Students packed the seats and stood along the walls of the Roy Irving Theater on April 11 as Manuel and Patricia Oliver were invited to speak about their mission. The Olivers, who lost their son Joaquin in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting last February, have turned into activists for gun control.
As “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Guns ‘n’ Roses blasted through the auditorium, Manuel led the presentation and spoke in great detail about the organization that he and Patricia started, called “Change the Ref.”
“Change the Ref” raises “awareness about mass shootings through strategic interventions that will reduce the influence of the NRA on the Federal level,” according to the organization’s website.
The organization’s name is inspired by a conversation that Oliver had with his son after a basketball game, in which the two had gotten into an argument with the referee. Afterwards, Joaquin told his father that he felt the game would only be fair unless they ‘changed the ref.’
The husband and wife pair have also traveled across the country with other Parkland survivors in conjunction with the March for Our Lives: Road to Change movement, which registered and educated young people to vote.
Through all the work that the Olivers do, Manuel was clear in stating that it was not a Democrat or Republican issue, but more of a human issue.
The event concluded with a Q&A with the audience.