Rasmea Odeh welcomes Oscar Lopez Rivera, 18 May, Chicago. Photo: Christine Geovanis

Reprinted from the Rasmea Defense Committee. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes Rasmea Odeh on her 70th birthday of a lifetime of constant commitment to struggle for justice and liberation and love for the Palestinian people and all peoples working to be free from oppression: 

Today, May 22nd, is Rasmea’s 70th birthday, and she’s been pretty busy the past few weeks.  The Hana Center honored her on May 5th, she spoke at Northwestern University on May 15th, and she gave a powerful welcoming statement at the emotional return of former Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez to Paseo Boricua in Chicago on May 18th.  (Watch Rasmea’s speech at the 1 hour, 45 minute mark here, and read the full text below.)

On this milestone birthday, the Rasmea Defense Committee is asking for your support to help close out some legal and other expenses.  You all made an incredible commitment to Rasmea and her historic defense campaign, but we are still in need of additional donations.  Please give what you can here, and be on the lookout for an announcement of Rasmea’s farewell event coming soon!  Thank you!

Rasmea Defense Committee – May 22nd, 2017

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Rasmea’s address at the Oscar Lopez homecoming in Chicago

In my organizing career, I have spoken in front of the Palestine National Council, the Palestinian legislative body in exile, and in front of a United Nations special committee in Geneva, but I am as proud to be in front of this audience tonight as I have ever been in my entire life.

Oscar, I was released after 10 years as a political prisoner in Palestine two years before you started your sentence, and I know your story very well, because your life is an example to me and to all of us. You have taught us what it means to be principled and committed to your people and all oppressed peoples of the world.  We thank you for your sacrifice and your strength, and the way you motivate us to fight for our rights and our liberation like you always have.

The Puerto Ricans in this city have always been close to our community. We have faced similar grand jury repression and attacks on our activism. We’ve marched together in dozens of protests for immigrant rights, Palestinian independence, Puerto Rican independence, and other social justice issues. We organized together at UIC in the radical student days, and no other community mobilized like yours when the government came after the Palestine support movement and the Anti-War 23 in Chicago in 2010.

And now we get to celebrate together—with the National Boricua Human Rights Network and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and all of you—the freedom of your leader Oscar Lopez.  But he is not just your leader. He is our leader too.

Oscar, over six thousand Palestinians are political prisoners in Israeli jails because they fight for what you fight for, self-determination and an end to colonialism and full and complete independence. One thousand eight hundred of them are currently on an open ended hunger strike in its 31stday, and they are in need of your voice of support, because they are inspired by your freedom and your refusal to accept anything less than all of your people’s demands.

I have faced my own criminalization by the U.S. government, and will have to leave my home here in a few months. Wherever I land, I will continue my fight for Palestinian independence, and I will continue to support the independence of Puerto Rico. And I pray that we both live long enough to see our two nations free from the evils of colonialism and U.S. imperialism.  Welcome home, Oscar!