Manuel Oliver and his wife Patricia are using their unimaginable grief to power art and activism. On Thursday, Oliver debuted his latest protest piece directly to the front door of Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, and recipient of $749,000 in political donations from the NRA.
The mile-long caravan of 52 yellow school buses, titled "The NRA Children's Museum," contains personal items and mementos from some of the 4,368 children killed by guns since 2020 — the first year in which gun violence surpassed automobile accidents as the number one killer of children in the U.S.
Heartbreaking exhibits include Sponge Bob and Bob the Builder backpacks, black-and-white checkered Vans, a girl scout sash, and the LeBron James Miami Heat jersey worn by the Olivers' son, Joaquin, who was killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting.
"We are showing American voters the toll these politicians have taken on our children's lives with this all-too-real archive,” Oliver said in a press release from Change the Ref, the organization he and his wife founded after their son's death.
“We want to display, for the voters who keep these politicians in office, the consequences of those choices," added Patricia Oliver. "We want voters to remember which politicians are in the pocket of the NRA when they visit the polls in November."
Upon arriving at Senator Cruz's home, Oliver presented a security officer with a gift for Cruz: a framed letter that his son wrote at age 12, almost five years before he was killed. It reads: "I am writing this letter to talk to you about how were going to solve this gun law movement," and a young Joaquin goes on to advocate for universal background checks, which his parents have made part of Change the Ref's agenda.
Polls show that 88% of Americans support universal background checks, and Change the Ref demands that Cruz and other politicians endorse this reform and also refuse future donations from the NRA.
Oliver also made headlines on Monday when he interrupted President Joe Biden's remarks about gun safety legislation and was escorted away by security. On the 4 year anniversary of the Parkland shooting in February, he was arrested for climbing a crane near the White House and unfurling a banner with the image of his son and the message, "45k people died from gun violence on your watch."
Last year, he managed to trick a former NRA president into delivering a graduation speech to 3,044 empty chairs representing victims of gun violence.
And he has no plans of letting up on these stark displays of grief and fury. Addressing the press outside of Cruz's Texas offices on Thursday, Oliver said, "If you’re a senator and you believe the things that are happening are OK, look out for a yellow school bus that will be outside your office."