MAGA at the March for Life — UPDATE

MAGA at the March for Life — UPDATE January 20, 2019
Nathan Phillips shows quiet dignity before MAGA hat-wearing racist

NB: I have updated this post because of new information available today. –SPD

Want media coverage for the March for Life? You got it.

Pro-lifers complain every year about the lack of media coverage for the March for Life. That’s not true, as Deacon Greg Kandra writes here. Still, victimhood is everything for the pro-life movement. And the line still resonates inside their bubble, so they still use it. This year, however, they’re getting more media coverage than they ever imagined. Why?

Because this was the year boys wearing Make America Great Again hats, from a Catholic high school in Kentucky, who were in Washington, D.C., for the March, decided harass a Native American elder who was there for the Indigenous People’s March, scheduled for the same day.

Or at least that’s what was originally reported. Here is one of the videos that went viral on Saturday:

The elder is Nathan Phillips of the Omaha Nation. He is a Vietnam veteran. The Indigenous Peoples March was winding down near the Lincoln memorial when suddenly, he was surrounded by a throng of hostile teens from the March for Life. The Washington Post says:

“It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’” Phillips recalled. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

So, he kept drumming and singing, thinking about his wife, Shoshana, who died of bone marrow cancer nearly four years ago, and the various threats that face indigenous communities around the world, he said.

The boys were from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky. These boys went to bed Friday night unknowns. They woke up world famous.

More to the story

But it turns out, the Covington boys and Mr. Phillips and his small group weren’t the only ones there. A third group, members of a fringe outfit called the Black Hebrew Israelites also were there and, in a lengthy video (taken by one of their members), you can see them shouting anti-white, anti-Catholic epithets at the Covington Catholic students:

The link begins at about the 1:09 mark, but it ‘s worth watching the entire one-hour, forty-five-minute video. The Black Hebrew Israelites aren’t nice guys. They’ve been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I don’t know what the Covington students were doing by the Lincoln Memorial. The Right to Life rally is between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building. The March route is up Capitol Hill toward the Supreme Court—in the opposite direction. It could be the boys were told to wait there for their bus, but if that’s the case, where were the adults? The chaperones? These boys were taunted for almost ninety minutes before (I’m guessing; it was off camera) their bus arrived. In all that time, I saw one grownup. He stood there for a few minutes and then left.

What each side says

By Mr. Phillips’ account—and what I see on the video—he was trying to diffuse a situation that was quickly getting out of hand:

Later, Phillips told the Detroit Free Press that a speech given by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites at the march sparked the incident. The elder explained that the Covington Catholic students watched the talks and visibly disagreed with what was being said, while the Black Hebrew Israelites group also started “saying some harsh things” at the group, with one member even spitting in the boys’ direction. “So I put myself in between that, between a rock and hard place,” Phillips said. “They were in the process of attacking these four black individuals.”

To diffuse the situation, the 64-year-old former Marine walked past the Black Hebrew Israelites and to the students—who were sitting on the stairs—prompting the teenagers to redirect their hostility towards him instead. The Covington Catholic students can then be seen in the clip gathering around Phillips, before dispersing after five minutes.

The boys and their defenders blame Mr. Phillips and his group for approaching them, for getting in their space and threatening them. Look, if you want to argue that a frail old man with a drum is threatening to a group of around seventy high school boys, be my guest. I think you look ridiculous.

And, Covington boys, listen up. Class is in session. If there is one hero in all of this, it is Mr. Phillips. He just happened to be there as things were getting ugly between the Covington boys and the Black Hebrew Israelites. He took the hostility upon himself. He diffused the situation. Soon after, the boys’ bus arrived and they left.

