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.