In the wake of pro-gun activists barraging Pi Pizza with so many fake bad reviews that some of its social media pages had to be temporarily shut down, national gun violence prevention group One Pulse for America has dreamed up a way for people across the country to support the embattled pizza restaurant.
Now, One Pulse for America members can call Pi Pizza and order any pizza delivered to one of five charities in the Houston area: Hatch Youth, Montrose Center, Covenant House, Houston Area Women's Center and Communities in Schools. This way, even if members aren't anywhere near Houston, they can show their support for both gun violence prevention and local charities.
Ladd Everitt, director of One Pulse for America – which was founded by Star Trek actor and activist George Takei following the mass shooting at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida – wants to close what he calls the “passion gap” in gun violence prevention activism.
“There's this conventional wisdom that, hey, if you cross the NRA and the pro-gun side, you're in for a lot of harassment and threats and trouble. But you know if you go against these [gun violence prevention] guys they're a lot more polite and you're not going to get as many calls,” Everitt explained, adding, “We are going to change that. I think we're in the midst of a moment right now, that's been growing since Newtown, where our movement has more energy than theirs does.”
In case you missed our previous article on the Internet warfare, Pi Pizza found itself embroiled in pro-gun activists' cross hairs after Facebook user Kyle Kelly posted on the Pi Pizza Facebook page that he wouldn't patronize the business because they didn't allow concealed carry of handguns. Somebody used Pi Pizza's Facebook account to respond, “Hey Kyle, FO. You are correct, we do not want your money.”
A pro-guns rights Facebook page called Texas3006.com posted about the exchange and urged people to post negative reviews online about Pi Pizza. (Clarification: Russell Jones of Texas3006.com reached out to us to say that Texas3006.com's Facebook page did not tell people to post negative reviews; rather, some people decided to do that on their own. Texas3006.com's post instead asked people to, "Please comment and share this to every pro-carry group you know! Let's make this place regret their poor business, and more importantly SAFETY, decision!") Soon, Pi Pizza's Facebook review page was shut down, while its Yelp page carried an “Active Cleanup Alert” warning visitors that some of the reviews were likely more about the news and less about the food.
After Texas-based administrators for One Pulse for America noticed the Pi Pizza situation, it didn't take very long for the administrators and Everitt to come up with the idea of ordering pizza for charities. Then Everitt just picked up the phone to Pi Pizza.
“It was very quick. They were very receptive to it,” Everitt said. Since Everitt is based in Washington D.C. and wasn't familiar with the Houston area, he said that these charities were picked out by Pi Pizza management.
As of press time, Everitt didn't yet know how many people had ordered pizzas to Houston charities – but nearly 700 people liked the post announcing the campaign on One Pulse for America's Facebook page, and it was shared more than 100 times. Many Facebook users also commented that they'd called in to order.
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“We want people like the owners of Pi Pizza to know that if they take a stand like this – even in a place like Texas – that the end result is not going to be pain and hassle, but something really good for them,” Everitt said. And, according to CultureMap, Pi Pizza's anti-gun stance has been really good for the restaurant. Lee Ellis, who partnered with Anthony Calleo to open Pi Pizza, told CultureMap shortly after the social media war erupted that business has gone up.
Everitt said he doesn't plan to keep promoting the Pi Pizza initiative on the One Pulse for America Facebook page for much longer, because there are too many battles that he thinks gun violence prevention activists need to fight to focus on just one. The goal is to challenge and change the culture and “social norms around kind of reckless gun ownership,” at every level.
“Soon enough we'll be moving onto the next flashpoint and weighing in there, whether it's cultural or business-related or legislative,” he said. “We're at the point now where we want to engage in every fight and…no longer cede any ground to these guys and allow them to intimidate their way to victory.”
However, as far as Everitt knows, there's no end to the campaign – One Pulse for America members can keep ordering pizza deliveries to Houston charities for as long as they want.