Parkland victim’s dad creates gun-control mural

Manuel Oliver created the mural in honor of his son, Joaquin Oliver, who was killed in the Parkland shooting last year. Photo by Gabe Herman

BY GABE HERMAN | A new mural on a Chelsea building honors the victims of last year’s Parkland school shooting and calls for awareness and action about the ongoing issue of gun violence in America.

The mural was created by Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who was one of the 17 victims of the shooting on Feb. 14 of last year.

The artwork is on W. 29th St., just west of Sixth Ave., on the side of a building, taking up a big billboard-sized space.

Joaquin Oliver in December 2017 in a photo from his Instagram account.

The piece shows a Cupid-like figure aiming a gun at a heart-shaped balloon with a big number 17 in the middle of it. The words “You Stole My Heart” are in the middle of the mural.

Toward the bottom it reads, “Joaquin Oliver Rest In Power,” and also “Change the Ref,” which is an organization started by Manuel and his wife, Joaquin’s mother, Patricia, to remember the victims and advocate for gun control in America.

“I have been trying to be very graphic,” Manuel Oliver said at a press conference in the city the day the mural went up. It will remain there in Chelsea for at least one month, according to PIX11.

A view of the mural looking along W. 29th St. Photo by Gabe Herman

“I need to make people understand, it doesn’t matter how much it hurts, we have a problem,” he said.

He has made other murals honoring his son and addressing America’s gun violence, including a one with a portrait of Joaquin and the words “We Demand Change” in big letters. And recently, Manuel painted on the Mexican border wall, including a portrait of his son and Spanish writing that translates to, “On the other side, they also kill our children.”

At the press conference, Patricia Oliver said the mission of Change the Ref included trying to “change these politicians, or these people, that are not aligned with what we are looking for, which is gun control.”