Nathan Phillips, the Native American activist who was stared down by a group of teenage boys from Covington Catholic High School in a viral video during the Indigenous Peoples March, has spoken out about how he feels in the aftermath of the events.
He said that after seeing Sandmann on the Today show, he found the teen’s words to be unconvincing and insincere, adding that his words were “coached and written up for him,” and that he had demonstrated a “lack of responsibility.”
“Those are the words I came up with, but then I went to go pray about it,” Phillips said. “And then I woke up, and I woke up with this forgiving heart. So I forgive him.”
Phillips was in Washington, D.C., on Friday for the Indigenous Peoples March, while Sandmann and the other boys in the video had just attended the anti-abortion March for Life, clad in Make America Great Again hats. Phillips told Today that he felt compelled to walk by the teenagers after tensions between them and a handful of members of the Hebrew Israelites “was getting really explosive.”
“When I was in prayer, it wasn’t that I felt like I could stop anything or do anything,” he said. “But I felt like I was spiritually moved into that center, into the center of that whirlwind.”
He added that he had been trying to make his way through the crowd peacefully when he was blocked by Sandmann and his classmates.
“The prayer, it was for peace, harmony, love, a better America. Because what I was seeing was the fabric of America being torn apart by bigotry, hate, prejudice, division,” he said.
Since the video went viral, Sandmann has made a public statement and a public appearance to discuss how trying the entire experience was for him, as his family hired a PR firm to counsel him, and other Covington parents rushed to protect their children. Sandmann has defended his actions and said that he had nothing to apologize for.
Phillips said that he’s still angry about what happened, but he has forgiveness in his heart for the students and their chaperones, who he says should have told them that “this isn’t the place” to do what they were doing.