U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Parkland dad Manuel Oliver have some history.
This past February, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on preventing gun violence, Oliver shouted out in protest when the congressman from Pensacola used his time to bloviate about the need for a border wall. Gaetz then shook his finger at Oliver and tried to have him ejected from the hearing. In response, Oliver started a #MakeMattPay crowdfunding page that raised more than $60,000 for the Republican congressman's yet-unnamed Democratic opponent in 2020.
Now, Oliver — whose son Joaquin was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year — is using his artwork to call out Gaetz. Since his son's death, Oliver has been traveling the country painting murals to commemorate Joaquin and to advocate for better gun laws. At an art exhibit this past Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Oliver completed another of his murals, this time featuring a grinning Gaetz gripping an assault rifle:
The mural, which Oliver created on the spot at the "Ripped From the Headlines" art show at FATVillage, shows a Florida panther and a Key deer labeled with the word "protected," while Joaquin is labeled "extinct."
"We cannot go out and hunt with an AR-15 because it’s not fair for the deer, but it is fucking fair for him," Oliver announced angrily at the art show, pointing at his son's face. "So you need to get that message."
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Gaetz has not publicly addressed the artwork, but he's apparently not too pleased about it. On Sunday night, Oliver tweeted he'd received a call from someone in Tallahassee who was offended by the painting, strongly insinuating it was someone in Gaetz's camp:
Oops! Just got a call from Tallahassee...Someone is offended about the painting and is not Joaquin Oliver, the deer or the panther. BAN Assault Weapons NOW! For Guac and the other 40k/year victims from gun violence. https://t.co/Oh4AYBri3O— Manuel Oliver (@manueloliver00) April 28, 2019
In response, Oliver's followers offered thoughts and prayers for Gaetz's hurt feelings.
Gaetz's press secretary did not immediately respond to an email from New Times Monday morning. Oliver's mural will be on display at the Projects Contemporary Art Space in FATVillage until June 29.