Kentucky high school students, mostly white, wearing pro-Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” caps. A group of black men who belong to an obscure group called the Hebrew Israelites preaching that they are the true chosen people. A Native American elder chanting a prayer.
They were all gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Friday afternoon as two marches — one for indigenous rights, the other against abortion — were winding down.
Then conflict broke out.
A video went viral showing a group of boys mocking a tribal chief. The reaction was swift, massive and unforgiving, as both right and left condemned the teenagers, with many calling for their expulsion from school.
But that rush to judgment was complicated by the subsequent release of other videos that provided more context. The debate is still not over, as more people weigh in with their interpretations and key participants offer their version of events.
Nick Sandmann, the high school student facing the greatest public scrutiny for his behavior, released a statement saying he was trying to defuse the situation.
President Trump defended the students on Twitter and criticized early media reports. The House Intelligence Committee has gotten involved, requesting information on the now-suspended Twitter account where the first video appeared.
Here is what the videos show:
Video No. 1
Released Friday. Running time: Approximately one minute
The Native American elder, 64-year-old Nathan Phillips, beats a drum in a prayer chant while the pro-Trump students — from Kentucky’s all-male Covington Catholic High School — dance around him.
Some of the boys slice the air with their arms, appearing to mock Phillips with what many on social media are referring to as a “tomahawk chop.” Others mimic the man’s chant. Sandmann, a high school junior, stands face to face with Phillips and smirks.
Videos No. 2 and 3
Released Saturday. Running times: 5 minutes, 24 seconds, and 9 minutes, 15 seconds
“We have spirit, yes we do; we have spirit, how about you?!”
The teenage boys chant and boo in the direction of the Hebrew Israelites, who have been lecturing the crowd.
One of the boys walks in front of the others and rips off his shirt as he leads the others in a cheer. The chanting continues as the boys turn inward to face one another.
Phillips, followed by other Native Americans, walks over, drumming and chanting in what appears to be an attempt to calm the situation.
But the boys appear to get more excited.
As Sandmann stands before Phillips, a voice off-camera asks: “Does anyone know what’s going on here?”
The students chant and shout around Phillips as the Hebrew Israelites lecture the crowd, spouting profanity-laced insults.
A Native American protester argues with one of the teenagers over who first owned America’s land.
Eventually, buses arrive. The group chants, “Let’s go home.”
Video No. 4
Released Sunday. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Passersby from the Indigenous People’s March and March for Life, including the Kentucky high school boys, converge at the Lincoln Memorial.
In the center of the steps, where crowds have gathered, are the Hebrew Israelites, who lecture both crowds.
“Look up the word ‘Indian’!” they shout. “‘Indian’ means savage!”
Two women confront the men. One of the men pivots the conversation to Trump.
“How are you going to add peace to this land when you’ve got a madman in the White House?” he says.
Then he points to a few of the high school boys and says: “You’ve got pompous bastards over there wearing ‘Make America Great Again.’ Why aren’t you mad at them? We’re your people.”
People continue to confront the men. The group of boys gets bigger as more arrive to wait for their bus. Tensions heighten.
When a black man intervenes, one of the Hebrew Israelites responds: “You’ve got all these … crackers behind you with a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat on and you want to fight your brothers?”
The men continue to lob profanity-laced insults.
“Build a wall!” one of the Hebrew Israelites shouts in mockery.
The high school boys start chanting as if they’re at a football game.
Phillips steps in and the teenagers continue to chant until it’s time to leave.