The student who stared and smiled at an elderly Native American protester drumming in his face outside the Lincoln Memorial as his schoolmates chanted and laughed said he did nothing to provoke the man in the videotaped confrontation and was only trying to calm the situation.
The student identified himself in an email statement Sunday evening as junior Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School in a northern Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati. An official working with the family confirmed Sandmann’s identity, speaking on condition of anonymity because the source didn’t want to distract from the statement.
Videos posted of the confrontation Friday in Washington drew wide criticism on social media. “I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name,” wrote Sandmann, who added that he and his parents had received death threats since video of Friday’s confrontation emerged.
Both Sandmann and Nathan Phillips, the Native American protester, said they were trying to defuse tensions that were rising among three groups on a day Washington hosted both the March for Life and the Indigenous Peoples March. But video of Sandmann standing very close to Phillips, staring and at times smiling at him as Phillips sang and played a drum, gave many who watched it a different impression. Other students appeared to be laughing at the drummer; and at least one could be seen on video doing a tomahawk chop.
The dueling accounts emerged Sunday as the nation picked apart footage from dozens of cellphones. The incident occurred amid an increasingly tense political climate fueled by a partial government shutdown over immigration policy.