Updated 3:40 p.m. March 13
When thousands of students walk out of their schools this spring demanding action on gun safety in America, some will be wearing shirts made in Pittsburgh.
Larimer-based Cotton Bureau is partnering with the National School Walkout on two branded T-shirts for the April 20 walkout, which is scheduled to take place at more than 1,200 schools across America on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Proceeds will benefit Everytown for Gun Safety.
For one design, Cotton Bureau repurposed the walkout’s peace sign logo, which reads “We are victims, we are students, we are change”. For another, they designed a shirt emblazoned with #NationalSchoolWalkout, company co-founder Nathan Peretic said.
Indivisible, a progressive non-profit helping the students plan the walkout, connected the two entities. Indivisible previously worked with Cotton Bureau for its “Indivisible” T-shirt.
There’s power in wearing matching attire for the walkout, said Max Cumming, an 18-year-old senior at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut who serves as political director for the National School Walkout.
“It kind of builds a sense of camaraderie among people. It’s a phenomenon you see from political events to sporting events. … When you see all these people who are wearing the exact same thing or the same color, it creates a sense of group identity,” Cumming said. “We’re trying to organize students and show them that they have voice and they can create change if they band together.”
The T-shirts are on sale now with prices ranging from $21 to $36 and will be available on Cotton Bureau’s site for the next 12 days. The total donation to Everytown will depend on the amount of shirts sold, Peretic said. Up to $8 per shirt will be donated, depending on the quantity of shirts sold. To get the full $8 per shirt donation, 600 T-shirts need to be sold. Cotton Bureau will receive its normal cut minus a $2 charity discount, Peretic said.
“People should be getting them about a month from now, which would be more than in time for the April 20 planned walkout,” Peretic said.
The website’s platform makes it easy for a non-profit fundraiser or an awareness campaign to create and sell shirts, he said. The company previously sold the popular Rogue NASA T-shirts and Smokey the Bear Resist T-shirts, as well.
Lane Murdock, a fellow classmate at Cumming’s school, is organizing the student-led walkout. More than 1,200 schools have already signed up to participate. The walkout is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and last for the rest of the school day.
In the Pittsburgh region, Franklin Regional Senior High School is listed as a participating organization (in 2014, a student there slashed or stabbed 20 students and a security guard in a knife attack inside a school hallway). Other area schools listed as participants include Blackhawk High School, Laurel Highlands High School, and Bethlehem Center High School. A map shows walkout locations and offers guidance for how to plan a walkout.
“We’re walking out of schools because we’ve seen that schools aren’t safe and schools are absolutely a place where we should feel safe,” Cumming said. “Walking out of school is an incredibly visible way to demonstrate how we feel. When thousands upon thousands of students stand up and go outside to march and to protest, no one’s going to be able to ignore that.”
For the students involved in the walkout, Cumming said, the mission is focused: “We are trying to — if not completely stop — at least drastically cut back on the number of gun deaths in America.”
The walkout’s platform stands for establishing a ban on high-capacity magazines, encouraging universal background checks, making sure criminals cannot buy guns and reinstating an assault weapons ban.
“We’re encouraging voter registration at walkouts. We’re encouraging people to call their lawmaker,” Cumming said. “High school kids, middle school kids, college kids — all of whom are interested in walking out on the 20th — they are supposed to be represented by their member of Congress, too. They have a right to contact their member of Congress.”
In addition to the April 20 walkout, a 17-minute walkout is planned for March 14 to “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” the Associated Press reported. In response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts 6-12 left the building last month for a silent demonstration, with a minute of silence for each of the 17 students killed in Florida.
The subject hits close to home for Cumming. When the Sandy Hook massacre happened, in which a man killed 20 children and six teachers, Cumming’s school was close enough in proximity to go on lockdown.
The organization’s peace sign logo and its statements — “We are victims, we are students, we are change” — were chosen to make a three-pronged commentary on gun violence in the United States, he said.
“To emphasize that this is a youth-led movement and this is largely in response to inaction by Congress,” he said. “(It’s) young people in America saying if Congress and older generations can’t get this done then we have to step up up to the plate because young people are literally being killed.”
Correction, March 13: The date of the March school walkout has been corrected.