A Catholic school has apologized after a group of its students harassed an elderly Native American while he was singing. Videos of the widely condemned incident have gone viral on social media.
A US diocese on Sunday promised to take action after boys from a Catholic private school mocked an elderly Native American man at a Washington rally held by indigenous communities.
The footage, which spread on social media over the weekend, shows a student from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky smirking as he stands unusually close to Nathan Phillips, a Native American Vietnam War veteran, who is beating a traditional drum while chanting.
Other teens, many also wearing clothing bearing President Donald Trump's political slogan 'Make America Great Again' jeered, jumped and appeared to mock the man.
Several intimidating minutes
A member of Phillips' march, Marcus Frejo, said the boisterous students began chanting slogans and then started doing the haka, a traditional Maori dance.
At one point, students chanted, "Build the wall, build the wall," the 64-year-old Phillips said in a separate video.
"These are indigenous lands, we're not supposed to have walls," the elder of Nebraska's Omaha tribe added, wiping away the tears.
"I wish I could see that energy of that young mass of young men, put that energy into making this country really, really great, helping those that are hungry."
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
The incident took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Friday when the annual anti-abortion March for Life, which the boys attended, coincided with a rally by indigenous communities calling for their rights to be respected.
After the video drew widespread criticism on social media, the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School issued a statement rebuking the students.
"We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C," the statement said.
Boys face expulsion
"We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated, and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion."
Deb Haaland, one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in November, linked the students' behavior to rising levels of racial intolerance under the Trump administration.
"The students' display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking," she wrote on Twitter.
mm/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)