A video went viral over the weekend that showed a group of teen boys in red “Make America Great Again” hats harassing Native American elder Nathan Phillips at the Indigenous Peoples March. The boys, students of Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, had attended the anti-abortion March for Life earlier that day. Additional videos later emerged that seemed to provide more context to the incident. Now, amid the backlash, a New York Times report shows how the Covington community is trying to shield the boys.
According to the Times, parents of the teen boys in the video say their sons have received threats and had their personal information shared online since the original video — a clip showing the boys chanting and taunting in a group around Phillips — went viral. Later videos released show that, before the incident, the boys encountered African-American protesters, who identified as Hebrew Israelites and were shouting slurs toward the teens. Phillips explained to Indian Country Today that he stepped in between the groups to diffuse the situation.
The Times reports that the Covington community, by and large, felt that the response to the video was politically motivated, including Bill Gerdes, a parent of one of the boys who filmed the incident. Gerdes told the Times believes the “left has an agenda” and is attacking the boys because of their anti-abortion beliefs. Per the Times:
“The videos backed the students, so I’m sure they would be backing off of that now,” he said of the threat. “We trust the school, and we trust the diocese that they will protect their flock.”
Covington Catholic sends students to D.C. for the anti-abortion March for Life rally each year. The Times reports that the Diocese of Covington also publicly prints the name of each Catholic who opposes abortion rights in a multi-page ad in The Cincinatti Enqurier. The list includes the names of minors — including the son of Michael Schwartz, who says his son did not want to attend the March. “The peer group pressure on these kids is enormous,” Schwartz told the Times. “I feel the diocese should not be putting these kids in what has become potentially more contentious situations, as the inevitable protests to these ‘Right to Life’ marches increase.”
To show support of the boys, some members of the community have changed their social-media avatars to a blue-and-white “C,” which is the school’s logo. An alum of the school who now serves as commissioner of Kenton County (where the school is located) wrote a Facebook post vowing to support the boys. Members of Covington’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption have also complained that the bishop “jumped the gun” in publicly apologizing for the boys’ behavior.
The Times reports that this is not the first time teen boys in the Covington all-boys Catholic school community have come under scrutiny. Last year, boys from the nearby Elder High chanted “P.F. Chang!” and “‘Hey No. 2, open your eyes” at an Asian-American basketball player and taunted an African-American player from rival schools during a game. Last month, an 18-year-old 2018 Covington Catholic grad was charged with sodomy and rape against an 18-year-old girl. Furthermore, video has emerged showing Covington students with their bodies painted black at a basketball game. The Times notes that students also paint their bodies blue during games.