.- While chanting and playing ceremonial drums, a group of Native American rights activists reportedly led by Nathan Phillips attempted Jan. 19 to enter Washington, D.C.’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during a Saturday evening Mass.
The group of 20 demonstrators was stopped by shrine security as it tried to enter the church during its 5:15 pm Vigil Mass, according to a shrine security guard on duty during the Mass.
“It was really upsetting,” the guard told CNA.
“There were about twenty people trying to get in, we had to lock the doors and everything.”
The guard said the incident was a disappointment during a busy and joyful weekend for the shrine.
“We had hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the country come here to celebrate life, to celebrate each other together. That a protest tried to come inside during Mass was really the worst.”
The guard told CNA the situation was “tense.”
“I’m just really grateful that nothing too bad happened, they were really angry.”
A source close to the shrine’s leadership corroborated the security guard’s account, telling CNA that during the Mass, Phillips and the group tried to enter the church while playing drums and chanting, and were prohibited from entering the building by security personnel, who locked the main basilica doors with the congregation still inside.
The shrine’s spokeswoman would not confirm or deny that the group attempted to enter the Mass. She told CNA that “a group did assemble on Saturday evening outside the the shrine” and that they “left without incident.”
Philips was the subject of national media attention on Saturday, after video went viral on social media depicting parts of a Jan. 18 incident involving him and several teenagers, some of whom were students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. The incident has become the subject of intense national debate, and Phillips has been accused by some of instigating an encounter with the students, and subsequently altering his initial account of events.
Covington Catholic High School was closed Jan. 22, following threats against students and staff in the wake of media coverage of Friday’s incident.
Read more at Catholic News Agency.