Outraged Hispanic police groups are boycotting the Puerto Rican Day Parade next month because the event will celebrate a pardoned terrorist linked to one of the deadliest groups ever to target New York. The NYPD Hispanic Society and the Rafael Ramos Foundation have pulled out of the June 11 Fifth Avenue march after it was announced that former FALN kingpin Oscar Lòpez Rivera will be honored as a “National Freedom Hero” at the event.
Rivera, 74, had his 70-year sentence commuted by outgoing President Barack Obama in January. He had spent nearly 36 years in prison on conspiracy charges for his ties to the Puerto Rican nationalist group, which was responsible for more than 100 bombings in the 1970s and ’80s — including a 1982 blast at NYPD headquarters that left an officer maimed and a 1975 attack that killed four at Fraunces Tavern in the Financial District.
Supporters of Rivera — who was released Wednesday from house arrest in Puerto Rico with New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on hand — note he was never directly linked to any bombings and they considered him a political prisoner.
But the NYPD groups can’t forgive him for being a high-ranking member of the terror group. “We support the NYPD members who were seriously injured and the families of the innocent people who lost their lives during these attacks throughout the United States and in our city,” the NYPD Hispanic Society said in a statement. “We took an oath to protect and serve the people. Unfortunately, this year’s views and values of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade committee do not conform with the society’s mission of promoting peace and unity.”
The Sergeants Benevolent Association joined the Hispanic groups in calling for a parade-sponsor boycott. “The FALN was one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in American history,” SBA president Ed Mullins wrote in a letter to sponsors. “There is no justification in lauding or celebrating its murderous leader.” Goya food dropped its sponsorship of the parade earlier this week — though the food giant didn’t explicitly say it was reacting to Rivera’s involvement.
The Rafael Ramos Foundation, named after the Brooklyn cop murdered in 2014, pulled its parade sponsorship, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said Thursday. Ramos was of Puerto Rican descent. Gov. Cuomo waffled Thursday on whether he’d go to the parade.
“I just heard about it, so I’m going to look at the situation,” Cuomo said. “My inclination would be to march, but I don’t know the facts of the situation.”
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD Hispanic Society is boycotting next month’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Members say they’re upset the parade is honoring a man some consider a terrorist, even as others hail him as a hero.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, on Thursday in Chicago, Oscar Lopez Rivera was given a hero’s welcome as he returned to his adopted hometown.
“Let’s continue struggling,” he said. “Let’s continue doing the best that we can do for this world.”
President Barack Obama pardoned Lopez, and he left confinement this week after serving 36 years for sedition, armed robbery and conspiracy to transport explosives, all to support the FALN, a radical group that bombed New York and other cities in the 1970s and ’80s while advocating for Puerto Rican independence.
The violence killed four New Yorkers and injured several NYPD officers, including Anthony Senft.
“I lost an eye,” Senft said. “I lost my eardrums. My hips were broken.”
Senft can’t believe that next month the Puerto Rican parade on Fifth Avenue will honor Lopez as a “national freedom hero.”
“They know he’s a terrorist.” Senft said. “He’s one of the cofounders of the FALN.”
While the NYPD Hispanic Society is upset and will not march, others, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, consider Lopez a hero.
He was never convicted of any crime directly tied to the bombings. Many believe he was persecuted for his pro-independence stand.
Mayor Bill de Blasio calls the Lopez situation “complicated.” He condemns FALN violence, but won’t boycott the parade.
“He did serve his time,” de Blasio said. “He was pardoned appropriately. He has renounced violence. So I’m going to do everything I would normally do with the parade.”
“It’s sickening,” Senft said. “I’m sickened by it.”
Senft is urging corporate sponsors to pull out of the parade. Lead sponsor Goya Foods is ending support, though not directly tying it to the honor for Lopez.
CBS2 made repeated requests this week to speak with parade organizers. They claimed no one was available to sit down for an interview.
There was a small protest Thursday at the parade in Chicago. The NYPD is preparing for protesters in New York, too.