Covington Catholic and Nathan Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial: What We Know

Benjamin Baxter
Jan 20 · 7 min read

1222 — Questions, lines of inquiry. Some of these are more direct than others, and others lead to more critical territory. This is part of the process, and should not be feared by either defenders of the students or defenders of Nathan Phillips. The goal is the truth.

  1. There is speculation regarding the hats, along a line of criticism which links the March for Life to a “Trump Recruitment Rally.” In response: Where did the hats come from? Were they used during the march? Were they, as some defenders suggest, the means of identifying the students? Photographic evidence could exist for some of these points.
  2. Why did the student approached by Phillips not move? If he is guilty of something malicious, he is unlikely to tell the truth, but his testimony would at least be up to scrutiny.
  3. There is speculation that a student did not write the letter given below. Was it written by an attorney, as has been speculated? There exists a claim that the parents of certain children present in the video are attorneys. Legal counsel has already been offered.
  4. What are the words of the school cheers? Video evidence from before this incident should be helpful in supporting these claims.
  5. A more plaintive complaint, cropping up all over social media: Where were the chaperones? Why were the students not removed from that environment once it became clear that they were parked right next to an incendiary group of racially/politically/religiously charged protesters?
  6. For that matter, what are diocesan or school policies? What kind of training do students have, religiously or socially? How were they warned? How are they expected to behave? It is entirely possible that counter-protesters were greeted by counter-chants and counter-cheers. (While we’re on the topic of that, while the initial chants appear to be regular school sporting cheers, why-oh-why did a good number of students at one point break into the Cleveland Indians War Chant cheer when a native man with a drum began singing in front of them? If anything in the current videos deserves some kind of correction it is this.)
  7. What does Nathan Phillips have to say about the exchanges between one of his companions and the students? Surely it undermines his claim of a peaceful witness if almost immediately.
  8. This is more for expert watchers of smartphone videos, but looking at something as simple as the lines in the stone on the ground it should be possible to demark the furthest extent of the students before and after Phillips approached them. This should definitively disprove either Phillips’ claim that he was surrounded by the students or the claim by the defenders of those students that he barged into them and made a space for himself.

1051— One of the most specific claims made by Nathan Phillips is that some students shouted “Build that Wall” at him. This is still entirely possible. However, to my knowledge there remains no existing video evidence of this, and it is absolutely clear that at no point did a large body of Covington Catholic High students do such a chant.

If found, with a timestamp, it would be the smoking gun.

1041 @SportsBuckeye on Twitter has pieced together several video clips. These tweets are in reply to the letter submitted to a local news channel which purports to be from a student.

1027 — Several major updates coming.

Most importantly, readers have provided full videos of the event, albeit from further away. Covington Catholic students are present in the 2-hour video for about half an hour, and the relevant clip of this video is here. These are originally from one of the African-American protesters, identified as Facebook user Warrior4the12Shields. The content of the video confirms early reports that the group was a “Black Hebrew Israelite” group.

It must be emphasized that this video does not change how the students responded or did not respond to Nathan Phillips; its importance is largely in providing a backbone for reconstructions of closer clips into one large montage, arranged in order. While it does provide context for how the students were acting and reacting to the “Black Hebrew Israelite” group, again, this is not strictly relevant to how they acted or reacted to Nathan Phillips.

0129 PST, 20 Jan. 2019, added 2016 election data.

2333 PST, 19 Jan. 2019 Timeline:

  1. Covington Catholic students were grouped together in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
  2. Covington Catholic students are doing several school cheers at various times.
  3. Covington Catholic students are approached by Nathan Phillips.
  4. One student and Nathan Phillips are standing very closely together as several chants continue. These two persons continue to stand in place for at least one minute. The student appears to be smiling.
  5. Later, the student is no longer smiling.
  6. Minutes later, Nathan Phillips walks away and the group of African-American protesters take over, at one point using the word “faggot.”
  7. Covington Catholic students leave as a group.

At some point, likely before this incident, the African-American protesters spoke described at least two Covington High students using the n-word. As this does not happen during or after Nathan Phillips approaches, this appears to have happened before Nathan Phillips approached the students.

2256 — Another video picks up after all but one of the videos given below, and includes several comments made by the African-American protesters. It also appears to show when Nathan Phillips left the students and when the Covington High students left the Memorial grounds.

2230 Another video demonstrates both the approach of Nathan Phillips and the position of the African-American protesters relative to both Phillips and Covington Catholic. The content of the chanting sounds like the school chant during this video. It also appears that this chant was used at the beginning of this video.

2209 — On Twitter, Adam Clements sourced the letter. The main story has been adjusted appropriately. However, it relies on his credibility.

2206, minor fixes.

2139 PST, 19 Jan. 2019 — Two events in Washington, D.C. happened on the same day and at about the same time. The March for Life, which is in its 46th year, and the Indigenous Peoples’ March, which is in its first year, both occurred on January 18th, 2019. Among those attending the March for Life, Covington Catholic High School, an all-boys’ private school in Kentucky, was to meet at the Lincoln Memorial before heading to or boarding buses.

This exchange, with two students, is sourced. Names and pictures concealed because they are likely minors.

There’s a video demonstrating a basic chant, which is not quite clear but which is certainly not “Build the wall.” This video supports that, contrary to early reports, Nathan Phillips was not surrounded by the group but that he approached them. A second video confirms this claim. In the description of this video, it is attested that there was a group African-American protesters in conflict with the high school students, and though they are absent in the first video linked, these men might have left at some point, or arrived later. We do know that they were present at some point.

Though according to the above exchange the cheers are neither racist nor offensive, there is video evidence of some of the boys doing the War Chant cheer popularized by the Cleveland Indians, which is one of the closer major-league baseball teams to Covington, Kentucky. This may be a school chant. Another video shows a different chant, which sounds more proprietary to the school. “Co-ving-ton is best.”

Another document, which corresponds to much of the above, purports to be a letter from a student. The first video is from this letter, and a yet another video is found here (n-word used) which corroborates some of the claims, including the presence of African-American protesters, who shouted at an African-American in a Covington High sweatshirt that his classmates would steal his organs when he gets home. (Another video given in the letter has been removed from YouTube.)

Here is the full text of that letter:

Several points are verified independently.

Very minor side point, regarding the MAGA gear: During the March for Life event, there were merchants selling the red hats, according to a participant in this year’s March for Life. “They were pure capitalists,” he said. “Today, they were selling F Trump hats.”

These red hats were in the model of official Donald Trump campaign merchandise, which are red baseball caps with “Make America Great Again” in white letters. These hats were worn by several Covington High students in all videos, and at least one shirt bore the slogan. It is possible that this merchandise was sold by the merchants during the event or that they were brought by students from home. Kenton County, in which Covington is located, went 59.7/33.7 for Trump in 2016.

There are other accusations against Covington Catholic.


Here is a timeline of the most pertinent events, including events for which there is video evidence or which are independently verified from different sources.

  1. Covington Catholic students were grouped together in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
  2. Covington Catholic students are doing several school cheers at various times.
  3. Covington Catholic students are approached by Nathan Phillips.
  4. One student and Nathan Phillips are standing very closely together as several chants continue. These two persons continue to stand in place for at least one minute.

At some point, an African-American protester standing beside three others addressed an African-American Covington High student in a way which is at least provocative.

Bottom line: At this moment, aspects of the letter can be confirmed. There is one crucial claim made by Nathan Phillips which cannot yet be demonstrated, namely, the chant that even some of the students chanted “Build That Wall.” With as many videos of this incident out there as there are, it is possible that such evidence will arise. This will be updated as more information is submitted.