Parkland Parents Manuel & Patricia Oliver Voted For The First Time After Becoming US Citizens
It was the first time they performed one of their most important civic duties as American citizens. On Tuesday, Parkland parents Manuel and Patricia Oliver voted in the 2018 midterm election, the first time they cast votes after becoming U.S. citizens earlier this year. The couple, who immigrated from Venezuela to Florida, lost their son Joaquin "Guac" Oliver in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February.
Joaquin was one of the 17 people killed on Feb. 14 when a gunman opened fire on campus. According to CNN, the couple became American citizens in January, just 24 days before their son was killed. NowThis producer Maddie Ptacin tweeted a video of the couple on a motorbike headed to a voting station in Florida.
While speaking to CNN, Oliver said that he was "mad" that his son was not alive to be with his parents and vote, as he would have been 18 on Election Day. "We are leading a fight in my son's honor," he said. "I am sad but needed to make my voice active (and) make these politicians accountable." Oliver said that he did not plan on ending his fight for a better society any time soon.
The Olivers are not the only Parkland parents who have turned to more active and political venues to make their social demands heard. According to Ptacin, another Parkland father, Fred Guttenberg, said that he "just voted" for his slain daughter, Jaime Guttenberg.
In September, Guttenberg attempted to shake hands with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during a break in one of the judge's confirmation hearings before the Senate. Guttenberg extended his hand toward Kavanaugh, who did not reciprocate the gesture.
In comments to CNN at the time, Guttenberg said, "I don't go home to my complete family anymore — my daughter was killed — and I am really concerned about how [Kavanaugh] is going to rule on certain things that matter a lot to me because I don't want to see other families go through what we've gone through."
On the topic of gun violence, Guttenberg added that he wanted to tell Kavanaugh, "I hope you change your stance. I hope you look in my eye. I hope you see that this pin that I wear on my lapel or these bracelets that I wear, that's all I have to get close to my daughter now."
Both Guttenberg and Oliver embraced each other on the day they voted. In Guardian reporter Lois Beckett's video shared above, you can see the Parkland parents hugging one another. And as far as that motorbike is concerned, Oliver told Beckett that his son "thought motorcycles are a bad*ss thing. I’m going to honor him that way."
The parents have been unmistakably vocal about their key demands: better legislation against gun violence, as well as creating Change The Ref, an anti-violence organization. Joaquin's father said that he was rallying members of the Latinx community in the United States to be more active about casting their ballots and being heard. Of Latinos, he said, "You are not criminals and you can make a change. We have the opportunity to do that by voting."