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News > World

Yankees, Big Corporations, Cops to Boycott Puerto Rican Day Parade as Oscar Lopez Honored

  • Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera arrives for a gathering in his honor in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood.

    Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera arrives for a gathering in his honor in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. | Photo: AFP

Published 23 May 2017

Attempts to silence Lopez Rivera's revolutionary voice will most likely lead more people to want to hear what the iconic leader has to say.

New York City's 60th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade is facing unprecedented pressure after organizers took the brave decision to honor independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera as a “national freedom hero,” as, ironically, the Yankees pulled out Monday.

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The parade — which draws approximately 2 million participants and spectators every year — is facing a concerted boycott by law enforcement, multinational corporations and other big-money entities who are withdrawing their sponsorship of the event. Nevertheless, the annual celebration of the people and culture of Puerto Rico will likely not be dampened by the attacks on its anti-colonial stance.

However, a broad group of elected officials, human rights advocates, representatives of Puerto Ricans in the U.S., and labor unions have united to defend the independence theme of this year's parade. Mayor Bill DeBlasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have joined LatinoJustice PRLDEF, UPROSE, the Hispanic Federation, Positive Workforce, SEIU 1199, Boricua Human Rights Network, Free Oscar Lopez Now and El Puente in rallying alongside the event organizers, pointing to the importance of the liberation hero to New York's large Boricua community.

Against the backdrop of the widespread slandering of the liberated 74-year-old political prisoner Lopez Rivera as a “terrorist” for his participation in the Armed Forces of National Liberation — which fought for the independence of Puerto Rico from U.S. colonial domination — the former sponsors have issued various statements attempting to soften the blow of their cynical anti-Puerto Rican actions.

New York-based Jet Blue Airways stated its desire to see “all sides … come together to engage in a dialogue about the parade's role in unifying the community,” while Coca-Cola said that its representatives would pull out of the celebration of the Puerto Rican people while continuing to fund its scholarship program. New Jersey-based Latin American food producer Goya Foods, also pulled out of the event, citing business needs. Latino societies within the New York police and fire departments, as well as the entire Fire Department Officers Union, have also pulled out of the event.

“Oscar Lopez Rivera’s actions led to the death and serious injury of innocent civilians and Police Officers. He is a convicted felon, plain and simple, and one who has not apologized or repented for his cowardly attacks,” said James “Jake” Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neill also announced that he won't take part in the parade this year as a participant, but instead will join the thousands of officers policing the event.

Oscar Lopez Rivera’s Puerto Rico Independence Fight Lives On

Long considered a hero of the movement to liberate Puerto Rico from Washington's control as a U.S. colony, Lopez Rivera was freed last week after facing 36 years of incarceration for his heroic and militant fight for the island nation's independence. His release was widely demanded by the masses of his homeland as well as by Nobel Peace Prize laureates such as Coretta Scott King and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the latter of whom said Lopez Rivera's only crime was a “conspiracy to free his people from the shackles of imperial justice."

While not being directly implicated in any violent acts, Lopez Rivera's group advocated armed struggle against the U.S.-enforced dispossession, poverty, and denial of self-determination faced by the Puerto Rican people. Like Nelson Mandela, supporters of the island's colonization have attempted to drag his name through the mud as a “terrorist.” Lopez Rivera bravely rejected an offer from former President Bill Clinton to commute his sentence on the condition that he renounce violence, citing a refusal to leave his comrades in prison behind.

"With over 35 years of incarceration, 12 of them in solitary confinement, we easily concluded that the only purpose of jailing Lopez Rivera was retribution, pure and simple," LatinoJustice legal counsel and president Juan Cartagena said in a statement Monday. "Given his age and the inordinate length of the sentence it was equally clear that he was sentenced for his political beliefs."

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"Now that President Obama commuted his sentence — an act that was the goal of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans from all political parties and ideologies — it seems that for some people, Oscar should just bide his time in silence," Cartagena added. "That is absurd given how he has stuck to his principles to decolonize Puerto Rico through independence and has spoken in favor of human life."

"Oscar did his time, continued to apply his principles, and holds no rancor. Like many others in the Puerto Rican community, he deserves to be heard — and recognized. Accordingly, we support the recognition he is receiving in New York City in June," Cartagena concluded.

Lopez Rivera's release has led to an upsurge in interest in the Puerto Rican independence movement among Boricuas and non-Boricuas alike. Ironically, the attempts by the police, baseball team and multinational corporations to silence his revolutionary voice will most likely lead more people to want to hear what the iconic leader has to say.

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