Parkland Parents, Staying in El Paso After Mass Shooting, Urge City to 'Raise Voices' Against Gun Violence
The parents of Joaquin Oliver, one of the 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students killed in the Parkland massacre, were just across the border from El Paso, Texas, on Saturday when a shooter opened fire on random shoppers in that city.
Manuel Oliver said he would continue with his plan on Sunday to paint a mural at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. Sunday would have been Joaquin's 19th birthday.
"I'm not surprised it happened," the 51-year-old artist and activist said by phone Saturday evening. "I've been fighting the last two years telling people it could happen anywhere, anytime."
Oliver and his wife, Patricia Oliver, have been traveling the world nearly nonstop since Joaquin's death, urging anyone who will listen about the need to change the nation's permissive gun laws. The fact that the latest slaughter happened in Texas, where there are "a lot of guns but not a lot of gun laws," doesn't make it less horrifying, he said.
"The community is going through the worst nightmare anyone can ever imagine," he said,
Joaquin was a passionate anti-gun advocate who also cared about immigration issues, Manuel Oliver said. While the shooting was occurring at an El Paso shopping center, the couple were across the border in Ciudad Juarez, speaking to migrants from their native Venezuela who are being denied refuge in the United States, he said.
Both issues typically find their way into Oliver's murals. He's created 29 in cities across the nation, and tomorrow's will also reflect the latest tragedy, he said. He hasn't yet figured out exactly how but knows it will start with Joaquin's image, and then Patricia's, and feature some quotes.
"We need to become reminders," he said. "I need to tell everyone how messed up this is. I will remind everyone that this is going to happen again and again and again."
El Paso, he says, "can't slow down, can't stop the fight, can't accept this as the new normal. They've got to raise their voices."