On March 30, 2014, dozens of activists and residents demonstrated in El Barrio-East Harlem, New York to call for the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Gathered in support of 33 Mujeres NYC x Oscar – “thirty-three women for Oscar” – they initiated a series of monthly rallies that will continue until the Puerto Rican prisoner is freed.
López Rivera was a Puerto Rican pro-independence organizer who will complete 33 years in United States prisons this month. The commitment of these 33 women is in solidarity with one made by the group 32 Mujeres x Oscar, who were protesting in Puerto Rico at the same time for López Rivera’s release, as they have each month since May 2013.
Gathering on 106th St. and Lexington Ave., the New York group wore bright pink shirts and light blue bandanas, each bearing Oscar’s image, and shouted “Obama Can’t You See? Set Oscar López Free!” Joined alongside several more women, as well as men and children, a mosaic image of Julia de Burgos – a Puerto Rican nationalist and writer – served as the backdrop for their banners, flags, and chants.
One of the organizers, Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, spoke with La Respuesta about the goal of the planned demonstrations.
“[Organizing this] has been an uplifting, engaging, energizing one where I feel that all the women who have joined this effort were equally craving an action and community like this… The women have pledged a commitment to make every single monthly rally until Oscar is free,” Ora Bannan said.
The Bronx and Williamsburg are the locations for the next two demonstrations. “We want to initially focus our efforts in communities where there are a large Puerto Rican population because the rally is not only about sending a message to President Obama to exercise his constitutional power of pardon, but to educate and organize our community around Oscar’s release,” says Ora Banan. She mentioned that part of this effort will include the distribution of petitions and educational leaflets about López Rivera’s life and incarceration.
La Respuesta also spoke with event organizer, Melissa Montero Padilla, who recently organized a panel on the issue. Commenting on the possibility of these activities taking place around the Diaspora, she told us, “some sisters in Philly are aware of this and would like to start their own group.”
After the demonstration, participant Christian Mártir spoke to us about his solidarity with 33 Mujeres NYC x Oscar. “I obviously support the freedom of Oscar and so I wanted to support the sisters’ efforts… It’s important that Boricuas support each others individual and collective efforts.”
How to support:
The next demonstration will take place April 27 on Fordham Rd. in the Bronx. You can support 33 Mujeres NYC x Oscar, and the campaign to free Oscar López Rivera, by attending their monthly rallies and contacting them on Facebook.
Also, you can sign a letter to President Obama through the website of National Boricua Human Rights Network – Chicago Chapter.
For more articles covering the campaign to free Oscar López Rivera, go here: