Students in ‘MAGA’ hats mock Native American after rally
By ADAM BEAM and BRIAN MELLEY
Sunday, January 20
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A diocese in Kentucky apologized Saturday after videos emerged showing students from a Catholic boys’ high school mocking Native Americans outside the Lincoln Memorial after a rally in Washington.
The Indigenous Peoples March in Washington on Friday coincided with the March for Life, which drew thousands of anti-abortion protesters, including a group from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills.
Videos circulating online show a youth staring at and standing extremely close to Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Native American man singing and playing a drum.
Other students, some wearing Covington clothing and many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and sweat shirts, surrounded them, chanting, laughing and jeering.
In a joint statement , the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School apologized to Phillips. Officials said they are investigating and will take “appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”
“We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips,” the statement read. “This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.”
According to the “Indian Country Today” website, Phillips is an Omaha elder and Vietnam veteran who holds an annual ceremony honoring Native American veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.
Marcus Frejo, a member of the Pawnee and Seminole tribes who is also known as Chief Quese Imc, said he had been a part of the march and was among a small group of people remaining after the rally when the boisterous students began chanting slogans such as “Make America great” and then began doing the haka, a traditional Maori dance.
In a phone interview, Frejo told The Associated Press he felt they were mocking the dance and also heckling a couple of black men nearby.
One 11-minute video of the confrontation shows the Haka dance and students loudly chanting before Phillips and Frejo approached them. The footage doesn’t show any black person being being heckled, but one black man with a camera smiles as he shoots footage of the group.
Frejo said he joined Phillips to defuse the situation, singing the anthem from the American Indian Movement with both men beating out the tempo on hand drums.
Although he feared a mob mentality that could turn ugly, Frejo said he was at peace singing despite the scorn. He briefly felt something special happen as they repeatedly sang the tune.
“They went from mocking us and laughing at us to singing with us. I heard it three times,” Frejo said. “That spirit moved through us, that drum, and it slowly started to move through some of those youths.”
Eventually a calm fell over the group of students and they broke up and walked away.
“When I was there singing, I heard them saying ‘Build that wall, build that wall,’” Phillips said, as he wiped away tears in a video posted on Instagram. “This is indigenous lands. We’re not supposed to have walls here. We never did.”
He told The Washington Post that while he was drumming, he thought about his wife, Shoshana, who died of bone marrow cancer nearly four years ago, and the threats that indigenous communities around the world are facing.
“I felt like the spirit was talking through me,” Phillips said.
State Rep. Ruth Buffalo, a North Dakota state lawmaker and member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said she was saddened to see students showing disrespect to an elder who is also a U.S. military veteran at what was supposed to be a celebration of all cultures.
“The behavior shown in that video is just a snapshot of what indigenous people have faced and are continuing to face,” Buffalo said.
She said she hoped it would lead to some kind of meeting with the students to provide education on issues facing Native Americans.
The videos prompted a torrent of outrage online. Actress and activist Alyssa Milano tweeted that the footage “brought me to tears,” while actor Chris Evans tweeted that the students’ actions were “appalling” and “shameful.”
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, who is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and had been at the rally earlier in the day, used Twitter to sharply criticize what she called a “heartbreaking” display of “blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance.”
Haaland, who is also Catholic, told AP she was particularly saddened to see the boys mocking an elder, who is revered in Native American culture. She placed some of the blame on President Donald Trump, who has used Indian names like Pocahontas as an insult.
“It is sad that we have a president who uses Native American women’s names as racial slurs, and that’s an example that these kids are clearly following considering the fact that they had their ‘Make America Great Again’ hats on,” Haaland said. “He’s really brought out the worst in people.”
Melley reported from Los Angeles.
What Makes America Great?
by Wim Laven
On Saturday January 18th, 2019 during the Indigenous People’s March in Washington D.C. Nathan Phillips showed what makes America great. The videos of his experience show the Native American elder singing a healing song to defuse a conflict brewing between four young African Americans and a much larger group of white youth from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. The Covington students then began taunting and ridiculing Phillips with “build the wall” chants. Grotesque behavior like this is a choice.
One choice is to see the Make America Great Again hats, the defamation of decency, and make a decision to hate these haters. We see them everywhere—sometimes in large groups, sometimes just a few. These types called me a race traitor while I was in high school, they got angry when I didn’t participate in the racist jokes, it was just joking after all (or so they said). Under this social pressure, I did tell such jokes at times, shamefully.
Watching this growing intolerance is a nauseating manifestation of Trump’s campaign of racism. They trample the boundaries of morality, and their chanting is proof that “the Wall” has always been a racist symbol.
The other choice is to see the love. Nathan Phillips models that for us all. First, he must love himself and his cause. Curious people probably want to know more about how the American Indian Movement and being an Omaha has cultivated such peace and love in him, I know I do. Drawing on the divine has been a source for so many of my heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. to Mohandas Gandhi, who find something bigger—this is their source for principled nonviolence.
This is not the first time Phillips has had to keep his cool. He’s had to face harassment at previous events, Eastern Michigan University students put on stereotypical costume and taunted him, and upon returning home from Vietnam this veteran reported: “People called me a baby killer and a hippie girl spit on me.”
If we choose love, like these heroes do, then we provide hope for the future. These young boys probably don’t love themselves, I know I didn’t. That is why I said and did horrible things in efforts to fit in. I was vulnerable to my toxic environment because I was empty and afraid. I’ll bet Phillips understands that, as former director of the Native Youth Alliance he certainly has guided many young people through confusing times and helped them find meaning in life. In this case he proposes: “I wish these young men could put their energy to really make this country great, like feed the hungry.”
Hate is a socialized and learned behavior. Shame and guilt are only likely to reinforce it. Love, on the other hand, creates an opening for change. Like another friend of mine, Tom Hastings, asked of current social movements in the Washington Post, “Why shut that sympathy gap?” Street brawls, violent responses, threats, or even blocking freeways have all demonstrated negative impacts on movements for positive social change. Haters are expected to hate, but hating back doesn’t work. I can testify to this personally and practically.
In high school, I was in a bad place. My hometown taught me racism, sexism, and homophobia (to name a few), but I never meant to be a hater. I was educated through love—not shame—and I am still a work in progress. It wasn’t my wonderful parents; it was my desire to fit in to a toxic culture of mindless disrespect.
These Covington boys didn’t decide to hate on their own, they’ve been shown it over and over. Rage and hate can take white men to fantastic places in the U.S., it can help you to build tremendous fortunes, or, if you play your cards right, it might even get you into the Supreme Court or the Whitehouse.
What are we showing our youth? Our leader is who they see to emulate. “Lock her up! Lock her up!” Mocking a man with a disability. Belittling a Gold Star family because their US Army Captain son, killed in combat in Iraq, was a Muslim. The list goes on of hate outrages initiated and fanned by Trump, who encouraged violence at his campaign rallies and seemed satisfied to have it devolve into street brawls ever since. These expressions all have developmental impact on these kids.
Even in the best of times, young men misunderstand many things like consent and accountability. They are just falling on the side of the racist border wall this time, and they can’t argue it (nobody can, it is patently absurd), but they’re just doing the cool thing—sticking up for their racist leader—it’s what they know because it’s what Trump shows. It is the product of ignorance, and we shouldn’t blame the victims. Division has been fueled by the right, troll farms have even been employed to spread misinformation, and grown adults even debate or hope for another second civil war—this is the behavior that is expected!
There are answers and we can heal. The country is now generally doing the right thing in opposing Trump’s racist and classist border stunt, that is a good starting point, but we can do more than oppose the barrier, we can build bigger tables, raise bigger tents of inclusivity. We need to open dialogue; we could model the behavior of transparency and altruism. Youth must see value in honesty, it is the foundation of respect, and disrespect and dishonesty should never be seen as normal. Critical thinking and education also play an important role; I’ll wager nobody sat with these kids and asked “what do you think makes America great?” or “what purpose does mocking others serve?” There is no longer room for “boys will be boys” or “just joking.”
