The announcement that the 2017 Puerto Rican Day Parade would honor seditionist and Puerto Rican independentista Oscar López Rivera as a “National Freedom Hero” has led several sponsors of the parade to withdraw their endorsements. López Rivera was a leader of FALN, which conducted a campaign of deadly bombings around New York City and Chicago in the 1970s, and he was recently released from prison after having his 75-year sentence commuted by President Obama. Goya Foods, a significant backer of the parade for its entire 60-year history, has backed out, as have the NYPD Hispanic Society, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, and the other police unions representing the NYPD senior ranks. NYPD commissioner James O’Neill announced this afternoon that he will not march in the parade because he deems Lopez Rivera a “terrorist.”
In response, city council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito today held a “rally to defend the parade,” though the parade itself is not in need of defense, its only sticking point being the inclusion of a convicted terrorist as guest of honor. About 50 ardent supporters of Rivera assembled in a meeting hall at the headquarters of 32BJ, the building-service workers local of labor powerhouse SEIU, where they displayed banners and chanted, “We stand with the Puerto Rican Parade/Oscar López is our hero today!”
A number of speakers addressed the press and the few supporters of the rally who were not already on the dais. Estela Vazquez, executive vice president of SEIU 1199 (the nation’s largest union local), explained that “George Washington fought for his country, and Oscar López Rivera fought for his country. He should be celebrated just as George Washington is celebrated.” This parallel might hold up if López Rivera were being celebrated in his homeland of Puerto Rico, but it stretches credulity to demand that New York City celebrate the man who actually blew up Fraunces Tavern (where George Washington bade his officers farewell), and who in fact murdered and mutilated New Yorkers.
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