Students who were on a school trip with a pair of teens who caused controversy by wearing Make America Great Again hats to Washington, DC's Howard University said they advised the Trump supporters against wearing the paraphernalia to the historically black college.
Allie Vandee and Sarah Applequist sparked anger when they walked onto the campus Saturday wearing MAGA hats and other Trump gear, inflaming tensions that had already been stoked by President Trump's response to the neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
In interviews with BuzzFeed News, the Trump-supporting students from Union City High School in Pennsylvania said they were unaware Howard is a historically black college (or HBCU).
"No one asked us to take the hats off, no one told us the history of the college other than what year it was established in and who it was established by," Vandee said Tuesday.
But Eunissa Pullium, a 16-year-old student at Pennsylvania's Erie High — the other school on the trip — told BuzzFeed News the group's tour guide had informed the students Howard was an HBCU.
"Our tour guide told us it was an HBCU and everything and that's when we looked at what they were wearing and said, 'You can't wear that to a historically black college,'" said Pullium. "They just ignored it, like we didn’t say it at all."
Quityn Rodgers, another Erie student, said he didn't hear the tour guide through his headphones, but told BuzzFeed News that he, too, warned the girls that their clothing might upset some Howard students.
"Before we got in the cafe we told them to take off the hats," said Rodgers. "I had a pit in my stomach, I knew something was going to happen. They ignored us. They took matters into their own hands and kept them on."
The two young Trump supporters said Howard students approached them as they waited in line at the cafeteria — with one Howard student grabbing their hats and another saying "Fuck y'all."
Vandee then posted about the incident on Twitter, where she was retweeted thousands of times.
Applequist had told BuzzFeed News the Howard visit was a last-minute event, not a planned part of the trip. She also said she would not have worn the hat had she known she was on a historically black campus.
Vandee, however, had said in a Saturday interview she did believe the HBCU trip was planned.
"I think they did plan ahead, because on Thursday when we arrived [in DC] I knew about it," Vandee said.
Both Pullium and Rodgers provided a photo of an itinerary, which they say they received about two weeks before the trip. Under the Saturday, Aug. 19, section it reads: "Saturday Brunch at Howard University — Bethune Annex Cafeteria."
But Vandee provided another itinerary — one that instead lists the Saturday lunch as being held at a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, among other differences.
The itinerary that Vandee provided appeared to have the same tour number as two other versions reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
However, her version also stated in the top-right corner that it was a preliminary version, not a final schedule, like the others.
"The original itinerary does not say, 'Eat lunch at Howard University,'" said Vandee. "I’m very sorry that these students who you spoke to lied !! #fakenews I completely understand what President Trump goes through now!"
Tour organizers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Vandee also objected to wording in the original BuzzFeed News story that implied she had said the HBCU trip was listed on the physical itinerary. (The line has since been updated to reflect her original quote that she believed the trip was "[planned] ahead" but not on the physical itinerary).
All the teens were in DC on a Talent Search trip, a program funded by the Department of Education to give students from disadvantaged backgrounds "academic, career, and financial counseling," aimed at encouraging them to continue with their studies.
Pullium and Rodgers, both black students, said they told Vandee and Applequist it would be wise to take off their MAGA hats and Trump T-shirt. They both tweeted on Saturday immediately after leaving Howard:
Pullium and Rodgers say they were embarrassed and disappointed that they had to leave Howard because Vandee and Applequist had not removed their Trump gear.
"We weren't kicked out but we were at a point where we had to leave because they were uncomfortable," Pullium said.
"They just made it like a joke, like it was something funny," she said. "We had to experience that with them and we felt disrespected. Our chaperones came up to them and asked them, 'Do you feel uncomfortable?' They didn't ask anybody around them if they were uncomfortable."
Rodgers says he doesn't have a problem with other students wearing political gear but that they should consider the impact they could be having in some situations.
"You can wear political gear on a field trip. There's nothing wrong with it. But when you’re going to particular places, don't do that. You have to be nice. To me, I felt like that was wrong," Rodgers said.
Union City High School, Eerie High School, the Talent Search program, and BrightSpark Travel did not respond to requests for comment.
This story has been updated to reflect that the itinerary Vandee provided was listed as a preliminary version.
Nidhi Prakash is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York
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