UPDATE: After investigating, Global News found another video showing what happened before the standoff between the Indigenous elder and student, which paints a more complex timeline of events. Subsequent reporting has also shown that the elder, Nathan Phillips, is a U.S. Marine, but that he did not serve in Vietnam.
A Catholic high school in Kentucky is facing social media backlash after videos posted online appeared to show an elderly Indigenous protester being mocked at a rally in Washington, D.C.
Videos posted online showed a young man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat standing very close to and grinning at an elderly man who was beating a traditional drum and chanting. Dozens of other boys, many wearing MAGA hats, are seen surrounding the pair and cheering.
Some of them were wearing clothing bearing the logo of Covington Catholic High School, a private boys’ high school located in Park Hills, Ky.
The protester in the video was identified by Indigenous news outlet Indian Country Today as Nathan Phillips, a Vietnam War veteran, Omaha elder and former director of the Native Youth Alliance.
WATCH: Man at Washington protest speaks about alleged mocking by teens
He was attending the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C., according to people who posted the video online.
Phillips reacted in a separate video, saying he heard the group saying “Build that wall, build that wall.”
“This is Indigenous lands. We’re not supposed to have walls here. We never did,” he said.
He added that he wished the young men would “put that energy into making this country really great.”
The event coincided with the March for Life anti-abortion protest, which Covington students were scheduled to attend according to a post on the school’s official website. The webpage displays a photo of students, some of whom are wearing MAGA hats, attending an anti-abortion protest.
The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School condemned the students’ behaviour.
“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.” read a statement on the organization’s website.
“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.”
Several lawmakers pointed a finger at the Trump administration for enabling discriminatory and indecent behaviour.
Kentucky’s Secretary of State Alison Grimes said she didn’t want to blame the youths in the video.
“Instead, I turn to the adults and administration that are charged with teaching them, and to those who are silently letting others promote this behaviour,” Grimes said in a statement.
“Kentucky, we are better than this,” she tweeted.
Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico said the students’ behaviour was a sign of the erosion of “common decency” under the Trump administration.
North Dakota State Rep. Ruth Buffalo, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said she was saddened by the video.
“The behaviour shown in that video is just a snapshot of what Indigenous people have faced and are continuing to face,” she said.
— With a file from the Associated Press