After weeks of controversy over a decision by organizers of New York City’s annual Puerto Rican Day parade to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera, the nationalist tied to dozens of bombings in the 1970s and ’80s, Rivera has decided to attend the June 11 march as a civilian instead.
“I will be on Fifth Ave. not as your honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather who at 74 continues to be committed to helping raise awareness about the fiscal, health-care and human-rights crisis Puerto Rico is facing at this historic juncture,” Rivera wrote in a New York Daily News op-ed on Thursday.
Rivera was to receive a “National Freedom Hero” honorary title at the parade, but event spokesman Andres Chavez told the New York Post that organizers respected his decision to turn it down.
After having his 55-year prison sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama, Rivera was freed earlier this month after serving more than 30 years in for his ties to the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which fought for the nation’s independence from the U.S. FALN took responsibility for more than 100 bombings in the 1970s and ’80s, including one in 1975 that occurred at the historic Fraunces Tavern in New York’s Financial District, which killed four and left dozens wounded.
After parade organizers announced the event would honor Rivera, corporate sponsors including JetBlue, Univision, AT&T, Coca-Cola and the New York Yankees either pulled financial support or reduced their involvement last month.
Mayor Bill de Blasio received backlash over his decision to still march in the upcoming parade, and told The New York Times on May 23 that the decision to honor Rivera “does not change the basic nature of the parade. Whether you agree with that choice or not, it’s still the Puerto Rican parade … I will be there to honor the Puerto Rican people.”
Rivera wrote in his op-ed that “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. We must shift the focus. … I personally, and we as a community, have transcended violence — it’s crucial for people to understand that we’re not advocating anything that would be a threat to anyone.”
The 60th annual National Puerto Rican Day parade takes place Sunday, June 11 at 11 a.m.