Confrontation at Lincoln Memorial grabs nation’s attention


Image courtesy of PICRYL

A confrontation that took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial between a group of Native Americans and Kentucky High School students is grabbing the nation’s attention. It has sparked a debate as to who is in the wrong in this case.

In late January, a confrontation that took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial sparked a nationwide discussion. A standoff between a Native American veteran and a high school teen escalated, with both sides forming a big cluster around the two individuals. The media immediately reported this confrontation, giving it a one sided view that made it seem like it was the students who were instigating the confrontation. While I believe that everyone involved in this situation could have walked away, I am upset about how the large group of students treated an elderly man.

Students from Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky were on a trip to the nation’s capital and were waiting for their bus home by the Lincoln Memorial. The students, who were attending the March for Life rally, were yelled at by the Black Hebrew Israelites, who said vulgar comments to them because of their “Make America Great Again” hats. This was very wrong, and I think that these adults shouldn’t have said anything to these students. It is very inappropriate and out of place to talk to anyone badly because of their political views. However, the students shouldn’t have thrown comments at Nathan Phillips either.

Phillips, a Native American veteran then approached the groups playing a peaceful chant on his drum, claiming he was trying to ease the tension. What resulted was an intense confrontation, in which the students disrespected an elderly man.

The students from Covington Catholic High School greatly outnumbered the Native American marchers who were there and surrounded them in nearly direction. Nick Sandmann, the high school student who directly faced Nathan Phillips, had a smile on his face, which appeared disrespectful to Phillips, who was just trying to calm everyone down. Phillips was trying to drown out the hateful speech using his drum. Sandmann’s story of what happened just doesn’t add up.
Sandmann, who claims he felt threatened and “doesn’t owe anyone an apology,” could have easily turned around and walked through the cluster of his peers. If he felt so threatened, why would he stay face to face with Phillips? It just doesn’t make sense.

It was the way Sandmann looked at Phillips that was so upsetting. While Sandmann did not know Phillips was a veteran, he did know that he was an adult, someone who deserves respect. Phillips didn’t say anything hateful or disrespectful to the high school students, he was just trying to seperate the fighting that occurred before the confrontation. Phillips could have also walked away, but he didn’t approach the group with any bad intentions.

In an article from CNN, Sandmann states, “I was not intentionally making faces at the protester. 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. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me — to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.”

Nick Sandmann is now suing The Washington Post for $250 million, claiming that the publication specifically targeted him, and ruined his reputation all for political gain. What is ironic about this lawsuit is that Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post, payed exactly $250 million to purchase the publication. My opinion on this lawsuit is that if Sandmann didn’t want to be the center of attention, he could have simply turned around and walked away.

In an article from NPR, Sandmann’s parents stated they want to “Teach the Post a lesson it will never forget.”

I understand all of the media attention has negative effects, however, Sandmann put himself in this position where he was face-to-face with a Native American veteran. Extracting money from The Washington Post is not the solution to this issue.

Other high school students were seen mocking Philips chant, and were heard shouting “Build the wall.” After the confrontation ended, an unnamed student from another Kentucky Catholic high school said, “Land gets stolen. That’s how it works. It’s the way of the world,” regarding North America being indigenous lands. I find this extremely upsetting and insensitive, because this just shows a complete disregard for all that the Native Americans have been through and is extremely disrespectful to the entire Native American population. What made this individual think it was okay to say something like that?

In the midst of all this chaos, where were the chaperones? Why didn’t the adults, who went along on the trip with these students, end this confrontation and move the students away? We do know there were chaperones present because they allowed the students to do their high school chant to drown out hateful comments being thrown at them before Phillips arrived. It was the chaperones responsibility to intervene and end this conflict.

This all boils down to respect, and treating others the way you want to be treated. The students have stated that they had hateful comments thrown at them, yet they said just as horrible comments to Phillips, who was completely uninvolved in the hateful speech. Right now the students are finding themselves in the center of the controversy, and are telling completely different stories than Phillips. Whomever you choose to believe, know that everyone deserves to be treated with respect.