MAGA-branded students at Lincoln Memorial deserve all the backlash

Rory Plunkett

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

There has been a video going viral on the internet of a group of teenage students surrounding and mocking a Native American elder and other activists after the Indigenous Peoples March on January 18.

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The video shows Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha Tribe and Vietnam War veteran, being harassed and mocked by students from Covington Catholic High School, an all-boys school in northern Kentucky.

All the backlash revolving around this video and the students is well deserved. People should be able to understand that the students mocking Nathan Phillips are in the wrong.

The boys from Covington Catholic were already in an altercation with other people passing by. Phillips, who was nearby, began to play his drum and chant a healing prayer, according to Kaya Taitano, a University of the District of Columbia student who participated in the march.

Phillips tried to defuse the situation that was transpiring in front of him and walked through the crowd. Taitano says that Phillips’ chant was working until he reached the grinning boy.

The boy wearing a Make America Great Again hat “got in Nathan’s face,” Taitano said and he refused to move while smiling and staring directly at Phillips. Other students of Covington Catholic surrounded Phillips also branded with Trump merchandise.

Taitano said the standoff continued until a chaperone came and led the teens away for a photograph.

The school is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, who gave a statement to CNN affiliate WLWT. Spokeswoman Laura Keener said that they condemn the actions of the students, towards Nathan Phillips and Native Americans in general, and that their behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings.

Nathan Phillips is a proud veteran and a valuable member of our society who was peacefully celebrating his heritage and culture. Unfortunately, a group of Catholic children, who apparently all supported Trump, thought it was ok to mock him.

As a society, we all know how bad this looks. It is no surprise that a group of private Catholic school boys in MAGA uniforms would taunt a Native American war veteran.

There is another video of more students from Covington Catholic where the horrible, shuttering words “It’s not rape if you enjoy it,” are uttered by one boy. Again in this instance, not only did most of the students do nothing about this, but some of them even laughed.

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There seems to be students who provoked the activists more than others. But none of the students from Covington Catholic stood up for Phillips and Native Americans.

Desmond Tutu once said that to be neutral in situations of injustice is to choose the side of the oppressor. All the students from Covington Catholic are either active oppressors or neutral ones. So even though a few of the students can be singled out and dealt worse punishments, none of those students should be exempt from punishment from their school and from society.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu

If people online want to bash these students for what they did, then they should.

Some may think that punishing these students is infringing on free speech; however, no one is free from the just consequences that result from their actions.

These students from Covington Catholic have since been invited to the White House to meet Donald Trump. It is hypocritical that these kids can commit these acts against a proud and honorable member of American society and then be rewarded.

Their actions should not be compared to national sports champions who routinely are offered an invite to the White House. These students have not won anything, and their actions make our whole country look like losers.

Rory Plunkett can be reached at: @jericho_wav or at letters@collegian.com