BY TONY LANE
NEW YORK — The fight to free Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican independence fighter jailed in the United States for more than 34 years, continues to gain support. A national planning meeting here Jan. 30 called three days of protest over the next several months to advance the fight.
Alejandro Molina, an organizer of the meeting called by the National Boricua Human Rights Network, said there will be “local and citywide events including vigils, church services, cultural events and protests for May 29,” the 35th anniversary of López’s incarceration; a national action on June 20 outside the United Nations during its annual hearings on the decolonization of Puerto Rico; and a protest at the Democratic Party convention in Cleveland in July.
Supporters are planning to make June 20 an international day of solidarity with actions in 35 countries and Puerto Rico. Molina told the meeting that groups modeled after 34 Women for Oscar in New York and Puerto Rico have begun in Chicago and Boston. In New York, 34 Women holds monthly protests at busy intersections around the city, helping to get the facts out and win new support. Meeting participants agreed to work to initiate similar monthly activities in Detroit, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Katilia Vélez reported that this year’s Newark, New Jersey, Puerto Rican Parade on Sept. 18 is dedicated to López. “We will make it a rally for Oscar and we want as many groups and contingents as possible to take part,” she said.
López grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to Chicago when he was 14. He was drafted into the U.S. army in 1965 and sent to Vietnam the next year. Upon his return, López joined struggles against discrimination and police brutality and for independence for Puerto Rico. He was arrested in 1981, accused of being a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, which took credit for the bombing of banks and businesses with investments in Puerto Rico.
With no evidence that he was involved in a single act of violence, López was convicted on charges centered on “seditious conspiracy.” In a failed attempt to break him, he was kept in solitary confinement his first 12 years in prison.
In a sign of the depth of support for the fight, in January all candidates for governor of Puerto Rico in the upcoming elections taped a statement for a video demanding that President Barack Obama free López. López continues to speak out from prison. In January he wrote, “Let’s make this the year that Puerto Ricans rise up together with the goal of putting an end to colonialism.”