Trump says students ‘unfairly treated’ over Native incident

The student was wearing a red cap bearing Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” (File/AFP)
Updated 22 January 2019

Trump says students ‘unfairly treated’ over Native incident

WASHINGTON: Boys from a Catholic school in Kentucky were treated unfairly in a rush to judgment, President Donald Trump said on Monday after allegations the students had mocked a Native American elder.
“Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgments proving out to be false — smeared by media,” Trump tweeted.
As in many cases, Trump’s tweet appeared to be triggered by Fox News, as he cited the network’s Tucker Carlson saying new footage showed “media” were wrong about the encounter.
Footage captured on multiple phone camera videos that swept social media on Saturday showed a white Covington student standing silently with his lips taught, extremely close to Nathan Phillips, a Native American Vietnam war veteran, who beats a traditional drum while chanting.
The student wears a red cap bearing Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Other students are jumping up and down, chanting.
The incident occurred on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Friday when the annual anti-abortion March for Life coincided with a rally by indigenous communities calling for their rights to be respected.
The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School issued a statement rebuking the students after their displays drew widespread derision.
One of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in November, Deb Haaland, linked the students’ behavior to what she called rising levels of racial intolerance under the Trump administration.
Kaya Taitano, a witness to the incident, was quoted by CNN as saying Phillips had decided to intervene with a “healing prayer” when the school teens got into a verbal altercation with a group of African American youths who had been preaching about the Bible.
Phillips gave his reaction in a separate video. “I heard them saying, ‘Build that wall, build that wall.’ We’re not supposed to have walls here, we never did.”
But US media including The New York Times and The Washington Post later reported that the encounter was more complicated than it first appeared.
The African American youths were Hebrew Israelites, who reportedly insulted both Native activists and the students.
Both the Times and the Post quoted Phillips as clarifying that he had moved toward the students.
CNN quoted the student at the center of the initial video, Nick Sandmann — the spelling used by major news media — as saying that his group only used “school spirit” chants, and did not express support for a border wall or say anything racist.


Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

Updated 56 min 47 sec ago

Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

  • “The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The mayor of Italy’s Lampedusa island on Thursday denounced the collapsing government for its failure to deal with migrant rescue boats, as a ship carrying 356 people remained stranded in the Mediterranean.
Mayor Salvatore Martello said the reception center on the tiny isle was already over capacity and would struggle to house migrants currently stuck aboard the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking.
The vessel, run by charities Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, has sought a port for almost two weeks after rescuing four boats of migrants off the Libyan coast between 9 and 12 August.
“It would be difficult because the reception center is saturated,” Martello told AFP.
“The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”
Lampedusa has long been a magnet for African migrants fleeing poverty and conflict.
Thousands have attempted to make the unsafe crossing from Libya in a bid to reach Europe this year, despite efforts to deter them.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been accused of demonizing migrants and leaving them to drown in the sea.
He has repeatedly insisted that rescued migrants can only land in Italy if other EU countries take them in.
Italy’s president on Thursday was holding a second day of talks after the disintegration of the anti-immigrant coalition government, which broke down after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday.
The plight of the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking, which was denied entry by both Italy and Malta, is the latest in a string of migrant boat standoffs with Italian authorities.
The Open Arms rescue ship was allowed to land in Lampedusa on Wednesday, with 83 migrants disembarking, after Italian justice ordered they be brought ashore.
Many of them had spent 19 days on board the ship after being picked up while in difficulty in waters off Libya.
There were initially 147 mainly African migrants on the ship but all minors and some suffering health problems had already disembarked.
A European deal to redistribute them has yet to be implemented.