“There was a lot of yelling. There was some fighting.” That’s what Ahmad Zahrani, one of the seventeen graduating seniors of the Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who became the center of the current scandal engulfing the Catholic Church, told reporters on Monday.
That was back in January — before the story of one of the teens, Nick Sandmann, who was at the Washington, D.C., rally of the pro-Trump group Turning Point USA, allegedly mocking and mocking a Native American elder and activist, Nathan Phillips, finally got national attention. Before that incident, though, a photo was released of the rest of the students in full uniform with large, red overcoats. And before that, the Covington Catholic teens showed up for a school dance, with the overcoats.
There was a lot of yelling. There was some fighting. But then there was the dress.
“It was the eyes. It was the eyes. People were really looking at them. It was weird,” another unnamed classmate told CNN. “A lot of guys, they don’t like everyone to know that they’re actually wearing out costumes.”
Indeed, the shirts on the students and the hats on the teacher carrying signs (hats calling for U.S. withdrawal from the Philippines as the students danced) signified a distinct culture clash.
According to the students themselves, their outfits were a nod to a popular high school craze, the “hands up, don’t shoot” protest, made famous in Ferguson, Missouri, following the 2014 shooting of black teen Michael Brown by a white police officer.
“We wore this outfit that was the exact same hat that they were making all these flip-off memes out of at the protest. The boys were clearly mocking them,” said the student who spoke to CNN.
“You see the same hats on both sides of the police force. Same hats on both sides of the military. Somethin’ looks cool, so you wear it,” one senior said.
According to newspaper The Covington Catholic Herald, the original hats were given to the students by a nun, Sister Theresa of Aquitaine. She reportedly gifted them to them during the winter ball, which was meant to raise money for the St. Anthony Development fund.
“The sisters felt that it would be good to give the students a creative idea as they toured the world as missionaries. The sisters have tried to be the kids’ representatives to Catholics all over the world,” the paper reported.