A teen at the center of a video confrontation with a Native American organizer of a march in Washington, D.C., says he did nothing to provoke anyone and sought to calm the situation.
The student identified himself in an email Sunday evening as junior Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. An official working with the family confirmed Sandmann’s identity, speaking on condition of anonymity because the source didn’t want to distract from the teen’s statement.
Sandmann says students were waiting at the Lincoln Memorial for buses to return to Kentucky on Friday when four African-American protesters there began insulting them.
The Native American, Nathan Phillips, told The Associated Press he approached the Kentucky students to keep the peace between them and the third group of protesters, comprised of black religious activists.
Phillips said he felt compelled to get between the two groups with his ceremonial drum to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.
Videos show Sandmann standing very close to Phillips and staring at him as he sang and played the drum. Other students — some in “Make America Great Again” hats and sweatshirts — were chanting and laughing.
Videos show members of the activist group yelling insults at the students, who taunt them in return. Sandman says the students began yelling “school spirit chants” to drown out the protesters and he did not hear students chant anything “hateful or racist at any time.”
Phillips was participating in Friday’s Indigenous Peoples March. The students had attended the March for Life rally the same day.