The Diocese of Covington and the high school have issued a joint statement condemning the actions of the boys and apologizing to Mr. Phillips. The March for Life also issued a statement, which they have since taken down. instead of the statement, the link takes you to a page that says, “This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?” Good thing I pasted it here yesterday:

“The pro-life movement at its core is a movement of love and the reprehensible behavior shown in the video in no way represents the 46 years and millions of people who have peacefully and respectfully gathered in Washington, DC to stand up for the unborn. Nor does it represent the vast majority of the marchers present at this year’s March for Life. Such behavior is not welcome at the March for Life and never will be.” – Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life

I don’t believe them. I think if they really believed “such behavior is not welcome at the March for Life and never will be,” they wouldn’t have round-filed the statement as soon as extra video footage surfaced. Because it doesn’t exonerate the boys or their high school (again, where were the chaperones?). And removing it further discredits the March for Life.

The March for Life

I have been to the March for Life. Our parochial school sends its 8th grade class there every year. In 2014 I was a chaperone for my oldest son’s class trip. My youngest son went this year. The trip is billed as a pilgrimage, complete with daily rosaries on the bus, daily Mass, and so on. But what the March for Life is and has always been is a glorified Republican rally.

For years the organizers had a measure of plausible deniability. No more. They mask came off as soon as Mr. Trump won the election. Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway attended the 2017 March. Last year, Mr. Trump addressed the March via livestream. This year, Mr. Pence again attended in person while Mr. Trump again appeared on video. The keynote speaker was conservative pundit Ben Shapiro and his bizarre “baby Hitler” speech.

Mr. Trump and his base own the March for Life. My youngest, who just got home, said many there wore MAGA hats and other MAGA apparel. My But even in 2014, the March was a republican orgy, right down to the crypto-fascist Tradition Family Property brass band playing on the march route. They were there again this year. The only reason my younger son wanted to go was to see Washington, and to have an excursion with his friends. I am happy for him to have that opportunity. I told him, “It’s cover for Republican propaganda. Keep that in mind and have a good time on the trip.”

I was right, he told me when he got off the bus.

I wonder if the March for Life organizers have any idea what a terrible look that is. Or maybe they do and just don’t care. Outside their bubble, MAGA stands for racism and xenophobia and hate and bullying—exactly what the Covington students were doing. Taking down the statement condemning the Covington students only makes it worse. The March for Life is totally owned by Donald Trump. He is the president they’ve been waiting for. They’re not really pro-life. At best, they’re pro-birth. And that really is anti-life.


I have little hope the March for Life will ever change. It has no incentive to. What needs to change are the thousands of young people who get bused in every year, pawns in a culture war they never asked to be part of. They must learn to embrace a whole life ethic, not just a pro-birth ethic. That will take those of us who know better teaching them. And that will require courage.

In the multiple videos of the Covington Catholic boys harassing and threatening Mr. Phillips, there are kids who look upset, who look put off by the whole thing. But none of them spoke up. None of them did anything to protect or defend Mr. Phillips. “Why are there so many cowards?” a friend asked.

Because courage is a muscle that needs to be worked, I told her. And none of these kids have ever worked that muscle.

Behold the quiet dignity of Mr. Phillips, and work that muscle.


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  • AJ Peters

    The incident started when the protesters came at the students–not the other way around: Beyond using lies to stir up racial tension, I really don’t see what you’re trying to achieve…

  • AJ Peters

    The incident also involved a group of African American men yelling racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs, so the fact that you choose to single out the white students for condemnation shows that you hold people of color to a lower moral standard. If anyone is a racist, it’s you. #SoftBigotryOfLowExpectations

  • Bemused

    This video does not show what you think it shows. All the guy did was play a drum and walk. They were nasty to him unnecessarily of their own choice.

  • AJ Peters

    He played a drum and walked in the middle of them after they had been the subject of racist and homophobic slurs. Here’s the incident from the very beginning: Why aren’t you condemning that nastiness?

  • Bemused

    There are posts regarding the earlier behavior of the other protestors toward the Covington kids (including on this website). This post, however, is addressing the behavior of the Covington kids toward the Native American drummer. Their choices on how to respond to the Native drummer were not good, and that is what this post addresses. And so it is the topic I am addressing.

  • AJ Peters

    There was homophobic and racist language being used by protesters that I won’t even repeat, and yet you chose to only focus on the students instead, which proves that you hold people of color to a lower set of moral expectations. If you want to see a racist, there’s a device you can use: it’s called a mirror.

