Puerto Rican Day Parade Board Of Directors Says No One Else To Receive National Freedom Hero Title

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The board of directors of the Puerto Rican Day Parade says no one else will be receiving the National Freedom Hero title after Oscar Lopez Rivera stepped down from his position as the honoree.

The parade’s board of directors said in a statement that Lopez Rivera will march June 11 in the parade “not as an honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather.”

It said the National Freedom Hero title was specially designated for Lopez Rivera, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported. That designation sent parade sponsors and political officials scattering.

Lopez Rivera was a member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN, a radical group responsible for bombings in the 1970s and ’80s that killed and maimed New Yorkers, including one in 1974 at Fraunces Tavern which killed four people including Joe Connor’s father.

“Lopez ruined my dad’s life, he destroyed our lives,” Connor said.

Lopez Rivera served more than 35 years in prison before his sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama.

The issue of his high-profile presence divided New York officials. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Police Commissioner James O’Neill declined invitations to the parade.

“Unfortunately, the narrative around the parade is not celebration and concern for the situation on the island, but rather misinformation about who I am and what I stand for,” Lopez Rivera wrote in an Op-Ed piece published in the Daily News of New York on Thursday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito stood by their choice to participate in the parade.

“Unfortunately, the parade and the plight of Puerto Rico have been overshadowed by needless controversy,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “Oscar Lopez Rivera agreeing to step aside from any formal role in the parade is a critical step forward.”

“This Puerto Rican parade is to celebrate the contributions of the Puerto Rican people and not about one individual, so I will be there on June 11,” said Mark-Viverito.

Coca-Cola, Goya Foods and the New York Yankees are among the companies and organizations that have withdrawn support for the parade.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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