Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student seen in the viral video with Native American veteran Nathan Phillips issued a statement on Sunday with his side of the story.
On Saturday, a short video from Friday's Indigenous Peoples March outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. went viral. It shows Sandmann with a smirk on his face and wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat while Phillips is beating a drum.
Phillips, a Vietnam War veteran, told the Detroit Free Press the incident happened after the Covington Catholic Students saw a Black Hebrew Israelites group speak and they began to get upset. Phillips said he tried to defuse the situation, and put himself "between a rock and hard place." Phillips said he heard members of the Black Hebrew Israelites "saying some harsh things" and one even spit at the students.
On Sunday, longer videos of the scene surfaced, showing what members of the Black Hebrew Israelites did to provoke the Catholic students. One video shows a man pointing out a black student among the Covington group, then making references to the horror movie Get Out and yelling a racial slur.
Sandmann's family later sent a long statement to the Cincinnati Inquirer, in which he and his family say they will be making no further comments on the situation.
According to Sandmann, when their group arrived at the Lincoln Memorial to get onto buses to go back to Kentucky, they saw four African American protesters, who were yelling "derogatory insults" at the group. The students asked their chaperons if they could respond by beginning their "school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group."
"At no time did I hear any student chant anything other than the school spirit chants. I did not witness or hear any students chant 'build that wall' or anything hateful or racist at any time," the statement read. "Assertions to the contrary are simply false. Our chants were loud because we wanted to drown out the hateful comments that were being shouted at us by the protestors."
After the chanting began, the Native American protesters approached and, according to Sandmann, the group included someone with a camera. Phillips then moved through the crowd and came "within inches of my face," Sandmann said.
"I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves," Sandmann said. "To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers."
Sandmann said he felt he was "singled" out "for a confrontation" and the incident ended when a teacher said the buses arrived.
"I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation," Sandmann said. "I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me – to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence."0comments
Sandmann said he has received "physical and death threats via social media, as well as hateful insults" since the video went viral Sunday. He later said he would not comment on Phillips' interviews and thanked him for his sevice with the U.S. Marines. The student will cooperate with the Diocese of Covington in their investigation.
He added that his family will not be doing interviews and any comments from any other members of the family outside the statement "are fabricated."