NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Amid heated controversy, onetime militant Oscar López Rivera has declined to be honored in the Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 11.
López Rivera, 74, will still march in the parade – not as an honoree but as a “proud Puerto Rican,” according to the parade organization.
“We are looking forward to marching with Oscar López Rivera and respect his decision to walk up Fifth Avenue, ‘not as an honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather,’” a parade organization statement said. “Now we can focus again on important issues and the plight of Puerto Rico.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office released a statement saying López Rivera made the best decision, while calling the controversy around his involvement “needless.”
“The parade has always been about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, not any one participant. It is a celebration of a culture and community at the center of what makes New York City great. Unfortunately, the parade and the plight of Puerto Rico have been overshadowed by needless controversy,” the statement said. “Oscar López Rivera agreeing to step aside from any formal role in the parade is a critical step forward in refocusing our city’s attention on the more important issues facing Puerto Rico.”
López Rivera was pardoned by President Barack Obama and recently released after serving 36 years for sedition, armed robbery, and conspiracy to transport explosives. He was a leader of the paramilitary group the Armed Forces of National Liberation – or FALN.
City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito has stood by López-Rivera, and there are some questions about it that she did not answer Thursday.
Mayor de Blasio had said Wednesday that he would still march, but he would not march with López Rivera.
Mark-Viverito, who seems to be the closest to López-Rivera, spent the first part of the day dodging CBS2’s questions.
Leaving one event, Mark-Viverito said, “I got to run.”
CBS2’s Carlin caught up with her again at a community festival in the Bronx.
Carlin: “Could you talk about your support for this particular person being honored and given what has happened since, do you think that there was a mistake made?”
Mark-Viverito: “This Puerto Rican Day Parade is to celebrate the contributions of the Puerto Rican people… and not about one individual.”
Carlin: “Is he staying at your house?”
Mark-Viverito: “I’m not answering any questions that have to do with who’s a guest in my house.”
When the parade gets under way on Fifth Avenue, Mark-Viverito said her feet will hit the street. But she had said she did notnot know whom she will be rubbing shoulders with or walking alongside.
“I have not made a decision about the final logistics,” she said.
More than four decades ago, FALN bombed Fraunces Tavern in the Financial District and left four people dead.
“I remember that day very vividly,” said Rae of the Upper West Side. “If you were to ask me who deserves to be honored, it’s somebody who is honorable.”
“Why are they honoring him?” added Nancy Spector of the Upper West Side.
Carlin went on to ask Mark-Viverito: “There are people that are upset. Do you understand their emotions; their feelings?”
Mark-Viverito walked off at that point, done with questions.
Coca-Cola, Goya Foods and the New York Yankees are among the companies and organizations that have withdrawn support for the parade.