A Catholic boys school has been closed for a day while protests continue over videotaped encounters between some of their students, members of a black religious sect and Native American marchers outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC last week.
President Donald Trump tweeted that the students at Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School “have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be”.
The president said he hoped the teenagers will use the attention for good, and “maybe even to bring people together”.
The first images tightly focused on the students wearing Make America Great Again hats and laughing derisively as an elderly Native American beat a drum.
Longer videos showed the drummer intervened as a street preacher made racist statements with a megaphone.
The incident saw a meeting of three groups with different agendas.
A group of five black men shouted vulgar insults while protesting against centuries of oppression.
The Catholic high school students were visiting Washington for a rally to end abortion.
Native Americans were marching to end injustice for indigenous peoples across the globe who have seen their lands overrun by outside settlers.
The three groups met for just a few minutes on Friday at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, an encounter captured in videos that went viral over the weekend and again cast a spotlight on a polarised nation that does not appear to agree on anything.
At first the focus was on a short video showing one of the high school students, Mr Sandmann, wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, popularised by Mr Trump, and appearing to smirk while a crowd of other teens laughed derisively behind him, as he faced off against a 64-year-old Native American, Nathan Phillips, who played a traditional chant on a drum.
However, a separate video showing members of a group calling itself the Black Hebrew Israelites taunting everyone on the mall that day, calling the Native Americans who had gathered there for the Indigenous Peoples March Uncle Tomahawks and Five dollar Indians and the high school students “crackers” and worse.
It was an ugly encounter but one that nevertheless ended with no punches thrown or other violence.