The evolution of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City this month, as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s position on it, has come full circle. The original decision to honor convicted FALN terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera as a hero of the people or whatever honorific they had in mind immediately sent sponsors scurrying and resulted in many prominent figures refusing to march with him. Not the Mayor, however, who claimed to understand the nuances of the situation, even though he “disagreed” with some of the things the bomb maker had done. But as the list of those protesting the decision continues to grow, it seems that the parade organizers have finally seen the light. Now Rivera will “not have any formal role” in the festivities. (ABC New York)
Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement Thursday night that Oscar Lopez Rivera would not have any “formal role” in the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Many sponsors and participants have pulled out because of the parade organizers’ decision to honor nationalist Lopez Rivera, a man who was just released from prison over known ties to a terror group responsible for bombings in the United States.
De Blasio’s statement said: “The parade has always been about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, not any one participant. It is a celebration of a culture and community at the center of what makes New York City great. Unfortunately, the parade and the plight of Puerto Rico have been overshadowed by needless controversy. Oscar Lopez Rivera agreeing to step aside from any formal role in the parade is a critical step forward in refocusing our city’s attention on the more important issues facing Puerto Rico.
I suppose this might go at least some ways toward defusing the situation and could possibly get both the parade organizers and de Blasio off the hook. But at the same time it’s not coming across as a total rejection of the FALN leader. In fact, he’s still going to be there. The parade organizers released a statement shortly after the Mayor spoke, saying the following: (Emphasis added)
“We are looking forward to marching with Oscar Lopez Rivera and respect his decision to walk up Fifth Avenue, ‘not as an honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather.’ Now we can focus again on important issues and the plight of Puerto Rico.”
So they’re not going to give him a medal or a title, but he’ll still be invited to march and some of the event’s leaders plan to march with the humble grandfather up Fifth Avenue. Is that going to be enough to smooth all the ruffled feathers and possibly even bring back some of the sponsors? On the second question, that seems doubtful. None of the sponsors eliminated their donations entirely. They simply redirected them from the parade itself to other scholarship funds for Puerto Rican students. Yanking the money back from those endeavors at this point would likely be more problematic than the original dispute, and they’re still doing something significant in the general theme of the day.
But as to the other question, while not everyone will be happy this will likely be taken as a moral victory for those who revile FALN and Rivera. It will probably allow the mayor and all the rest who have been under the spotlight to march without looking like they’re paying homage to the terrorist. The one thing to watch out for will be who decides to actually walk in close proximity to Rivera (I’m guessing that will be some of the organizers) and who picks a spot in the parade as far from him as possible. (The latter group consisting of anyone who has to run for another election.)