People who live with emotional pain tend to inflict emotional pain. If we can love these teens we can show them a different way. Their hate is an effort to heal themselves; they do not know any better. We can show them a better way. By eschewing our resentment over the disrespect we can give peace and justice a chance—Nathan Phillips has shown us how to make America great. America is great when it does not waver in its moral commitment to human rights; Martin Luther King Jr. said: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
Wim Laven, syndicated by PeaceVoice, worked on reconstruction in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, is an instructor of Political Science and International Relations at Kennesaw State University, and on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association.
A scaled-down, but still angry, Women’s March returns
By ASHRAF KHALIL
Sunday, January 20
WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid internal controversies and a capital city deeply distracted by the partial government shutdown, the third Women’s March returned to Washington on Saturday with an enduring message of anger and defiance aimed directly at President Donald Trump’s White House.
The original march in 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration, flooded the city with pink-hatted protesters. The exact size of the turnout remains subject to a politically charged debate, but it’s generally regarded as the largest Washington protest since the Vietnam era.
This year was a more modest affair for multiple reasons. An estimated 100,000 protesters packed several blocks around Freedom Plaza, just east of the White House, holding a daylong rally. The march itself took about an hour and only moved about four blocks west along Pennsylvania Avenue past the Trump International Hotel before looping back to Freedom Plaza.
Organizers submitted a permit application estimating up to 500,000 participants even though it was widely expected that the turnout would be smaller. The original plan was to gather on the National Mall. But with the forecast calling for snow and freezing rain and the National Park Service no longer plowing snow because of the shutdown, organizers on Thursday changed the march’s location and route.
As it turned out the weather was chilly but otherwise pleasant, and the mood among the marchers a now-familiar mix of sister-power camaraderie and defiant anger toward Trump and the larger power structure. As always the Trump administration was the direct target of most of the abuse — with fresh bitterness stemming from more recent events like Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s successful confirmation last fall despite a direct accusation of sexual misconduct when he was in high school.
One sign declared, “Strong women only fear weak men.” Another stated, “MOOD: Still pretty mad about Kavanaugh.”
Parallel marches took place in dozens of cities around the country.
In Los Angeles, a few hundred demonstrators gathered in Pershing Square downtown and marched to Grand Park as the crowd swelled to thousands.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport and I came out to continue to stand for that proposition, said Ellen Klugman of Marina Del Rey. “If I don’t go, who will?”
In San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in the march and video on Twitter showed people clapping and cheering as she passed.
In Denver, protester Jacquelynn Sigl said it’s a mistake to focus solely on Trump.
“It’s not OK, the rhetoric the president has today, but it’s also important to know this isn’t an anti-Trump rally,” she said. “This isn’t about him. It’s about the thought that’s running across the country right now.”
Preparations for this year’s march were roiled by an intense ideological debate among the movement’s senior leadership. In November, Teresa Shook, one of the movement’s founders, accused the four main leaders of the national march organization of anti-Semitism.
The accusation was leveled at two primary leaders: Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American who has frequently criticized Israeli policies, and Tamika Mallory, who has maintained a public association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Shook, a retired lawyer from Hawaii, has been credited with sparking the movement by creating a Facebook event that went viral and snowballed into the massive protest on Jan. 21, 2017. In a recent Facebook post, she claimed Sarsour and Mallory, along with fellow organizers Bob Bland and Carmen Perez, had “steered the Movement away from its true course” and called for all four to step down.
The four march organizers have denied the charge, but Sarsour has publicly expressed regret that they were not “faster and clearer in helping people understand our values.”
Despite pleas for unity, the internal tensions were most keenly felt in New York. An alternate women’s march organization held a parallel rally a few miles away from the official New York Women’s March protest, and one activist actually disrupted the main protest.
