WASHINGTON – The father of one of the 17 people killed four years ago in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., protested from a construction crane Monday morning near the White House, where he tweeted a video requesting a meeting with President Joe Biden.
The demonstration ended by midmorning with three people in custody and facing charges of unlawful entry, according to Washington, D.C., police.
“The whole world will listen to Joaquin today. He has a very important message,” the father, Manuel Oliver, said in a video tweeted at 6:54 a.m., referring to his son Joaquin “Guac” Oliver. “I asked for a meeting with Joe Biden a month ago, never got that meeting.”
Oliver tweeted Monday morning that he climbed a 150-foot crane near the White House “so the whole nation can judge our reality.”
He and his wife, Patricia Oliver, were hoping to bring attention to the initiative they launched Monday with March for Our Lives and Guns Down America, called shockmarket.org, a website tracking gun violence during Biden’s term as president.
“We decided to grab Mr. Biden’s attention, and that crane was exactly across from the White House,” Patricia Oliver said. That way, she said, “there is no way to say, ‘I didn’t notice it.’ “
The initiative is demanding Biden pledge to make substantial changes to reduce gun violence during his March 1 State of the Union address. They are requesting Biden establish a National Office of Gun Violence Prevention, invest in community violence intervention programs, nominate a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and “Use the Presidential Bully Pulpit” to coordinate a nation response to gun violence.
“President Biden’s heart goes out to Mr. Oliver, the other families of the Parkland shooting victims, and to all Americans who have been affected by gun violence,” White House spokesman Michael Gwin said in a statement. “The President has done more to fight gun violence through executive action in his first year than any President in history, and he’s committed to keeping up that work every day he’s in the White House.”
Patricia Oliver said she walked toward the crane Monday morning, looked up at her husband and felt proud. They were fighting for change on the anniversary of their son’s death.
“We will never stop being his parents,” Patricia Oliver, 55, said. “We are representing Joaquin. We are just continuing his way of handling life.”
To her, Joaquin represents power, determination, justice and love. He was an old soul with “big thoughts,” but he also loved to be silly, she said with a smile as she thought of him.
While his mother cooked, he would tease her, pretending he was in the roller skating scene from the movie “Xanadu” while dancing across the kitchen floor. He loved cheering on the Miami Heat, his favorite NBA team, wrote poems and jokes, and liked to sing around the house, especially the song “The Girl From Ipanema.”
“He was really bad at singing, but he didn’t care,” she said.
Advocates are also planning to rally outside the White House this afternoon to press for gun violence reform, said Igor Volsky, co-founder and executive director of Guns Down America.
D.C. police said they received a call around 5:40 a.m. reporting two people in the crane at 700 15th Street NW. One person was arrested near the beginning of the demonstration. A D.C. police spokesman said the remaining two demonstrators later came down on their own. Police could not immediately confirm that Oliver was among them; identities will be released when charges are filed.
Police said a lock and chain had been cut to gain access to the crane, which was being used by the Grunley construction company.
A spokeswoman for Grunley, based in Rockville, Md., said their officials were aware of the demonstration. She declined to comment further or describe the nature of the construction project at that location.
According to its website, Grunley has restored and modernized dozens of major buildings in and around D.C., from luxury condos to embassies and government offices.
In 2017, activists affiliated with Greenpeace climbed atop a 270-foot construction crane in downtown D.C. and unfurled a large banner with a message to President Donald Trump. It took 18 hours for police to talk the seven activists down, snarling traffic for the day.
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The Washington Post’s John Wagner contributed to this report.