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Father Of Parkland Shooting Victim Creates Mural In Springfield Calling For Gun Control

     The father of a slain Parkland, Florida high school student has brought his campaign against gun violence to Springfield, Massachusetts – home to gun maker Smith & Wesson. 

     South Florida-based artist Manuel Oliver has painted a mural in Springfield in memory of his son 17-year-old Joaquin and the 16 other victims of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting.

     " We are supporting the kids, number one. We are demanding changes, number two, and we don't want any other parent or family to go through the pain this means for us," Manuel said.

      What started out in March as an art exhibit in Miami to honor the Parkland victims led to a second mural created by Oliver in Los Angeles and grew into a nation-wide project demanding an end to gun violence.

      Oliver said he is better at impacting people through his art then trying to convince people with his words.

      " I was an artist before this, so I am not pretending to be someone different. I am just doing the same thin that I used to before with the worst mission that I've ever had as an artist, in order to accomplish statements and messages," Oliver said.

      The mural created in Springfield on Friday in front of the South Congregational Church features Joaquin’s face on a “no-hunting” sign attached to a tree.   A man in silhouette is pointing an automatic rifle at the tree.   Oliver puts holes in the white canvas and places sunflowers in the holes.

             He signs the mural, “Guac’s dad, love you forever.”

      The gun used in the Parkland shooting was manufactured by Smith and Wesson.

      " The fact we are here and doing this shows I kind of disagree with the manufacturing of guns, but mostly with the easy access to them," Oliver said.

      There are plans to create more murals around the country including one in Washington, D.C.

      " It is a therapy," said Oliver. " Think of it as a therapy that will one day gives us serenity, which is not necessarily happiness."

      Oliver and his wife Patricia have created the nonprofit organization “Change the Ref” to support the youth-led movement for gun control.

       "We really don't want this happening to any family at all," said Patricia Oliver.  "We have been living this through other families and the pain they are feeling for us. We are all suffering and we don't want, through our son's name, to have anybody live this situation."

        While in western Massachusetts, the Olivers also participated in a forum on gun violence hosted by the Springfield chapter of the March For Our Lives movement.

     

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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