  • Bemused

    This post is about the Covington kids choices. That is the topic currently under discussion. I understand that you would prefer to shift the topic, but that is not the topic currently on this post.

  • Ame

    This is wrong. It is never right to incite online vigilantism and arm your readers with the means to attack people, no matter how deserving you may think. There will be the self righteous and the unstable who will take this as an invitation to harass and throw death threats. Don’t let that blood be on your hands. Catholic Patheos should remove this article if it’s members truly believe that vigilante violence of any kind has no place in a civil society.

  • AJ Peters

    Of course it’s not the topic currently under discussion–you don’t think people of color can uphold the same moral standards as white folks. Why not just admit what you are?

  • Bemused

    There are other posts even on this website that are currently discussing the actions of the other protestors. That is the appropriate place to discuss the actions of the other protestors. Here, on this post, the focus is on the actions of the Covington kids. Why don’t you want to stay on topic?

  • AJ Peters

    Look, I just believe in opposing bigotry where ever I see it. I’m sorry you don’t feel the same way.

  • Bemused

    I’m sorry you don’t feel the need to address that poor behaviors being covered here and instead insist on trying to talk about other poor behaviors which are being covered elsewhere.

  • AJ Peters

    “I’m sorry you don’t feel the need to address that poor behaviors being covered here…”

    Well, there’s plenty of lying here, and that’s poor behavior. You said that they were “harassing and threatening” someone, when the reality is that they were the ones being threatened and harassed. And yet rather than confront the people using racial and homophobic slurs, Mr. Philips chose to confront the victims, getting up in their faces where he clearly wasn’t welcome. Doesn’t your church have something to say about bearing false witness?

  • Bemused

    Explain, please, how Mr. Philips was threatening or harassing them?

  • AJ Peters

    They were being harassed and threatened by a group of African American men, and yet rather than confront the racists and homophobes, Mr. Philips chose to confront the students in a way that was clearly uncomfortable. Why do you need to lie about that? (Aside from the fact that you don’t believe black and brown people should be held to the same standards as whites, of course).

  • Bemused

    Are you saying that because some other people were treating them badly, that the Covington kids were right to be nasty to Mr. Philips?

  • AJ Peters

    What I’m saying is that they weren’t being “nasty”–they stood peacefully while Mr. Philips invaded their space after they had been harassed and threatened. I’m also saying that you’re a deceptive, untrustworthy person for lying about that.

  • Bemused

    So have you watched the other videos?

  • AJ Peters

    Of course, and what I saw was a bunch of teenagers being threatened and called homophobic slurs by grown men. And then I saw Mr. Philips and company march up to them and drum in their faces when they clearly didn’t want that. Do you not realize that when you make false allegations of racism, you cheapen the word and make real victims less likely to be believed? I don’t know if you’re good for anything else, but you’re an expert at that.

  • Bemused

    So playing a drum warrants harassment. Right. You seem to be saying that it’s OK to be unkind to other people if a third party is unkind to you. This is not what we should be teaching our children. These kids did not act right. They should have done better. Do you think these kids acted right? Did they make the right choice?

  • AJ Peters

    “So playing a drum warrants harassment.”

    It is if it’s unwelcome, especially if the person is already being threatened and already on edge.

    “This is not what we should be teaching our children.”

    We should be teaching them not to lie–when are you going to learn that lesson?

    “These kids did not act right.”

    Well, they haven’t told lies about people, and they also haven’t been silent in the face of bigotry (they actually spoke against it when they heard it). So in that sense, they acted a lot more right then you’re acting right now.

    “Do you think these kids acted right? Did they make the right choice?”

    They were being threatened and called slurs by a group of men, and then another group of unwelcome men got in their space but they reacted peacefully. So yeah, they did.

  • Bemused

    That’s actually a perfectly on-topic answer to what was being addressed. Thank you.

