PARK HILLS, Ky. (WKRC) - Covington Catholic High School is facing backlash after footage of students at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. allegedly shows them chanting in the face of a Native American elder during the Indigenous People's March.
Students from Covington Catholic High School were in Washington D.C. for the March for Life, an annual pro-life rally, according to the school's website.
Hundreds of videos, tweets and Facebook posts featuring the event have been shared across multiple channels.
The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School released a statement, saying:
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.
Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha Tribe and a Vietnam Veteran, spoke about the incident afterwards.
"When I was there singing, I heard them saying 'build that wall, build that wall,'" Phillips said. "This is indigenous lands. You're not supposed to have walls here, you never did. For millenniums. Before anyone else came here you never had walls, you never had a prison. We always took care of our elders, out children. We always provided for them, taught them right from wrong. I wish I could see that energy of that mass of young men down there put that energy into making this country really, really great - helping those that are hungry."
Covington Mayor Joe Meyer wrote an op-ed for the City of Covington's website, saying he is 'appalled' by the actions.
Local 12 received an e-mail from a student who claimed to have been at the incident, saying "this is not true and taken entirely out of context."
The e-mail read in part:
"As we are an all-male school that loves to get hyped up (hence our cheer section's name "Colonel Crazies"), and as we have done for years prior, we decided to do some cheers to pass time. In the midst of our cheers, we were approached by a group of adults led by Nathan Phillips, with Phillips beating his drum. They forced their way into the center of our group. We initially thought this was a cultural display since he was beating along to our cheers and so we clapped to the beat. He came to stand in front of one of my classmates who stood where he was, smiling and enjoying the experience. However, after multiple minutes of Mr. Phillips beating his drum directly in the face of my friend (mere centimeters from his nose), we became confused and started wondering what was happening. It was not until later that we discovered they would incriminate us as a publicity stunt. As a result, my friend faces expulsion for simply standing still and our entire school is being disparaged for a crime we did not commit. To reiterate, we did not partake in any physical or verbal abuse, did not chant "build the wall" or mock or anything of the like, and did not seek to incite violence."
Editor's note: an earlier version of this article did not fully attribute reports of the "build that wall" chant to Nathan Phillips