Palestinians and supporters of Palestine marched in New York City on Sunday, 11 June as part of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, celebrating the release of long-time Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera from U.S. jails and supporting the Puerto Rican people’s struggle.
A number of Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists were invited to join the National Boricua Human Rights Network contingent surrounding López Rivera’s float. The invitation came through Chicago Boricua organizers, where Palestinian organizers, including long-time community leader and former Palestinian prisoner Rasmea Odeh, were actively involved in welcoming López Rivera upon his release.
Palestine organizers in New York have a long history of working together with Puerto Rican organizers; in the early 2000s, Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, marched jointly in the parade with the Vieques Support Coalition. “This year we had the honor of marching again at the invitation of the Boricua Human Rights Network in Chicago and Oscar López Rivera – their invitation was a strong show of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle,” said Suzanne Adely of the US Palestinian Community Network.
On 11 June, activists from a number of organizations, including the US Palestinian Community Network, NYC Students for Justice in Palestine, Al-Awda NY, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Palestinian Youth Movement and Existence is Resistance joined the contingent or other participation points in the Puerto Rican Day parade, supporting the Puerto Rican struggle and expressing their warm welcome to López Rivera. Joe Catron of Samidoun participated in the contingent, which carried Palestinian and Puerto Rican flags and chanted for liberation from colonialism from Puerto Rico to Palestine.
Former U.S. political prisoners like Laura Whitehorn and Susan Rosenberg also joined in the march along with Johanna Fernandez, history professor and coordinator of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and activists Dequi Kioni-Sadiki and Susie Day in support of López Rivera and the Puerto Rican people.
Participants and organizers with Existence is Resistance and other organizations carried banners and signs highlighting the struggle for freedom for all political prisoners, from the U.S. to Palestine.
The parade had come under sharp attack by politicians and corporate sponsors due to its highlighting of López Rivera, the Puerto Rican revolutionary and independence struggler whose sentence was commuted by President Obama shortly before leaving office. Given the attacks on the parade and López Rivera’s participation, the parade took on a strong anti-colonial tone.
Writing in Mondoweiss, Amith Gupta highlighted the hypocrisy and colonial tone of these politicians’ condemnations, noting “the demonization of Oscar Lopez Rivera on the one hand, and the mirroring, unbridled whitewash of Zionism on the other, tell the story of the limits of liberalism in New York. While Cuomo felt comfortable lecturing the Puerto Ricans among his constituents when they chose to celebrate someone widely viewed as a hero, he had no qualms celebrating the unbridled state violence and regime of apartheid that Israel has carried out against the Palestinian people in violation of even the lowest standards of international humanitarian law.”
Many participants in the parade also drew attention to the current austerity regime being imposed on the Puerto Rican people, vowing that “Puerto Rico is not for sale!” and vowing to resist colonial agendas of austerity.
Participants in the Palestine contingent shared their photos and videos of the occasion:
Samidoun reiterates our deepest admiration for the sacrifice and struggle of Oscar López Rivera and the Puerto Rican people over decades behind bars and centuries of colonialism. Oscar López Rivera continued to struggle without ever conceding on his principles and clarity of vision. He is an international figure and symbol of anti-colonial struggle, and a living leader and example for strugglers for justice. On this occasion, we also urge the immediate release of all political prisoners in U.S. prisons, including the prisoners of the Black Liberation movement, Puerto Rican prisoner Ana Belen Montes, Native and Indigenous movements, and Palestinian strugglers like the Holy Land Five. We express our full solidarity with the continuing struggle of the Puerto Rican people for justice and liberation and against colonialism and its imposed austerity. From Puerto Rico to Palestine, the people are struggling to defeat colonialism and free all political prisoners!