32 Days for 32 Years: Youth Lead Effort to Educate and Free Oscar López Rivera


Over 130 people jammed into Batey Urbano on Wednesday evening, May 29 to hear, see, listen, sing and pray on the 32 anniversary of the arrest and imprisonment of Oscar López Rivera, decorated Viet Nam veteran and Puerto Rican political prisoner. The commemoration, part of a series tof events that will culminate with the extraordinary Oscar contingent for the 1st United Puerto Rican Peoples Parade, Sat, June 15. See ad below. Crime Against Humanity, the acclaimed play based on the real-life experiences of the Puerto Rican political prisoners, returned to Chicago as part of the commemoration the week before for three performances, with a new local cast and over 50 new spectators.

Oscar, who was arrested May 29, 1981 at 10:30am in the Chicago suburb of Glenview, has served 32 years in 7 federal prisons, 12 of them in Control Unit prisons with the highest level security rating at that time. Over the course of his 32 years in prison, his co-defendants-who were arrested in 1980 and 1983 and served time for the same charges- Alicia and Ida Luz Rodriguez, Carmen Valentín, Dylcia Págan, Alejandrina Torres, Alberto Rodriguez, Edwin Cortes, Luis Rosa, Elizam Escobar, Haydee Beltrán, Adolfo Matos Antongiorgi, Ricardo Jiménez, and most recently, Carlos Alberto Torres have been released, 9 of them by Pres. Bill Clinton’s executive clemency in 1999 and Carlos Alberto by parole in 2010.

Michelle Morales, long-time activist and spokesperson for the Network, and Alyssa Villegas, Batey Urbano leader and Network member, co-emceed the event which began with José E. López, brother of Oscar and Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, being freed and escorted to the front, where he was accompanied by other project participants.

The audience was then treated to Batey leader and Latino Alliance activist Matt McCanna’s compilation video of the 32 prisoners which had taken part in the “32 Days for 32 Years” project. and was followed by a short video of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin being interviewed by NY Assemblyman Jose Rivera.

A scene from Crime against Humanity was also performed by José “Pinky” Perez. Several of the prisoners also reflected on their “prison” experiences, including youth from El Rescate, community residents, immigration reform leader Emma Lozano and Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School Dean of Students Judy Diaz.

A extraordinary recognition was given to the compañeros who had been part of the campaign and struggle for more than fifteen years and fittingly enough, a standing ovation was reserved for Josefina “Fifo” Rodriguez, mother of Alicia and Ida Luz Rodriguez.

Mayor Carmen Yulin and the City of San Juan had also sponsored an exhibition of Oscar’s art, which opened Memorial Day and can be seen here.

Carmen Yulin Cruz Alcaldesa de San Juan por la libertad de Oscar Lopez Rivera video por Jose Rivera

Carmen Yulin Cruz Alcaldesa de San Juan por la libertad de Oscar Lopez Rivera video por Jose Rivera

Mercedes Lopez, Oscar’s sister, in cell in Mayaguez

The event in Chicago was complimented by a stunning show of broad support and solidarity by civil society in Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Diaspora, events have taken place commemorating Oscar’s unjust imprisonment in:

* San Juan         * Caguas        * Mayaguez
* Ponce             * Arecibo        * Aibonito
In a spectacular display of strength and solidarity, 10 mayors from different cities in Puerto Rico went to jail for Oscar, and a resolution calling for his freedom was passed by the Puerto Rican Senate and separately, by the town of Aibonito.

An Editorial appeared in El Nuevo Día, articles appeared in El Vocero,Primera Hora and El Nuevo Dia. In New York, two articles also appeared in El Diario-La Prensa (free registration required). Music superstar Rene Perez Joglar from Calle 13 tweeted that he was “going to prison for Oscar” as soon as he got off a flight from Argentina to Puerto Rico, where Oscar’s daughter, Clarisa also spent an hour. View video here. As well, Ricky Martin, also sent a press release, from Australia, calling on Pres. Obama to release Oscar.

Rene Perez Joglar in “prison” with his family, for Oscar

There was intense activity on Facebook and Twitter by the different organizing committees involved. You can see dozens of pictures here. Resolutions in support of Oscar’s freedom was also

In New York the NYC Coordinadora to Free Oscar López Rivera held a vigil at the mural of Oscar and Norberto and Avelino Claudio Gonzalez in El Barrio, which was well-attended.