The father of a Parkland shooting victim was taken into custody after scaling a construction crane near the White House on Monday as part of a protest against gun violence and in honor of the fourth anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Florida that killed 17 people and wounded 17 more.
Manuel Oliver, whose 17-year-old son Joaquin “Guac” Oliver was one of the 17 victims in the country’s deadliest high school shooting, said he climbed the 150ft crane “so the whole world will listen to Joaquin today”.
Atop the crane, Oliver unfurled a banner that displayed a picture of his son and a message to Joe Biden that said: “45K people died from gun violence on your watch.”
Police surrounded the crane below and shut down the 600 block of 15th Street Northwest.
“I was in DC [in] December asking to meet @POTUS. Today GUAC is with me making [his] own statement! So the whole nation can judge our reality. 150 feet high in front of the [White House]. Peaceful action. Police is on the ground!” Oliver tweeted this morning.
Pictures soon emerged on social media of Oliver being arrested by police. His nonprofit advocacy group Change the Ref confirmed with the Guardian that he has been taken into custody. His charges remain unclear, his wife, Patricia, told the Guardian in a phone interview.
“This is not a local issue, this is not a federal issue that just has to be solved here in DC. Of course we want to grab the attention from the White House … the location of the crane was exactly across from the White House so there’s no way to say ‘I couldn’t see the message’ because the message was very short and clear,” she told the Guardian.
Patricia Oliver said that she and her husband want to hear what Biden will have to say about gun control next month during his first State of the Union address.
“I’d like to be there. I listened to him say that he’s taken some actions about prevention. There are a lot of words on the table but no action, so we’re not taking that. People are dying every second, every single day,” she said.
In December, Oliver said he flew to the capital with no invite to try to speak to the president about gun violence and tightening gun control legislation.
“There is no time for a formal invitation, and I’m here,” Oliver told WUSA9 in December. “We don’t need to waste more time. I’m going to do something that I haven’t done yet. I’m going back to a person I already met while he was campaigning for president and I’m planning to have him receive me and I want some answers.”
He added: “Everything that we talked about, what’s the agenda, what’s the plan? Since Joaquin was murdered, more than 150,000 people have lost their lives because of gun violence.”
Since his son’s death, Oliver has been no stranger to gun control activism. In 2018, Oliver performed a one-man play titled Guac: My Son, My Hero in honor of his son and other victims and families of gun violence.
He and his wife, Patricia, have also painted murals for Change the Ref, which they launched after the Parkland shooting. The mission of the group is to “raise awareness about mass shooting through strategic interventions that will reduce the influence of the NRA [National Rifle Association] on the federal level”, its website said.
David Hogg, a gun-control campaigner and survivor of the shooting, spoke in support of Oliver below the crane, saying: “Manuel Oliver is an advocate for gun violence prevention and he is up there today demanding change from the Biden administration for them to do everything they possibly can to address gun violence and stop the next Parkland from happening before it does.”
Hogg then directed viewers to visit Shock Market, a social media campaign that tracks gun violence losses under the Biden administration.
Shock Market, which Hogg chose to launch along with the Olivers on the fourth anniversary of the shooting, includes breakdowns of gun violence including deaths, injuries, mass shootings, minors killed and injured and unintentional shootings, among other categories.
Since Biden’s inauguration, 47,611 people have died due to gun violence, according to the campaign.
Last October, the Parkland school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree. The guilty pleas will set the stage for a penalty trial in which 12 jurors will determine whether Cruz should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.