Can we transform support for the release of a Puerto Rican political prisoner into a movement that rejects incarceration?
Tag Archive for political prisoner
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
On June 23, as the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United Nations was holding its day of hearings on Puerto Rico, a demonstration for Oscar López Rivera was being held in Ralph Bunche Park just across the street.
Literature and petitions on Oscar’s case were made available beginning at 9am, and a rally was held at 1pm with a number of petitioners from the UN hearings, as well as diplomats from other Puerto Rican organizations, both island and Diaspora-based. The demonstration lasted into the evening, coinciding with the hearings taking place within the UN.
The Special Committee on Decolonization has addressed Puerto Rico’s colonial situation annually since it took up the issue in 1972, eleven years after its founding in 1961. A recognized part of this colonial issue is the political imprisonment of independence supporters like Oscar López Rivera. At this year’s hearings, a number of petitioners made statements in support of Oscar’s release, some asking for 33 seconds of silence for his now 33-year incarceration. The Special Committee itself, in a resolution, committed to seeking the General Assembly’s reiteration of its own request for his release.
While the decision by the UN Special Committee to support the request for Oscar’s release – a decision it also made in recent years – is a considerable and important part in influencing U.S. President Barack Obama to effect such, continued protest by people all the way down to the grassroots will remain key. Unfortunately, the resolutions made by this Special Committee in recent years in support of Oscar, as well as its now thirty-three resolutions since 1972 calling for the U.S. to initiate a process of decolonization, is not enough for President Obama to set him free just yet.
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
The reason i support the campaign for the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is that i firmly believe he is not what the criminal justice system would have us believe he is. He is not a criminal. What makes Oscar special is that not only is he a patriot, he was also a community activist who struggled considerably in Chicago on education, housing, employment, and health care.
Oscar López Rivera struggled for the liberation of the Puerto Rican people. He struggled so that Puerto Ricans can emerge from the social-political-economic constraints imposed on them by U.S. colonialism, both in the Diaspora and on the island.
Students continue to graduate from the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School that Oscar co-founded in 1972. The Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center – another institution he co-founded in 1972 – still exists. On another occasion in that era, he even helped bring radical educator Paulo Freire for a community dialogue.
Nevertheless, my reasons for supporting his release go beyond who he was. My support for his release is also based on who he is: a man of integrity, of commitment to principles founded in freedom and liberation, who became a prolific artist after being incarcerated. To suddenly become a prolific painter under any circumstances is remarkable. To do so while going through 12 years of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, prison transfers, arbitrary searches, and other extremely difficult circumstances, is simply outstanding.
The Governor and mayors in Puerto Rico support his release, as do Members of Congress, Nobel Laureates, governments in Latin America, and a United Nations special committee on decolonization. Oscar has become the rallying point for the entire Puerto Rican people, both on the island and in the Diaspora, creating a real expression of national unity. For natives of the Boricua Diaspora like myself, Oscar provides a significant example and lesson of struggle. He is a patriot who committed wholeheartedly to grassroots community struggle, and an activist who connected his local work to the struggle against colonialism.Recently, i took part in a march over the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn in support of Oscar’s release. An initiative led by 33 Mujeres NYC x Oscar has also sprung up through solidarity with a similar women’s group in Puerto Rico. Also, a 33 Man March has been called for May 3, adding to the existing demonstrations of support for Oscar in NYC.
Here is a man, a community activist and revolutionary nationalist, who struggled with courage and sacrifice so that i may live in a better, more just world. All without knowing me, before i was even born. It is with firm resolution that i support the release of Oscar López Rivera.