As New York march director Agunda Okeyo was making her opening remarks, an activist named Laura Loomer came on stage and shouted that the march “does not represent Jewish people” and called it “the real Nazi march.”
Loomer is a longtime political provocateur whose previous protests have included handcuffing herself to a Twitter office after the service banned her and jumping a fence at a home owned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As Loomer was ushered from the stage, Okeyo challenged her.
“This is not a negative day,” Okeyo said. “You’re not coming with that. We’re not doing that today. What we’re doing today is we’re going to uplift each other and we’re going to make sure we stay positive.”
Associated Press writers Michael Sisak in New York, Dan Elliott in Denver and Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Follow Khalil on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/Ashrafkhalil
Products made of threatened African wildlife sold at US expo
By MICHAEL BIESECKER and SCOTT SONNER
Sunday, January 20
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Photos and video taken by animal welfare activists at a recent trophy hunting convention show an array of products crafted from the body parts of threatened big-game animals, including boots, chaps, belts and furniture labeled as elephant leather.
Vendors at the Safari Club International event held last week in Reno, Nevada, also were recorded hawking African vacations to shoot captive-bred lions raised in pens. The club has previously said it wouldn’t allow the sale of so-called canned hunts at its events.
The hidden camera footage was released Friday by the Humane Society of the United States. Both federal and state laws restrict the commercial sale of hides from African elephants, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Nevada’s chief game warden confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that an investigation is underway to determine if state law was violated.
Safari Club spokesman Steve Comus said Friday the group was also conducting an internal investigation after what he described as allegations based on “what appears to be an unauthorized visit” by the Humane Society. The group didn’t respond to written questions from the AP about what steps it takes to ensure exhibitors at its events are following the law.
The club denied a request earlier this month from the AP for a media credential to attend its annual conference, billed as the nation’s premier big-game hunting show.
“This hunters’ heaven has everything the mind can dream of and occupies more than 650,000 square feet of exhibit space,” the group’s web site boasts. “Six continents are under one roof where SCI members come to book hunts, rendezvous with old friends and shop for the latest guns and hunting equipment.”
Humane Society investigators purchased tickets to the conference and prowled the exhibit booths with concealed cameras. They recorded racks of clothing and other products made from the hides, bones and teeth of imperiled African wildlife.
“Making money off the opportunity to kill these animals for bragging rights is something that most people around the world find appalling,” said Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “It’s an elitist hobby of the 1 percent, and there is no place for trophy hunting in today’s world.”
The wares included oil paintings of big-game animals painted on stretched elephant skins, bracelets woven from elephant hair and an elephant leather bench. There was also a coffee table made from the skull of a hippopotamus and boxes filled with hippo teeth.
Under a state law passed in 2017, it is illegal in Nevada to purchase, sell or possess with intent to sell any item that contains the body parts of elephant, lion, rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, hippopotamus and other imperiled wildlife. A first offense is a misdemeanor that carries a fine up to $6,500 or an amount equal to four times the fair market value of the item sold, whichever is greater. Additional violations can be classified as a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Tyler Turnipseed, the state’s chief game warden, confirmed Friday that his office had opened an investigation as a result of the information and images provided by the Humane Society. He said that there is a learning curve when new laws are implemented and that state officials would work with the Safari Club “to try and prevent unlawful sales in future years.”
Though President Donald Trump has decried big-game hunting as a “horror show,” his administration reversed Obama-era restrictions on the importation of elephant and lion trophies for personal use or display. But federal law still prohibits the sale or use of the body parts from such international protected species for commercial purposes.
The Safari Club has actively lobbied the Trump administration to loosen restrictions on the importation of wildlife trophies, arguing that the fees paid to African countries by American hunters help to fund anti-poaching and conservation programs. A licensed two-week African hunting safari can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare, according to advertised rates.
The AP reported last year that a federal advisory board created by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to advise his agency on the issue was stuffed with big game hunters. At least seven of the 16 members of the International Wildlife Conservation Council are Safari Club members, including the group’s president.
