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Cov­ington Catholic High School stu­dents make run-in with Native American pro­testers. | YouTube.com

This past weekend I joined hun­dreds of thou­sands of pro-lifers in our nation’s capital for the 46th annual March for Life. Per usual, this massive event received little to no attention from the national media. What did receive vast cov­erage, however, was an alter­cation between a group of stu­dents from Cov­ington Catholic High School and a group of Native American pro­testors.

The first videos released by the pro­testors of their inter­action were unset­tling. They claimed that boys wearing “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) ‑hats-sur­rounded them, mocked them, and tried to intim­idate them outside the Lincoln Memorial. Nathan Phillips — a well-known Native American activist — claimed these boys chanted “build the wall” and hurled racially insen­sitive remarks at him and his fellow pro­testors.

At first glance, the videos seemed to back his story and many, including myself, rushed to condemn the boys’ actions. People from both sides of the political aisle took these short videos as evi­dence of racism, harassment or, at the very least, imma­turity on the part of the stu­dents. Some went so far as to dox these teenagers in an attempt to ruin their college or future plans. Others con­tacted Cov­ington Catholic’s prin­cipal demanding these stu­dents be pun­ished and expelled for their actions. Even­tually, the high school had to suspend class because of the litany of threats being levied from people around the country.

As the story went viral, however, it quickly became apparent that there was more to the story than what was pre­sented by Phillips and his asso­ciates. A much longer video of the inter­action soon sur­faced, telling a very dif­ferent nar­rative. This video showed that, unlike Phillips’ account, the adult pro­testor actually approached the group of boys and began beating his drum in their faces, not the other way around. Also con­tra­dictory to the initial nar­rative, a group of black nation­alist pro­testers, known as the Black Hebrew Israelites, were the ones hurling racial and homo­phobic slurs at the high school stu­dents as well as the Native Amer­icans far before the inter­action between Phillips and the high schoolers. Others were also heard shouting at the boys, “You, white people, go back to Europe, this is not your land.”

In a statement released by the Cov­ington Catholic stu­dents, they pre­sented a story that seemed to match the extended video much more than the nar­rative that was spreading on social media. The boys claimed that while waiting for their buses to arrive, they began singing school songs and yelling chants to pass the time and drown out the hatred the Black Hebrew Israelites were spewing. When Phillips entered their group they were con­fused as to whether he was joining them or not; a con­fusion they pointed to as the reason they clapped along with him — not because they were trying to mock him. Also con­sistent with the video, there are no accounts of “build the wall” chants, or any bigoted com­ments made by the boys.

Like many others, I was quick to pass judgment and con­dem­nation onto people I did not know in a sit­u­ation devoid of context. I was adamant and vocal that these stu­dents did not rep­resent the pro-life movement and, in fact, greatly harmed the cause through their actions. As I gained per­spective and saw the full-length video, I was embar­rassed and infu­riated. Why would anyone try to destroy the lives of teenagers over some­thing they didn’t do? Are people really willing to go to such lengths to push a political agenda? The unfor­tunate answer is a resounding yes.

Did these stu­dents act per­fectly? No. Should we have expected per­fection from them in such a strange sit­u­ation? Probably not. Is this inter­action evi­dence of racism from some MAGA sup­porting teens? Cer­tainly not. Am I and those like me par­tially to blame for the explosion of this false nar­rative throughout the country? Likely, yes.

So let’s learn from our mis­takes. Wait for all the facts to come in before passing judgment. Unfor­tu­nately, we live in a time where political agendas take prece­dence over reality. Be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. Whether you are a jour­nalist for a major outlet or simply an egg on Twitter with 100 fol­lowers, you hold more respon­si­bility than you know.