Rep Maxwell Frost of Florida called Manuel and Patricia Oliver “American heroes” after they were thrown out of a committee hearing on gun laws – after which Mr Oliver was violently arrested in the corridor outside.
Mr and Ms Oliver’s son, Joaquin, was one of 17 people killed during the shooting at a high school in Parkland in 2018.
After praising them, Mr Frost walked out of the committee saying it was a waste of time as long as Republicans refused to take action on gun safety.
His comments came after committee chair Pat Fallon ejected Mr and Ms Oliver from the hearing after they shouted at the committee members from the public gallery.
The hearing, titled “ATF’s Assault on the Second Amendment: When is Enough Enough?” turned contentious when Mr Fallon suggested that a gun is “merely a tool” used to kill people and that guns themselves should not be banned — a common gun lobby talking point. After Mr and Ms Oliver interrupted Mr Fallon, he had them removed from the hearing room.
Mr Frost, who is himself a survivor of gun violence and represents the state where the Parkland shooting happened, was one of the first people to respond to the scene where Mr Oliver was pinned to the ground by Capitol police. When he returned to the hearing room, he defended the Olivers and decried the purpose of the hearing.
“To lose a child to gun violence, to see the photos of your child sitting in a pool of blood... I can’t imagine that,” Mr Frost said. “You know, Manny and Patricia have dedicated their lives to fighting for a world where true justice can be achieved — because unfortuantely, there is no justice for the dead and true justice is ensuring that this never happens again.”
“I fight alongside Manny and Patricia Oliver,” Mr Frost continued. “I believe that they are American heroes. And what they always say is that they don’t want their son Joaquin to be remembered as a victim, they want him to remembered as an activist.”
Mr Frost noted that the leading cause of death for American children is gun violence.
“Today Republicans on this committee chose to sit in front of those parents, and the survivors and organisers and advocates that are sitting in the audience right now, people who are re-living their trauma listening through this, people impacted by gun violence across the nation, and show that their priority is gun lobby money, manufacturers who profit off death, and creating fake narratives for political gain,” Mr Frost noted.
Mr Frost then apologised to the activists and survivors in the room for having to sit through the hearing and walked out of the committee room. The committee continued its proceedings without him.