“Stop the Absurd Debate”: Parkland Father Calls for Nationwide Education Strike to Demand Gun Reform

Click the following link to watch this sad conversation.

Democracy Now

“In the wake of the mass shooting at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday Republicans “want to see all the facts” before proposing any new gun legislation. Just last week, Manuel Oliver, father of one of 17 people killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was arrested in the Republican-controlled House after he and his wife Patricia spoke out during a subcommittee hearing on the Second Amendment. He joins us to call for a national education strike to push for action on the U.S. gun violence epidemic. His new op-ed for The Daily Beast is “Arrest Gun-Loving Members of Congress—Not Grieving Fathers.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go from Tennessee to Florida, which brings up this meme that has been going around. It’s a picture of a pile of books, and it says, “Never in recorded history has a 4-year-old found his father’s loaded book and accidentally killed his younger sister, but we ban books.”

So, from Tennessee to Florida to Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Republicans want to see all the facts before proposing any new gun legislation in the wake of the latest school shooting. That prompted a heated confrontation between New York Congressmember Jamaal Bowman and Kentucky Republican Congressmember Thomas Massie, just off the House floor, where Bowman accused Republicans of refusing to save children’s lives.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN: They’re cowards! A 9-year-old — three 9-year-olds. Are they going to those funerals? No, they never go to the funerals. They never go to the scene of the mass shootings. And it’s not just in schools. It’s in Black and Brown communities every day.

AMY GOODMAN: Republican Thomas Massie responded to Bowman, saying, quote, “There’s never been a school shooting in a school that allows teachers to carry,” unquote. In 2021, Kentucky Congressman Massie tweeted a photo of himself and six family members, his kids, holding assault-style rifles, with the caption, “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.”

This comes after Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin, one of 17 people killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was arrested at a hearing last week in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, after he and his wife Patricia spoke out during a subcommittee hearing on the Second Amendment that was chaired by Texas Republican Pat Fallon. Florida Democrat and committee member Maxwell Frost tweeted a video of Oliver, quote, “being arrested for speaking out at a committee hearing. Manny is a hero. He didn’t deserve this.”

PATRICIA OLIVER: What are you going to say about Joaquin? What are you going to tell me about Joaquin? He got shot four times. He destroyed his head. And his blood, everywhere. And that’s right for you. [inaudible]

POLICE OFFICER 1: Back up! Or you’re going to jail next!





AMY GOODMAN: So, the video shows Capitol Police pushing Patricia Oliver away as they pin her husband Manny to the ground outside the hearing room.

Well, Manny Oliver joins us now from his home in Parkland, Florida. He co-founded the gun reform group Change the Ref and engaged in countless protests for action on gun control. He’s an artist, and much of what he does is murals and art and resistance. His new op-ed for The Daily Beast is headlined “Arrest Gun-Loving Members of Congress—Not Grieving Fathers.”

Manny Oliver, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s been five years since you lost Guac and so many lost their loved ones in Parkland. And now week after week — I think, in 2023, there is a mass shooting at a school alone every single week in this country. What are you calling for?

MANUEL OLIVER: Well, I’m calling for a different reaction from us, from you, from our neighbors. This is our situation that at some point is going to hit either directly or indirectly. Every time we see someone being shot, there is an immediate circle of people that is also being hurt — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters.

So, I think it’s time to really have something so we can stop the absurd debate with representatives, that we already know are not willing to do anything, and then have like a nationwide strike, educational strike, from all levels of education. This is for the teachers, their place of work. And they don’t feel safe.

The kids have drills. Our kids train how to survive these shootings. And it’s even worse than that. You have to — I want people to understand that what happened on that school in Nashville, probably the kids thought it was a drill. So, put that in your heads, and now let me know if it deserves us to do something more extreme or not.

AMY GOODMAN: The kids thought it was a drill. That’s what you’re saying, Manny?

MANUEL OLIVER: That is exactly what I’m saying, because it’s — this terrorizing possibility, predictable — it’s not even a possibility. There’s a big chance that it could happen. It’s not like a lottery. It’s really easy to happen, because we have so weak gun laws. And the kids are being traumatized on a weekly basis. Every day, they need to go out for a drill. Our kids have been training how to survive these shootings. And guess what. We are about to hear from someone that we need to train them better. In other words, “It’s their own fault. They did not train enough. We need to arm teachers.” So, because everything is absurd, we need something to negotiate. We need power. And we need people to stand up. This is not about lighting up a candle.

AMY GOODMAN: Manny, you’re calling for an education strike across the country. Explain what you want to see happen.

MANUEL OLIVER: Well, I am sick of going to the Capitol Hill buildings, knocking doors, and explaining, with my pain, with our suffering, that this is not good. They already told us that they won’t do anything, and we have seen it happening for decades. So, I think that big changes, when society needs them and it’s required for them — and this is what we’re seeing this week — need extreme solutions.

So that’s why I’m asking for the power of the educators to get on board. We can stop this from happening. We can really demand things. There’s nothing that I can demand now. I don’t have the power to demand to politicians, which negligence is not going to move anywhere. So, we need to get together, seriously. Otherwise, this will vanish, like Parkland vanished, like Santa Clarita vanished, like Uvalde vanished. And we cannot allow that to happen. I’m sick of this, and I will do everything that it takes. Everything that it takes. I’m flying to Tennessee tomorrow, by the way. And we have an event on Monday at 10:30.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Manny Oliver, your response to the congressman, where you were arrested last week, and the police officers? We see Patricia, your wife, demanding change in the hearing room, and then you being tackled outside and them pushing her away. We have 20 seconds.

MANUEL OLIVER: Well, that’s the norm at this point. It’s irrelevant. Getting arrested is something that happened to me a couple of times. But I don’t regret that, because I made my point. Now, I can point at that chairman and say — tell him that “You have done nothing. My wife, Patricia, works every day on protecting your kids, so you should be following everything that we do.” We’re on the right side, Amy. We’re on the right side of this battle.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Manuel Oliver, we thank you so much for being with us. And again, our condolences. Manny is co-founder of the gun reform group Change the Ref, father of Joaquin, one of 17 people killed five years ago in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We’ll link to your piece in The Daily Beast.

Happy birthday to Mike Burke! I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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