Another major sponsor dropped out of New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade.
The New York Daily News announced in an editorial Wednesday night it is withdrawing its longtime support from the parade over organizers’ decision to honor convicted Puerto Rican terrorist leader Oscar Lopez ivera. The event is scheduled for June 11.
In the past, the paper was a media sponsor, had a float and donated to the parade’s scholarship fund.
“To extend support for American citizens too often forgotten, who live on an island territory with a rich history and bright future, despite present struggles,” the editorial says.
“But this year, an ill-advised decision by parade organizers forces us to withdraw. We follow other previously steadfast backers, including Goya Foods, JetBlue, Coca-Cola and the Yankees, in pulling out.”
In a statement to The Daily News, parade organizers said honoring him was “a recognition of a man and a nation’s struggle for sovereignty” and “not an endorsement of the history that led to his arrest.”
The parade continues to lose support from its usual advocates and donors. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the NYPD’s Hispanic Society, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the FDNY Hispanic Society have also dropped their backing and participation in the event.
The Daily News states, “The reason: The organizers chose to give highest honors — the newly coined appellation of National Freedom Hero — to Oscar López Rivera, one-time leader of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional terror band, and to place him at the head of the procession up Fifth Ave.”
NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not march in the parade, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed to reporters that he will. Also, over 30 city lawmakers, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a native of Puerto Rico, sent a letter to the parade organizers applauded the group for wanting to honor Lopez Rivera, CBS New York reported.
“As countless families continue to struggle in Puerto Rico’s current fiscal crisis, Oscar is a reminder of the hope that has always anchored the Island — and that’s why we fully stand behind your efforts,” the letter stated.
Mark-Viverito claimed the sponsors and key individuals who are boycotting the parade “misguided.”
“If we look at the statements that have been made as to why they are not participating, they are all lies,” she said. “They’re based on information that is not accurate.”
The Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings in cities across the U.S. from 1975 to 1983. The explosions went off at government buildings, banks, stores and restaurants, taking the lives of five people and injuring and maiming many others.
The FALN set off a bomb in 1975 at the historic Fraunces Tavern in the city’s financial district where 50 people were wounded and four were killed: Alejandro Berger, Frank Connor, James Gezork and Harold Sherburne.
In the 2015 book “Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence,” author Bryan Burrough described the Fraunces Tavern explosion in terrifying detail:
“The thin wall to the Bissell dining room evaporated. Sitting behind it, Frank Connor and Alex Berger were killed instantly; Jim Gezork would die on the operating table. All around, bodies were thrown into the air, people somersaulting through a blizzard of deadly flying glass. Knives and forks zinged through the restaurant like angry bees, impaling a number of diners; doctors would later remove cutlery from a dozen or more patrons. More than forty people were badly injured in the Bissell dining room alone. The force of the explosion erupted upward as well, sending a single floor nail firing through the ceiling like a bullet, where it tore through the bottom of a chair and ripped into the body of a sixty-six-year-old banker named Harold Sherburne, killing him.”
Other FALN blast attacks permanently maimed four NYPD officers.
Lopez Rivera, who has remained unrepentant for the explosions, was never convicted of direct ties to any of the bombing but was sent to prison for 55 years after federal jury convicted him of his involvement in seditious conspiracy and use of force to commit robbery. He was later convicted in prison when he attempted to plot an escape using explosives and helicopter. President Barack Obama, however, commuted his sentence 20 years before Lopez Rivera’s sentence would be completed.
President Bill Clinton had previously pardoned 12 FALN members in December 1999.