Lincoln Memorial incident: New recording shows different side of the encounter
A video that shows white high school students in Make America Great Again hats and shirts mocking a Native American elder shocked the country, leading to widespread denunciations of the teens’ behavior.
It was a moment in a bigger story that is still unfolding.
A new video that surfaced Sunday shows what happened before and after the encounter Friday in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
In the new video, another group taunts the students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky with disparaging and vulgar language. The group of black men, who identify as members of the Hebrew Israelites, also shout racist slurs at participants of the Indigenous Peoples Rally and other passersby.
The new video adds context to an encounter viewed by many as the latest sign of bigotry infecting the country. Screenshots of a smirking teen staring down Omaha tribe elder Nathan Phillips spread through the internet, sparking widespread outrage.
But a teen who says he was involved in the encounter said the students’ actions have been wrongly interpreted as racist. In a statement, Nick Sandmann said the students decided to raise their voices to drown out the Hebrew Israelites’ inflammatory comments — not to intimidate or mock Phillips. Phillips has said the teen blocked his escape.
But neither Sandmann’s statement or the video will be the last word on the controversy. Here’s what the video shows:
The Hebrew Israelites begin by disparaging the students
The new video was shot by a member of the adult group.
The men identify as members of the Hebrew Israelites, a movement that believes some black Americans are the descendants of an ancient Israelite tribe.
A man in a long black coat does most of the talking and shouting, occasionally banging a walking stick on the concrete for emphasis. Another man dressed in black holds a poster with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel in one column and another described as the corresponding “slave names” of different racial identities.
Another man with an Afro and a Star of David necklace hanging around his neck occasionally recites scripture while the person filming occasionally adds his own commentary.
The video opens with a tense encounter involving the men and a woman who challenges their beliefs and calls for peace.
“Peace to what land?” one of the men responds. “How you gonna have peace to this land … when you got this madman in the White House?”
The camera pans past the group, catching the first glimpse of the teenagers, at least one wearing a red Make America Great Again hat.
“Then you got those pompous b*****ds over there wearing Make America Great Again hats,” one voice says. “Why you not angry at them?”
Then, they disparage indigenous people and African Americans
The woman leaves, and the crowd thins out. Filming continues as the men read aloud scripture and engage in conversations with those who stop to talk.
Drumming becomes audible in the video and rallygoers appear in the background, clasping hands to form a circle. After the drumming subsides, the men turn their focus to the indigenous community.
“Y’all taking about peace, peace, peace — there ain’t gonna be no peace,” the lead speaker shouts.
“When has America been great for our people? When has the America ever been great for the North American Indians?” the main speaker shouts. “America ain’t never been great. It only been great for you damn peckerwoods.”
Then, the camera turns to students watching a few feet away.
The man calls them out for wearing MAGA hats to a rally for indigenous communities. He rails against a teen he perceives to be a black student for associating with his “oppressor.” He also calls out Indigenous Peoples March attendees for associating with white people.
A Native American elder tries to intervene
The students were in Washington to participate in the March for Life rally earlier in the day. The Lincoln Memorial was their meeting point following an afternoon of sightseeing so they could board buses back to Kentucky, according to Sandmann.
As the crowd of students grows, some of the men criticize their “racist” MAGA hats. They call them “crackers” and “incest children.” The video captures some students walking away.
Almost an hour into the video, the students begin amassing in large numbers on the steps behind the men. As the men continue shouting, the video captures students chanting back.
“A student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group,” Sandmann said in his statement. “The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school,” he said.
A student jumps in front of the group, rips his shirt off and leads the group in a chant and dance. He retreats and the students bounce up and down as they continue to chant, attracting onlookers.
Soon enough, the sound of a drum builds offscreen. Phillips, surrounded by several people with drums and cameras, enters the frame. The video captures Phillips as he walks into the crowd of bobbing teens.
“He came to the rescue,” a voice is heard on the video.
People follow him, blocking the camera from what happens next.
Kaya Taitano, who shot the viral video, said the teens were chanting “Build the wall” and “Trump 2020.” Those chants were not audible in videos reviewed by CNN.
The situation was starting to grow calm until Sandmann got in Phillips’ face, Taitano said. Phillips kept chanting and beating his drum as other boys circled around, “mocking him and mocking the chant,” Taitano said.
Phillips said the teen blocked his path as he tried to keep moving.
“I was scared,” Phillips 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.”
Sandmann denied that he blocked Phillips’ path and insisted that Phillips was the one who “locked eyes” with him. He also denied that anyone said “build that wall” or anything hateful.
“I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation,” Sandmann said in his statement.
Then, the Hebrew Israelites return their focus to the students
The men continue talking on the video as Phillips disappears from the shot. They describe the students’ hats and behavior as a “mockery” and call them “future school shooters.”
The comments draw the students back to the group. Some respond with boos and gather around the men.
“How you gonna tell somebody to go shoot up a school — that’s like really rude,” says a voice from the young crowd.
The men accuse them of reaping the benefits of slave labor. The men repeatedly use the n-word to refer to the black teens in the group, prompting cries from group. The men ask the students if the water they’re drinking “tastes like incest” and call the students “young Klansmen.”
The teens listen for a few minutes longer, accusing the men of being racist and booing when the main speaker uses the word “faggots” when talking about equal rights.
Then, the students get a signal from off camera to leave. They cheer and wave, chanting “let’s go home” as they run off.
The video continues for another 20 minutes as the men turn their focus to a prayer circle that formed while they were talking to the students. The lead speaker shouts denunciations of the Catholic church, calling its members “child molesters” and quotes scripture.
Finally, as the last light of the sun disappears, the men decide to leave after taking stock of the day.
“This was off the chain,” a voice says.
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