NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Onlookers in Times Square had mixed reactions to a group of women rallying for President Obama to pardon Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera on Sunday afternoon.
As WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini reported, two men dressed as superheroes showed their support, while the infamous “Naked Cowboy” gave the crowd the middle finger.
“We’re a group of women that are extremely respectful, and we expect others to respect us as well,” Melissa Montero said.
According to their website, the group, which calls themselves “34 Mujeres x Oscar,” holds a rally advocating for Oscar Lopez Rivera’s freedom on the last Sunday of every month. The rallies are typically 34 minutes long — representing the years Rivera has been in prison.
Oscar Lopez Rivera was sentenced on charges of seditious conspiracy in 1981 and given 55 years in federal prison. In 1988, an additional 15 years was added to Lopez Rivera’s sentence after he was charged with conspiracy to escape prison.
Lopez Rivera was initially charged alongside a group of other Puetro Rican nationalists (known as FALN) linked to a series of bombings in the United States in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was never charged with killing anyone, and releasing Lopez Rivera has been a subject of debate among politicians.
“His only crime was supporting the independence of Puerto Rico,” Montero said.
Former United States president Bill Clinton offered clemency to Lopez Rivera and 15 other Puerto Rician nationalists in 1999, but Lopez refused.
The group works in collaboration with a Puetro Rican organization which started rallying in support of Rivera in 2013.
“We live in the United States, you know we talk about freedom of speech, we talk about human rights — but here in this own country we have human rights violations,” Montero said.