  • AJ Peters

    Yeah, the fact that you libeled them and seem to have racially based standards of morality is definitely on-topic. If I were you, I wouldn’t be writing about your church–with your lies, you’re a lousy representative for Christianity

  • Bemused

    *waits for libelous quote*

  • AJ Peters

    “In the multiple videos of the Covington Catholic boys harassing and threatening…”

    At no point did they threaten or harass that man. He walked into their space uninvited and was thus the aggressor–not them. Despite that, I’m sure they’re getting a deluge of hate, and you’re trying to add to it by posting their school’s contact info. Why would people be drawn to Christianity when it has deceptive, vindictive people like you representing it?

  • Bemused

    Ah, you think I’m the original poster, I’m afraid that I am not. The boys made poor choices. They should have done better.

  • AJ Peters

    Ah, I’m sorry.

  • MurphsLaw

    Why are you not outraged at being manipulated?
    When I saw this yesterday, I was angry that these teenagers were capable of this- and displaying behavior so inappropriately for this venue. I was pissed and knowingly pre- judged them based on what the internet offered as “evidence” of THEIR behavior……oh AND those MAGA hats !….. ( the real offense as we are now finding out)
    Today we learn the truth and the circumstances of what really occurred- and now I’m even more pissed at being played. What is fake and what is real is getting harder to discern….. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that we live in a world where honesty no longer has a place.

  • AJ Peters

    But regardless, the boys stood up to hateful bigots and should be praised, not condemned by liars like you.

  • Bemused

    People always put forth their viewpoint of a situation. If I got angry every time someone told me their viewpoint of their story, I’d spend all my time furious. The video of the earlier situation shows some reasons why the boys were emotional, it doesn’t excuse what they did with those emotions.

  • Bemused

    Wouldn’t it be boring if we all had the same opinion.

  • fatty

    I have a hard time believing Democrats aren’t welcome at the march.

  • Jim Dailey

    Now that the facts are known, are you going to write a column apologizing to the 16 year old boy, the March for Life, and the Covington Catholic High School community?
    Phillips is nothing more than a lying provocateur. You bought his story and the narrative of a hateful, divisive mass media and eagerly distanced yourself from innocents and joined a mindless mob castigating those who stood up for truth.
    Think about that on Good Friday.

  • Ame
  • Barros Serrano

    because anyone defending those white-right brats can only lie

  • Barros Serrano

    no you don’t. You are defending the bigotry of the white-right Covington brats, and demonizing the Native elder who attempted to defuse the hostility between the BHI and the white-right misfits, BOTH reprehensible racists

  • Barros Serrano

    You are a liar. Anyone can see in those videos that the white-right brats were insulting and mocking Native Americans.

    Of course as you swim in a white racist sea, you cannot see that tomahawk chops are racist, that mocking Native chanting is racist, that blocking the path of a Native elder is racist.

    Because YOU are a racist.

  • Barros Serrano

    Clearly, he was “drumming while non-white”, a serious offense to the white right.

  • Barros Serrano

    More racist lies. They were mocking the elder and Native culture. Of course to you that is perfectly acceptable.

    WHO has the double standard here? ‘Tis thee, the white-right liar.

  • Barros Serrano

    Again, “drumming while non-white”… “occupying space while non-white”… those are the crimes of Mr. Phillips which you condemn.

    YOU are what is wrong with this country, white-right boy.

  • Barros Serrano

    The BHI are hateful bigots. Mr. Phillips is not.

    You are.

  • Scott


  • Barros Serrano

    What a perfect example of today’s Republican… all smartass and no substance.

    If you actually have an argument about any of this, post it.

    if you only want to insult, then come talk to me in person, little white-right boy

  • AJ Peters

    No, I have no proof that Philips is a hateful bigot–he’s just a liar. I hope you realize that by pushing false allegations of racism, you’re only making it less likely that real victims of racism will be believed (which is a pretty lousy thing to do to them). Also, if you’re going to use mocking racial terms like “white boy,” why would anyone take your complaints seriously? Aren’t you just a hypocrite then?

  • Barros Serrano

    Try thinking clearly. We saw on the videos how the white-right racist brats behaved. Whatever Phillips is or has done is irrelevant! He was a Native elder with a drum, and he was harassed and mocked by racist white kids. Period. Trying to throw dirt on him doesn’t change that, and I don’t really care about him or his past. I care about the racism on display by the white-right brats.

