The annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, one of NYC’s biggest and best, remains embroiled in controversy this year because its organizers chose to honor the convicted leader of terrorist group FALN, for its repeated bombings that killed and injured many New Yorkers. Sponsors and groups including JetBlue, Coca-Cola, NY Yankees, Goya Foods and the NYPD have pulled out rather than show support. The parade is Sunday, June 11, on Fifth Avenue.
If you were in NYC in the 70s and 80s – as I was – you remember the ongoing terror of more than 100 bombings of NYC buildings by the Puerto Rican group Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional, or FALN, and even airplane hijackings. They were called “radical” then but would be called terrorists today.
Hundreds of New Yorkers were killed and injured because of FALN leader Oscar López Rivera, including NYPD officers seriously injured in the FALN bombing of Police Headquarters. People died because of FALN terrorism, including in the bombing of Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan, where George Washington said goodbye to his troops at the end of the Revolutionary War, chosen because FALN considered itself to be a revolutionary group, where a NYC police officer was killed.
For whatever reason, the FALN repeatedly bombed the Mobil Oil Building on 42nd Street, killing one passerby in one of the bombings, from the glass shards that flew everywhere in one of the attacks.
Another day there were two bombings, which caused the evacuation of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and much of the Empire State Building. More than 100,000 people were evacuated, and the fear and the traffic jams downtown and midtown were monumental. Read the front page from the New York Times from that day in 1977.
National Freedom Hero or Terrorist?
Oscar López Rivera spent 35 years in prison for his FALN leadership, and now that he’s been released, parade organizers decided to honor him for the crimes and killing he sponsored and supported.
Because of the controversy, he won’t be honored after all as a “national freedom hero” — the designation to be bestowed on him — but he’ll still march at the head of the parade “as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather, ” according to a statement by the parade organizers.
Yes, a humble grandfather who was the head of a terrorist organization that bombed NYC buildings repeatedly over more than a decade, killing and injuring dozens of innocent New Yorkers, including a uniformed NYPD officer.
The FALN cost New York City businesses many millions of dollars. Many would-be tourists stayed away from NYC, costing New York City additional millions of dollars. In today’s dollars, that lost revenue caused by the FALN would be billions.
There is little or no reason to honor a man who cost so much damage to New York City and to the the victims of FALN bombings and of their families.
That’s why so many corporations and groups are boycotting this year’s parade, and you should, too. There are plenty of other things to do in New York City on Sunday, June 11 instead of attending a parade lead by an unrepentant terrorist recently released from prison.
It’s too soon to tell whether the corporate sponsors and groups which have bailed will return to the fold, but here’s the list of announced no-shows:
Corporate sponsors sitting out the Puerto Rican Day Parade
Jetblue and Goya foods, longtime sponsors important in the Puerto Rican community, have pulled their financial support for the parade. Jetblue, which is a major carrier between NYC and Puerto Rico, says it will use the money earmarked for the parade to pay for scholarships for Puerto Rican students in NYC and in Puerto Rico. (NYPost)
- NY Yankees
- NY Daily News, explaining its decision in an editorial
Groups and individuals boycotting the Puerto Rican Day Parade
- The NYPD is boycotting the Puerto Rican Day Parade. There will be normal police protection, of course, but no Emerald Society marching band or other NYPD participation.
- NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill
- The NYPD Hispanic Society
- National Latino Officers Association
- FDNY Hispanic Society
- Governor Andrew Cuomo
- Members of the New York Congressional delegation
Politicans joining the parade despite the controversy
- Mayor Bill de Blasio despite his outspoken stand on radical terrorism by groups not named FALN and individuals not named Lopez. However, he won’t march “near” the convicted terrorist leader.
- City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito who calls the convicted terrorist leader a “hero” and support his nomination as parade leader
- Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., leader of the borough with the city’s largest Latino population
Normally, two million people watch this normally wonderful, joyful, colorful parade filled with music and dancing. Probably not this year.
What do you think about the Puerto Rican Day Parade controversy?
Is Oscar Lopez Rivera a “national freedom hero” or a terrorist? Add a comment, below.