Days after President Donald Trump joked about one of the deadliest Native American massacres in U.S. history, the Indigenous Peoples March sought to highlight the unique contributions of indigenous people as well as the many social, cultural, and political issues they face. But video of a Native American elder being allegedly harassed by teens wearing "Make America Great Again" hats at Friday's march has gone viral, sparking outrage and condemnation.
In video footage shared on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, dozens of white-male teenagers, many of whom can be seen wearing Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" hats, surround a small group of participants from the Indigenous Peoples March. The teenagers appear to be particularly focused on attempting to crowd, shout down, and intimidate a man who Indian Country Today has identified as Omaha elder and Vietnam veteran Nathan Phillips.
Rep. Deb Haaland, who participated in Friday's Indigenous People's March, was quick to condemn the young men on Twitter. "This Veteran put his life on the line for our country," she wrote. "The students' display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration." The congresswoman characterized the incident as "heartbreaking."
Others like Rep. Ted Lieu and comedian Patton Oswalt sought to bring the teenagers' behavior to the attention of the school they were reported to attend. Although it remains unclear if all of the young men in the video attend the same school, some appear to be wearing clothing bearing the name and/or logo of Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky. Bustle has reached out to the school for comment.
A posting on Covington Catholic High School's official website noted that students planned to participate in March For Life, an anti-abortion rally held in Washington, D.C. on the same day as the Indigenous Peoples March, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington told USA Today on Saturday that they were looking into the incident. "We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place," a spokesperson for the diocese said.
Some Catholic groups have condemned and spoken out against the young men's behavior. "Racism and intolerance in all forms go directly against Catholic social teaching," the Sisters of Mercy, a congregation of Catholic women, said in a statement. "The disturbing videos being shared of this incident showcase a bigoted disrespect of indigenous peoples and remind us how urgent our work for racial justice remains."
In recorded comments shared by a user on Instagram, Phillips said he could hear the young men chanting "build that wall, build that wall," a likely reference to President Trump's immigration policies. "This is indigenous land," Phillips said. "We're not supposed to have walls here. We never did. For millennium, before anyone else ever came here we never had walls."
Phillips went on to say that he wished he could see the young men channel the "energy" they'd put into their activities on Friday into "making this country really, really great."