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Parkland activist parent arrested in Congress after gun-control protest during hearing

A South Florida gun-control activist whose son was killed in the Parkland school shooting was arrested at the U.S. Capitol complex on Thursday, charged with refusing a police officer’s orders after being removed from a Republican-led hearing about a federal gun regulatory agency.

Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, was one of 17 people killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, was arrested “after he disrupted a hearing, refused to stop shouting, and then attempted to go back inside the hearing room,” according to a statement from the United States Capitol Police.

Video of Oliver’s arrest quickly spread on social media, with two officers holding him down while his wife, Patricia Padauy-Oliver, looked on. Police said that Oliver was not put in jail and that his wife was not arrested.

The arrest happened outside of a hearing about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which some GOP lawmakers have accused of unconstitutionally infringing on Second Amendment rights.

In an interview after his arrest, Oliver said he and his wife attended the hearing before becoming slowly enraged by the Republican testimony, which in his view valued the business interests of the gun industry over the lives of people like his son.

Eventually, he told the Miami Herald, his wife began protesting, they were both removed, and Oliver was arrested after he declined to stop shouting.

Oliver disputed part of the police’s account — he said he did not try to re-enter the hearing room — but otherwise deemed his arrest irrelevant, saying he was more concerned about GOP attempts to minimize the role guns play in everyday violence across the country. If his arrest helps bring attention to his concerns, he added, he’s fine with the outcome.

“If the consequence of that is getting arrested for a few hours, that’s fine,” Oliver said. “I don’t regret what I said, and I will do it again.”

The incident is the latest attempt from Oliver to protest what he sees as Washington’s insufficient response to gun-related violence and the Republican Party’s dishonesty about the issue. Last year, Oliver interrupted President Joe Biden at a White House event celebrating the recent passage of a national gun-control law.

After his arrest Thursday, Oliver said he didn’t blame the police officers, who he said told him afterward that they sympathized with his cause.

“I’m not concerned about their job. I think they’re doing what they signed for,” Oliver said. “I’m concerned about the Republicans jobs. I don’t think they’re doing their job the right way.

“If we’re going to learn something from this,” he added, “that should be the lesson.”

Oliver’s arrest nonetheless drew outrage from some members of Florida’s congressional delegation.

“Don’t lecture us about free speech or weaponizing government when you’re arresting parents of dead kids for speaking their truth,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who represents the Parkland area in Congress.