More corporate sponsors have pulled their support of New York’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, following a declaration by parade organizers to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist with ties to terrorism.
Lopez Rivera is best known as a member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, more commonly referenced by its Spanish initials F.A.L.N. The group has ties to over 120 bombings. Lopez Rivera served a term of over 35 years in prison before his sentence was commuted by President Obama last January.
Parade organizers announced that they would honor Lopez Rivera with a National Freedom Hero award, an honor that has never before been bestowed. Lopez Rivera himself will lead the parade himself.
“I do not have blood on my hands,” Lopez Rivera said after being released from prison last week. “All colonized people have a right to struggle for its independence using all methods within reach, including force. That is a right.”
AT&T is the latest sponsor to pull funding from the parade, while other groups have said they will continue to fund scholarship programs associated with the celebration, but will not fund the parade itself. Such organizations include Coca-Cola, the New York Yankees, Goya Foods, and JetBlue.
“We did not make this decision lightly and hope all sides will come together to engage in a dialogue about the parade’s role in unifying the community at a time when Puerto Rico needs it most,” said JetBlue in a recent statement concerning the event.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has stated that he will still march in the parade, and that the selection of Lopez Rivera would not change his stance.
“Whether you agree with that choice or not, it’s still the Puerto Rican parade,” said de Blasio, “and my point is, I will be there to honor the Puerto Rican people.”
Meanwhile, several New York City-based police organizations have stated that they will not participate in the day’s festivities. Among those groups is the Hispanic Society, which represents the largest contingent of New York’s Hispanic police officers.