In a February 2018 media release, the Safari Club said it would no longer support the practice of breeding lions in captivity so they can be shot for trophies, saying the practice “has doubtful value to the conservation of lions in the wild.” The club also pledged not to accept advertising from the operators of such canned hunts or allow such trips to be sold at its annual convention.
In the video released Friday by the Humane Society, multiple vendors at the Safari Club conference were recorded as they pitched hunts of captive-bred lions in South Africa. The salesmen described how the lions would be “placed” where they could be easily shot. Vendors also described hunts where lions were baited using the meat from giraffes or other animals, with one guide bragging that a customer had shot a lion in less than 90 minutes.
Associated Press investigative reporter Michael Biesecker reported from Washington.
Follow Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck
Greek protesters angry over Macedonia deal clash with police
By DEMETRIS NELLAS
Sunday, January 20
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Protesters clashed with police outside Greece’s parliament during a rally that drew tens of thousands of people Sunday against the Greek-Macedonia name deal. At least 10 police officers were injured.
Demonstrators threw rocks, flares, firebombs, paint and other objects at riot police who responded with repeated volleys of tear gas. Some protesters jumped over a fence and tried to scale the steps, but officers chased them back down. One man draped in a Greek flag attacked police with a large stick, while others swung big flags on wooden poles and struck officers.
People attending the rally said large clouds of tear gas led many to abandon the protest. The square in front of parliament had nearly emptied out by early evening, though small groups of protesters continued to clashed with officers.
Greece’s parliament is expected to start a debate Monday on ratifying the deal and vote on it by Friday. Macedonia’s parliament has already approved it, agreeing that the country would go by the name North Macedonia.
Macedonia and Greece struck the deal in June to end a decades-long dispute over Macedonia’s name, which Greece says harbors territorial claims on its northern province of the same name.
Protesters are against the deal because they believe that any use of the name Macedonia in the neighboring country’s name is a usurpation of ancient Greek heritage and implies territorial claims on Greece.
A statement from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ office blamed “extremist elements and members of Golden Dawn” — an extreme-right, anti-immigrant party — for the clashes on Sunday.
“In our democracy, citizens’ free expression is an inalienable right, even for those who want to abolish democracy … It is also the duty and obligation of those of us who do believe not to allow them. Let’s isolate and condemn them,” the statement said.
Police said in a statement that officers had been attacked by “organized groups of individuals with special ferocity, (using) rocks, iron bars, wooden clubs, firebombs etc. … Police forces acted according to operational plans and orders, showed restraint and professionalism and, using the appropriate methods, repelled the attacks.”
Protest organizers said they hoped to attract more than 600,000 people. Police released an official estimate of 60,000.
While organizers had said about 3,000 buses would travel from northern Greece alone, police said that a total of 327 had arrived from across the country Sunday afternoon.
Among the people who addressed the protest were former conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, a member of the Mount Athos monastic community and a Greek-American former politician, Chris Spirou, once a member of New Hampshire’s House of Representatives.
In northern Greece, farmers temporarily blocked the highway leading to the Macedonian border in solidarity. It later reopened.
About 300 anarchists staged a counter-demonstration Sunday. Police erected barriers to prevent clashes. After their otherwise peaceful rally, anarchists burned a car with official license plates.
Costas Kantouris contributed reporting from Thessaloniki, Greece.
Colombians flood streets to protest terror after car bomb
Sunday, January 20
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Thousands of Colombians dressed in white are flooding into the streets to repudiate terrorism after a car bombing at a Bogota police academy killed 21 people and left dozens more wounded.
President Ivan Duque is leading the march in the capital that is expected to conclude in the emblematic Plaza Bolivar.
The attack was the country’s deadliest in 15 years and recalled some of the bloodiest chapters in Colombia’s recent past.
Authorities have attributed the bombing to the National Liberation Army — the last major guerrilla group following a 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Duque has asked Cuba to arrest 10 rebel commanders who had been living on the communist-governed island with his permission in a fading attempt to jumpstart stalled peace talks.