Xavier reacts to Covington Catholic

Protestors call for FBI and Justice Department investigation into death threats

A group of pro-life and religious leaders called upon the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department yesterday at Fountain Square to investigate threats made against students from Covington Catholic High School.

On Jan. 23, the Covington Diocese asked police to investigate reports of suspicious packages left outside their building. They were later given the all clear, and the packages were turned over to the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection service.

Various students at Covington Catholic High School had received death threats, and the school, and all other activities; were closed on Jan. 22, citing safety concerns.  According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Principal Bob Rowe had received 20,000 emails before his account was shut down.

The students were videotaped on Jan. 19 chanting school cheers at an indigenous person while he was drumming and chanting a prayer at the National Mall in Washington D.C. The initial footage from just outside the Lincoln Memorial portrayed the group of teenagers wearing “Make America Great Again” hats encircling Nathan Phillips, while student Nathan Sandmann was smiling while only a few inches from Phillips face.

Several Native-American protestors were at the Lincoln Memorial for the Indigenous Peoples March to demonstrate against the government shutdown and injustices towards indigenous people around the globe. The students from Covington Catholic were awaiting buses to take them back home to Covington, Ky. after the March for Life

Father Michael Graham, president, addressed the campus community in a letter yesterday. The letter directly referenced the national controversy and how he hopes campus discussions of such controversy will play out.

“Like many of you no doubt, I first saw the video clip of the encounter between a Covington Catholic Student and an elder of the Omaha Nation…and was outraged,” Graham wrote, “And — like many of you no doubt — have reconsidered my initial reaction in light of subsequent video footage.”

As this video went viral, members of the media and the Xavier community shared reactions that were later redacted or altered after additional footage helped provide more context to the situation.  

An additional one minute and 46 seconds of footage was filmed by one of five members of The Black Hebrew Israelite group that was also present. The group had pointed racial slurs at both the indigenous people and the students of Covington Catholic in the new footage. The Black Hebrew Israelites were protesting in the same spot.

Nathan Sandmann released a public statement on Jan. 20 that said, “It was clear to me that he (Phillips) had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.”

Phillips had been watching the tense interaction between The Black Hebrew Israelite group and the students at Covington Catholic. He approached the students with other Indigenous people. Phillips told the Cincinnati Enquirer that “I put myself in between that, between a rock and hard place.”

Xavier students recognized the power of instant news and the shifting perceptions based on what the media was reported

 “As a person of color, what I saw in that video immediately enraged me. But when I found out that a boy I’ve known since I was a kid was part of that crowd, I didn’t know what to do or what to think,” sophomore and Covington resident Evana Dias said. “After watching footage, reading stories, going to the protest in Covington…I still can’t tell who’s right and whose wrong, who approached who, and why this whole situation even took place.”

“Over these past few years, it appears media outlets have become increasingly irresponsible with their reporting,” junior Johnathon O’Halloran said. “As someone who hopes to one day be a part of the media, it’s increasingly upsetting to me that this keeps happening.”

Graham closed his letter saying, “Going forward, let us always strive to walk with one another, and not past one another.”

By: Brittany Wells | Staff Writer