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Oscar López Rivera Drops Out as Honoree in Puerto Rican Day Parade

First Posted: Jun 02, 2017 05:55 AM EDT

The controversy of Oscar Lopez Rivera, a former militant and Puerto Rican Nationalist, being New York City's Puerto Rican Parade honoree took so much away from the June 11 Celebration that he declined being honored.

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement saying the controversy was "needless," but López Rivera stepping down as Grand Marshall of the parade was the best decision.

"The parade has always been about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, not any one participant," says de Blasio. "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," the statement said. "Oscar López 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."

Even though López Rivera will not be the honoree, he will participate and march in the parade as a "humble Puerto Rican and grandfather," according to a statement from the parade organization.

Goya Foods, Coca-Cola, and the New York Yankees are just a few companies, media companies and organizations that marched their sponsor dollars away from the event because they did not want to be associated with what they believe is a convicted terrorist. Political leaders such as Governor Andrew Cuomo and Police Commissioner James O'Niel have also declined to participate in this year's parade.

On January 25, 1975, members of the FALN bombed Fraunces Tavern in New York City's Financial District. The explosion left four people dead and injured 43. However, even though there was no evidence linking López Rivera with the bombing that killed three police officers, he was convicted for his association with the group.

Before President Barack Obama's term finished, he pardoned López Rivera after serving 36 years for sedition, armed robbery, and conspiracy to transport explosives. The 74-year-old activist was one of the leaders of the Fuerza Armadas de Liberacion Nacional Puertorriquiña (FALN) that tried to fight for the independence of Puerto Rico. 

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