nearby, started yelling and calling each other names. It got pretty intense, Taitano said, so Phillips started chanting and drumming to try to defuse the situation.

Phillips walked through the crowd, and Taitano said things were starting to calm down until he got to the grinning boy seen in the video.

"This one kid just refused to move and he just got in Nathan's face," she said. Other boys circled around, she said. "They just surrounded him and they were mocking him and mocking the chant. We really didn't know what was going to happen there."

"I did not feel safe in that circle," said Taitano, a student at the University of the District of Columbia who participated in the march and shot videos.

Taitano said the standoff continued until a chaperone came and led the teens away for a photograph.

The hashtag #nathanphillips has gone viral with condemnation of the students' actions. Rep. Debra Haaland from New Mexico was among the most vocal.

In a separate video, Phillips, a former director of the Native Youth Alliance, according to Indian Country Today, said the students were chanting, "Build that wall. Build that wall."

"We're not supposed to have walls here. This is indigenous land. We don't have walls here," Phillips said.

Philips called on young people to put their energy to better use, like "helping those who are hungry."

"I wish I could see that energy of the young mass of young men to, you know, put that energy into, you know, making this country really, really great by helping those who are hungry," Philips said.

Haaland, who with Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) became the first Native American women elected to Congress last fall, said the video was difficult to watch, the Post reported.

“To see a group of students from a Catholic school who are practicing such intolerance is a sad sight for me,” said Haaland, who is Catholic.

Since the videos appeared online, the social media pages for Covington Catholic and some Covington Catholic faculty members have been set to private.

While school officials were publicly silent, Covington Mayor Joe Meyer released a statement that calls the video's "appalling" and defends Covington as a "welcoming City where bigotry, discrimination, and hatred will not be tolerated." It says, in part:

"Videos of the confrontation are disturbing, discouraging, and - frankly - appalling. And they are rightfully inspiring a tidal wave of condemnation, even on the City of Covington’s own social sites, leaving the impression that these are the values of the City of Covington.

"Yes, the ironic thing - as people keep pointing out to me - is that the school isn’t even located within Covington. But that’s not the point.

[The school is in Park Hills.]

"The point is that because of the actions of people who live in Northern Kentucky, our region is being challenged again to examine our core identities, values, and beliefs. Regardless of what exact town we live in, we need to ask ourselves whether behavior like this DOES represent who we are and strive to be. Is this what our schools teach? Are these the beliefs that we as parents model and condone?

"Is this the way we want the rest of the nation and the world to see us?"

Since these events, one Covington Catholic student involved has issued a formal statement, obtained and verified by CNN.

READ Meyer's full statement.

WCPO has contacted people who were at the march in an effort to obtain firsthand accounts of what transpired. So far, no one has been willing to speak to us on the record. We will continue these efforts. If you or someone you know would like to talk to a reporter, please email

CNN contributed to this report.