The family of a victim from last year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, happened to be in El Paso on Sunday to unveil a mural in honor of their late son, the day after a gunman killed 22 people and wounded more than two dozen others inside a local Walmart.
Joaquin Oliver was one of the 14 students killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. To commemorate his birthday, his father Manuel Oliver painted a mural outside Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.
That location near the border was chosen because Joaquin was an advocate for immigrants’ welfare in addition to speaking out against gun violence. Oliver urged El Paso residents to become advocates too.
“This is the moment to talk about guns. We know what those families are going through — their lives have changed forever and they expect you to do something about it.”
The mural includes Joaquin’s image and jailed immigrant children. Oliver added "El Paso Is Not Alone" in Spanish.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke led a silent march to the the mural ceremony after an earlier rally against gun violence.
.@BetoORourke and @RepEscobar leading a silent march in El Paso for the unveiling of the Manuel Oliver mural in honor of his son Joaquin who would have turned 19 today. Joaquin was killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting. @keranews #ElPaso pic.twitter.com/Xs1RcAGs4c
— Stella M. Chávez (@stellamchavez) August 5, 2019
Escobar and O'Rourke addressed hundreds of people at the rally along with local elected officials and faith leaders. They called on the federal government to draft a national plan to deal with white supremacy, domestic terrorism and gun violence as a national crisis.
“El Paso is an incredible community — we have been safe for decades," Escobar said. “Historically, El Paso has led the nation in its desegregation and integration efforts; and during moments of crisis, we’ve demonstrated to the country how we treat strangers and the most vulnerable in our midst. We will continue to do this because we have chosen to face challenges with decency, strength and love.”
The suspected 21-year-old gunman from Allen, Texas, is in police custody, and authorities are investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.