On January 18, the 46th anniversary of the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, the annual March for Life rally turned ugly. People were shocked to see a group of teenage boys from Covington Catholic High School apparently disrespecting Native American elder Nathan Phillips in a video clip that went viral.
The rally came to a head when they encountered an Indigenous People’s March which Phillips was participating in. Nick Sandmann, one of the Covington Catholic students, appeared to be at the heart of the incident, wearing a Make America Great Again hat in the footage.
Following a thorough investigation into the incident, in which both the statements of Sandmann and Phillips were examined along with all of the footage recorded from the incident, an investigation carried out by Greater Cincinnati Investigation for the Diocese of Covington has concluded the students did nothing wrong, according to ABC News affiliate WXYZ Detroit.
The results of the investigation have supported the version of events put forward by the students in their account of the incident. According to Sandmann’s recounting, he had only been standing still in front of Phillips, not in any way or form aggressive, even making sure to smile the entire time so as to not appear that he was about to turn it into anything more than a standoff.
The image of Sandmann smiling in Phillips’ face, refusing to move, appeared to many to be condescending and mocking.
An investigation into an encounter between Kentucky high school students and Native American activists has found "no evidence of offensive or racist statements" by the students, according to a report posted on the Diocese of Covington website https://t.co/Ys0N6Tu2hP
— CNN (@CNN) February 13, 2019
Phillips explained that he had been trying to leave the area as the situation around him escalated, banging peacefully on his drum and chanting, with everyone making a path for him as he advanced. According to the Vietnam veteran, it was then that Sandmann had stepped in front of him, and had refused to budge even as he attempted to take more steps forward.
Given the backlash from the incident, and the poor publicity for Covington Catholic and Sandmann in particular, a thorough investigation was ordered. That investigation included around 240 hours worth of interviews with students, parents, and witnesses, and 50 hours of reviewing footage from all angles — from social media posts and CCTV footage — by four highly seasoned investigators.
Neither Phillips nor Sandmann was personally interviewed, with Sandmann’s written statement about the incident being used instead.
The conclusion of the investigation was that they “found no evidence that the students responded in an offensive manner to the black Hebrew Israelites or that they chanted ‘build the wall.'” Instead, it was found that the students had been performing a school chant in an effort to drown out the vitriol being spewed at them.
Aside from a “tomahawk chop,” they did not make any racist comments towards Phillips either, the investigation found.
The report on the investigation also found that chaperones had warned the students any retaliation to either the black Hebrew Israelites or the Native Americans on the scene would result in detention.