US

Black Hebrew Israelite Who Sparked Washington Incident Calls Covington Students ‘Dogs’

By Zack Stieber

A member of an obscure religious group who helped spark the incident between Covington Catholic High School students and a group of Native Americans defended hurling obscenities at the students, claiming he was speaking “the word of God.”

The Black Hebrew Israelite, who called himself Chief Ephraim Israel, was captured on video with several other members calling the students a range of expletives on Jan. 18.

The students in response started school cheers. Then, Native American and anti-President Donald Trump activist Nathan Phillips inserted his group into the situation, chanting and drumming in the face of a student while a member of his group told them to “go back to Europe” because they “stole our land.”

Israel said, “The word of God … sparked” the situation in an interview with the New York Post.

“They seen what they’ve done. They’ve been told. I believe they are from Kentucky. They’ve never been spoken like that to by a black or Hispanic guy in their lives. The words of God,” he added. “It was piercing. Their souls was getting ripped. They were catching darts and ninja stars all into their soul.”

Israel was incensed that the students started doing school chants to drown out the slew of vulgar words. “I was cutting into them. I called them dogs. They sounded like dogs,” he added.

He said that Phillips’s group was an unwanted interruption. “I wish he didn’t. We was still teaching. We had so much more to go,” he said.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Black Hebrew Israelites is a black supremacist group that has grown increasingly militant.

“Although most Hebrew Israelites are neither explicitly racist nor anti-Semitic and do not advocate violence, there is a rising extremist sector within the Hebrew Israelite movement whose adherents believe that Jews are devilish impostors and who openly condemn whites as evil personified, deserving only death or slavery,” the organization stated.

Israel is not the only person to use racially charged language in describing the high school students, who were mostly white with many donning “Make America Great Again” hats in support of President Trump. The students had been in Washington to attend the March for Life, an event in support of unborn babies.

Phillips, the Native American activist, called the students “beastly” in one interview and in another stated they were “like a lynch mob,” while his initial claim that the students chanted “build the wall” was not backed up by the video evidence. A member of his group took to Facebook to defend the Black Hebrew Israelites and make another claim that was not supported by the evidence, that the students were allegedly heckling the Israelites “with loud MAGA chants.” He later admitted that “the Hebrew Israelite brothers said some disrespectful things,” but that he “put that aside and wanted to help.”

sandmann and phillips
Nick Sandmann from Covington Catholic High School stands in front of Native American actvist Nathan Phillips while the latter bangs a drum in his face in Washington on Jan. 18, 2019. (Kaya Taitano via Reuters)

“That’s their teaching, we have ours and that’s what makes us equally beautiful,” he added.

Sandmann, a junior at Covington who was seen standing in front of Phillips as the latter banged a drum in his face, responded to the slew of misinformation about the event in a lengthy statement over the weekend, revealing that he and his family had been subject to threats, including death threats.

Sandmann noted that his group was waiting for buses in front of the Lincoln Memorial, which would take them back to Kentucky, after participating in the March for Life rally and sightseeing, when the Black Hebrew Israelites began calling them vulgar names.

“The protesters said hateful things. They called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,”[expletive],’ and ‘incest kids.’ They also taunted an African-American student from my school by telling him that we would ‘harvest his organs.’ I have no idea what that insult means, but it was startling to hear,” Sandmann said.

Nathan Phillips won't meet with students
File—Nathan Phillips, (C with glasses) and other Dakota Access Pipeline protesters march in N.D. on Feb. 22, 2017. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

“Because we were being loudly attacked and taunted in public, a student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group. The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school,” Sandmann said.

The chants appeared to work in drowning out the hateful language but soon Phillips entered the area and approached Sandmann, chanting words the students couldn’t understand.

“I never interacted with this protester. 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. We had already been yelled at by another group of protesters, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers,” Sandmann wrote.

“The engagement ended when one of our teachers told me the busses had arrived and it was time to go. I obeyed my teacher and simply walked to the busses. At that moment, I thought I had diffused the situation by remaining calm, and I was thankful nothing physical had occurred,” he continued.

He added, “I never understood why either of the two groups of protesters were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial. We were simply there to meet a bus, not become central players in a media spectacle. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever encountered any sort of public protest, let alone this kind of confrontation or demonstration.”