Dad of Slain Parkland Teen Just Climbed a Crane to Get Biden’s Attention

Manuel Oliver, the father of 17-year-old Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, posted the video of himself on Twitter Monday after climbing a 150-foot crane.
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Left: Manuel Oliver (Screenshot via Twitter) Right: The crane he climbed (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

A father who lost his son during the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, exactly four years ago climbed a construction crane near the White House Monday to protest the Biden administration’s lack of action on gun violence.

“I asked for a meeting with Joe Biden a month ago,” Manuel Oliver said in a video posted to Twitter Monday after climbing the 150-foot crane, though he could barely be heard over the roar of the wind around him. “Never got that meeting.”

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Oliver also dropped a banner reading: “45K people died from gun violence on your watch.” 

Oliver’s 17-year-old son, Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, was killed during the horrific rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, which left 17 students and staff members dead. The teen, a Venezuelan who had become a U.S. citizen the year prior, loved soccer and was close with his family, according to the Miami Herald. On the day of the shooting, he had taken extra care while getting ready in the morning, and planned to give his girlfriend flowers and a card for Valentine’s Day, according to ABC News. He was buried in a Dwyane Wade jersey. 

After the massacre, Joaquin’s parents founded Change the Ref, an organization that raises awareness about mass shootings using “urban art and nonviolent creative confrontation,” according to its website. In 2020, Change the Ref was a part of an advertising campaign in which Joaquin—via deepfake technology—asked people to vote for “politicians who care more about people’s lives than the gun lobby’s money.

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Oliver told a CBS affiliate in Miami that his activism is guided by his son, and that Monday’s escalation is an attempt to pressure Biden to act on gun violence. 

Police surrounded the area until Oliver climbed down around 10 a.m. Monday, at which point he was taken to an ambulance in handcuffs, according to WJLA, an ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. Three people are now facing charges, according to the Washington Post, although it’s unclear if any of them were Oliver. 

This is not the first time Oliver has come to D.C. to demand action.  He and his wife came to the White House to request a meeting in December after a Nov. 30 school shooting in Oxford, Michigan killed four students, he told the Washington Post. While he eventually spoke with administration officials, he did not speak to Biden, according to Voice of America.

“We were here, like, 20 days, and then we finally had a meeting,” Oliver told the Washington Post. “Not asking for a political move but for an attitude. President Biden should be very offended by what’s going on under his watch in the country. It’s not anymore Trump’s era; it’s not because of Trump that those four kids died. Now it’s because of us.”

While Biden has taken incremental steps on gun violence—including efforts to combat “ghost guns”—he hasn’t done anything significant to tackle the problem, according to the Associated Press. 

“As a candidate, Joe Biden promised to prioritize gun violence prevention. As president, Joe Biden has not,” Igor Volsky, founder and executive director of the group Guns Down America, told the AP.

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