Culture

Bill de Blasio Will March Behind a Terrorist

Oscar López Rivera after his release in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 17, 2017. (Reuters photo: Alvin Baez)
Why is the Puerto Rican Day Parade honoring Oscar López Rivera this year?

That the mayor of America’s largest city is planning to march with a convicted terrorist in next month’s Puerto Rican Day Parade illustrates a fundamental fact about the Left in America: From student activists all the way up to leading officials, not excluding the 44th president, they are willing to shrug off terrorism provided it has sufficient left-wing bona fides.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio says he will march behind Oscar López Rivera, the convicted Puerto Rican terrorist who served 35 years in prison before President Obama commuted his sentence. Organizers of the parade, to be held June 11 on Fifth Avenue, say that not only will López Rivera lead it, but he will in a sense be designated the hero of the entire history of the celebration: He’ll be granted the title of “National Freedom Hero,” a designation never before bestowed on anyone.

López Rivera, an admitted leader of the 1970s Marxist terror group FALN, which sought independence for Puerto Rico under Communist leadership, was in 1981 sentenced to 55 years in prison, later increased to 70 as punishment for an escape attempt. After being arrested with six pounds of dynamite in his Chicago apartment and declaring at trial, “I am an enemy of the United States government,” he served a bit more than half of his sentence before Obama released him. Puerto Ricans have repeatedly voted against independence in a series of referenda, so López Rivera’s terrorist career amounted to killing innocent civilians — FALN carried out more than 100 bombings, including one at Manhattan’s landmark Fraunces Tavern in 1975 that killed four — to pursue a political goal not supported even by his fellow Puerto Ricans.

De Blasio this week shrugged at López Rivera’s hideous past.

“The organization he was affiliated with did things I don’t agree with, obviously, and they were illegal,” the mayor said at a press conference this week. “I don’t agree with the way he did it. But he did serve his time,” adding that López Rivera “renounced violence.”

He did? Here is what López Rivera, quoted in yesterday’s New York Times, said upon his release from a halfway house in Puerto Rico on Wednesday: “We are a colonized people, and according to international law, that says all colonized people have a right to struggle for its independence, using all methods within reach, including force.” (Emphasis mine.)

What is “force” if not a euphemism for violence? López Rivera is unrepentant. He added, about his behavior at a parole hearing, “I wasn’t there to tell them, ‘Hey, listen, I’m sorry.’ That’s not me.” He hastens to clarify that he cannot be a terrorist because he doesn’t have “blood on his hands.”

It’s a laughable defense: Would you forgive bin Laden if you thought he never personally killed anyone? De Blasio says López Rivera “did serve his time.” That isn’t even true, given that the justice system ordered him imprisoned until 2051. But even if López Rivera had served his entire sentence, so what? If Charles Manson were freed by a parole board, would you march beside him?

So far only one corporate sponsor, Goya Foods, has dropped out of this year’s parade. Readers might be interested to know who some of last year’s sponsors were, and inquire whether they will be returning to offer support again next month. Sponsors such as AT&T. Coca-Cola. JetBlue. Corona. The New York Yankees. The United Federation of Teachers. The local affiliates of NBC and ABC, each of which is an owned and operated subdivision of its national network. (ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co. and NBC by Comcast.)

Both of New York City’s top leaders appear to be bigger fans of blowing up innocent people than they are of private groups’ declining to welcome some people.

Parade organizers argued ludicrously that, by withdrawing, Goya (which has sponsored the parade for some 60 years) is jeopardizing the college scholarships that the parade supports — as though there are no means through which to provide aid to college students other than funneling it through a parade led by a terrorist.

De Blasio can hardly argue that to march in a parade is not to associate oneself with the politics of the parade’s organizers. Not after he repeatedly boycotted New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade because of the organizers’ stance toward gays. (Gays were not forbidden from participating in the parade; however, organizers would not let them display gay-pride banners. That restriction has now been lifted.) New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also boycotted the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Mark-Viverito was a leader of the effort to win clemency for López Rivera and flew to Puerto Rico to celebrate the terrorist’s release.

So both of New York City’s top leaders appear to be bigger fans of blowing up innocent people than they are of private groups’ declining to welcome some people. Which ordinary mainstream liberals will step forward to say they’re wrong? Which corporations will join Goya in disassociating themselves from a remorseless terrorist?

— Kyle Smith is National Review’s critic-at-large.

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