    If you tell me that the white kids did some great thing last month, that would also be irrelevant. We are dealing with the incident in DC, and that is what matters. Stop trying to deflect to some BS in order to defend your fellow white racists.

    I am white, fool, so if I say “white boy”, so what? It’s like black people say the N word… I may not like it but it’s their business.

    Your claim that by identifying these very real racist teenagers we’re somehow hurting other victims of racism… well I think you know where I’ll tell you to shove that prevaricating nonsense.

  • Barros Serrano

    I singled out nobody, and if you read my comments on these blogs I have repeatedly condemned the Hebrew Israelites for their racism. Furthermore, I am very familiar with that group, unlike most of you, and I have online condemned them for years and argued with them on various blogs. I know exactly how racist and dangerous that cult is. SPLC lists them as a hate group, and they are correct.

    Take your racist rightwing crap and shove it. Low expectations my ass. I am a teacher and I make no excuses for non-white kids and I grade their homework the same as everyone else’s. And I chastise their misbehavior the same as for whites. So you are not going to wriggle out of this by accusing me of invented infractions. Like I said, cram it and cram it deep.

    It is a national problem that white teachers treat non-white students worse. There is an incident now being discussed of black Middle School girls being strip-searched. And it happens all the time. You should worry about THAT rather than whining like a spoiled white brat about imaginary offenses against YOU. I am not the only white who will not let you get away with that shoddy thinking or with those lies.

  • Barros Serrano

    Are they real? Sounds more like inventions by the white-right PR firm hired by the racist brat’s rich corporate mother.

  • AJ Peters

    “I am white, fool…”

    So you’re a fraud who’s engaged in cultural appropriation. Again, why would anyone take you seriously?

    “He was a Native elder with a drum…”

    Yes, and then he took that drum into a group of boys and loudly banged it a few inches from one of their faces. Philips wasn’t the victim of harassment–he was the perpetrator of it.

    “If you tell me that the white kids did some great thing last month, that would also be irrelevant.”

    Actually, they did something great that day. Specifically, they stood up to some grown men who were yelling racist and homophobic slurs. When the Black Hebrew Israelites began dehumanizing gays, the Covington boys booed and yelled, “They’re still human.” Think about that: the ones who stood up to bigotry were those white those white Republicans you love to hate.

    “Your claim that by identifying these very real racist teenagers we’re somehow hurting other victims of racism…”

    Because you are: this has been widely exposed as a hoax, with the unfortunate result being that the next time someone suffers genuine racism, they are more likely to be met with skepticism. But don’t worry, you’re also doing something positive. You see, part of the reason why working class whites have been migrating to the Republican Party is because they’re tired of the left falsely smearing them as racists. So the more people like you talk, the more you drive them into our arms. I don’t know if you’ve accomplished anything else in life, but that’s one thing you’ve definitely helped to achieve.

  • Barros Serrano

    So many errors… you should thank me for taking the time to correct you, in the hope you’ll end up a better person.

    Cultural appropriation? Because I speak Spanish? I know 6 languages, and that is a sin of some kind? How many languages can you speak? And how amusing that you, a white right, is concerned now with “cultural appropriation”. Yeah, right. That’s believable.

    The racist brat Sandmann blocked Phillips’ way. He stood there smirking, and as Phillips said and the video shows, he could not move in any direction being surrounded by hooting mocking racist ill-raised lowlife white-right misfit teenagers… people like you.

    And again, the Hebrew Israelites are vile and reprehensible EVERY day (I am very familiar with them), but they are irrelevant to the racism exhibited by the white-right teenage misfits toward the Native gentleman. You are attempting a very obvious and cheap deflection with that nonsense.

    It has NOT been exposed as a hoax. What’s exposed is the readiness you white-right racists jump to any excuse for your fellow white-right racists. Those brats were racist and disrespectful toward Phillips. Period. Nothing mitigates that, not the Hebrew Israelites, not Phillips’ military history, nothing.

    And I am VERY amused that you think that anyone is being driven into the GOP currently. Thanks to your Orange Nightmare, people are flocking to the Democrats as we saw in November and will see again in 2020. The GOP is intellectually and morally bankrupt (and has been since Reagan). In fact working-class whites flocked to the GOP because of their own racism! I actually am around them and know whereof I speak. And they were scared, lied to, and propagandized by Rush, Faux News, et al., and being less educated than folks like me, they bought into it. And so did you… and so what does that make you? pendejo, chump, dupe… and by your actions and votes, a traitor.

  • AJ Peters

    “Cultural appropriation? Because I speak Spanish?”

    No, it’s because you try to pass yourself off as someone you’re not.

    “The racist brat Sandmann blocked Phillips’ way.”

    Sandmann stood in a place where he had every right to be. If Philips had a pressing need to go forward, he could have just walked around.

    “…he could not move in any direction being surrounded by hooting mocking racist ill-raised lowlife white-right misfit teenagers… people like you.”

    That’s interesting, because somehow he was able to A) walk into the middle of that crowd, and then B) walk back out of it again. Also, thanks for saying I could pass for a teenager. I mean, I workout and watch what I eat but still…

    “It has NOT been exposed as a hoax.”

    You can tell yourself what you like, but the reality is that a large portion of this country now believes these kids were railroaded, and as a result they’ll probably be less likely to believe similar allegations in the future, which will really suck for the victims if those allegations turn out to be true. That’s what you’ve accomplished here.

    “And I am VERY amused that you think that anyone is being driven into the GOP currently.”

    Yeah, because it’s not like Trump was able to flip two states that hadn’t voted Republican since 1988 and another that voted Democrat since 1984. Oh, wait…

    “Thanks to your Orange Nightmare, people are flocking to the Democrats as we saw in November and will see again in 2020.”

    Is that why we added to our Senate majority when many said we would lose seats?

    “In fact working-class whites flocked to the GOP because of their own racism!”

    I’m sure that will win them over.

    “I actually am around them and know whereof I speak.”

    Please spend as much time around them as you can, and most importantly, never censor yourself.

    “And they were scared, lied to, and propagandized by Rush, Faux News, et al., and being less educated than folks like me, they bought into it. ”

    By all means, remind them everyday that the left looks down on them. Actually, could you do me a favor? Specifically, could you encourage other leftists to sound like you? It would be a big help.

  • Don Kenner

    The argument is there in the two hour video that confirms the boys’ account of what happened. What is not there is all the information that has come out about Phillips, the Native American activist who lied twice about his actions (protecting the black guys; protecting the kids) and lied about his military record. He’s done this sort of thing before. Calling out a 16 year boy (“little white-right boy”) is really pathetic. If this what American Catholics do? If so, I pity any Catholics who put their faith above politics; it must be like wading through a sewer.

  • Barros Serrano

    This is a diversion. The video(s) show clearly that the teenagers mocked and derided the elder and Native culture.

    All the rest is irrelevant. Naturally lacking any facts to back up your denial of the boys’ racism, you turn to character assassination.

  • Pete Socks

    Likely he won’t… apology is not click bait and it’s not how most Patheos Catholic writers operate.

  • “…Patheos purported Catholic writers….”


  • This whole story epitomizes the difference between left and right. One side breaks windows, burns cars, loots stores, and throws bricks and debris, while the other side stands there and smiles.

  • st_seraphim

    Is that your caption under the photo at the header calling Sandmann a racist? If so, all legal and ethical implications aside, are you willing to face the Almighty with even the prospect that you falsely accused someone of something of being a racist?

    THERE>IS>ABSOLUTELY>NOTHING>THAT >EVEN>IMPLIES>SANDMANN>IS>A>RACIST! You, sir, are guilty of rumor and slander. Confess and repent of that while you can.

  • st_seraphim

    Facts?!?! We don’t need no stinkin’ facts! The dude was wearing a MAGA hat! That’s ALL we need to know. >sarcasm meter pegged<

  • Jim Dailey

    Well, tomorrow is Good Friday, so hopefully he will think about it a little.
    I am in no way better than the author. God knows I have sinned this way myself.

    Peace be with you.