Teenager in MAGA hat seen in aggressive encounter with Native American insists he was trying to defuse situation

Harriet Alexander
Nick Sandmann was seen in an apparent confrontation with Native American elder Nathan Philips - Survival Media Agency

A Trump-supporting teenager who was seen in an apparent confrontation with a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial has insisted that he acted with no aggression, and was shocked by the encounter.

Nick Sandmann, who was in Washington DC with his Catholic high school from Kentucky for an anti-abortion march, was seen standing at the centre of a crowd, face to face with a Native American elder.

Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Omaha elder and Vietnam veteran, told the New York Times he had stepped in “to pray” after a group of black men confronted the Catholic teenagers.

The black men, in a video which went viral, were heard saying: “And you got these pompous bastards coming down here in the middle of a native rally with their dirty ass hat on.”

Another person later screams at the students: “A bunch of incest babies. This is what ‘Make America Great’ looks like.”

Mr Phillips then appeared on the scene, and approached Mr Sandmann, the pair standing face to face in what appeared to be a tense standoff.

His high school issued a profound apology to Mr Phillips when video of the altercation emerged.

“We extend our deepest apologies to Mr Phillips,” Covington Catholic High School said, adding that they were considering disciplinary measures including expulsion.

“This behaviour is opposed to the Church’s teachings on dignity and respect for the human person.”

But Mr Sandmann on Sunday night issued a statement through a PR company insisting that he did not set out to confront the elder.

“I never interacted with this protestor,” he said. “I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves.

“To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me.

“I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.”

The incident has prompted nationwide outrage and Mr Sandmann said on Sunday he had received death threats and calls that he be expelled from school.

Mr Sandmann said he harboured “no ill will” for the Vietnam War veteran, but moved to direct some of the responsibility for the situation on him.

“I respect this person’s right to protest and engage in free speech activities, and I support his chanting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial any day of the week,” he said.

“I believe he should re-think his tactics of invading the personal space of others, but that is his choice to make.”