City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito won’t back down: Controversial FALN co-founder Oscar López Rivera was a political prisoner, not a terrorist.
“He was not linked to any violence,” the city official insisted Thursday to the Daily News. “His political convictions were the reasons why he was put in jail.
“On many occasions, he has talked about renouncing any type of violence … he is a person who values life.”
The city official shrugged off the growing number of groups pulling their support from the 60th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade after the divisive choice of López Rivera by the parade committee.
Mark-Viverito, asked about her role in the selection, replied, “Absolutely none.”
The Daily News, citing the violent history of the FALN, has joined the New York Yankees, the FDNY’s Hispanic Society, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and several corporate sponsors in sitting out this year’s parade.
“They have the right to make their decisions,” said Mark-Viverito. “It’s unfortunately based on inaccurate information … You can talk with the facts until you’re blue in the face, and people want to make up their own facts.”
The FALN, during its fight for Puerto Rican independence, detonated more than 100 bombs across the country in the 1970s and ‘80s.
The most infamous blast killed four people and injured 50 more at the landmark Fraunces Tavern in Lower Manhattan on Jan. 24, 1975. Four police officers were also maimed by FALN bombings.
While López Rivera was never convicted of any bombing, he was found guilty of seditious conspiracy for plotting against the U.S. government and spent 35 years in prison.
Other supporters of Lopez Rivera held a City Hall news conference Thursday in support of the parade’s honoree.
“I sympathize with those who lost people in the bombing,” said Dr. Samuel Cruz, senior pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church. “I sympathize with them. But those same people don’t say anything when black and brown people are killed by police like dogs in the street.”
Felipe Luciano, a reporter and co-founder of the Puerto Rican nationalist group the Young Lords, echoed Mark-Viverito’s support of Lopez-Rivera.
“No one — not Goya, not Coca Cola nor Jet Blue, nor the Yankees — has the right to tell us who we can admire, who we choose as our leader or grand marshal, nor how we can think or define ourselves,” said Luciano.
Mark-Viverito, speaking after a street renaming for martyred Rikers Island inmate Kalief Browder, said the absence of corporate sponsors wouldn’t dampen enthusiasm for the event.
“It’s a community celebration, so we’re going back to our roots,” she said from beneath an umbrella on a rainy Bronx street. “And it’s fine. It’s going to be well-attended. And it will be a very strong parade — I’m sure of that.”