The rallies were sponsored by 35 Women for Oscar, which for the past three years has held an action on the last Sunday of every month.
Gathered at the bridge that leads into Old San Juan, the demonstrators donned pink T-shirts and chanted as passing cars honked in support.
Alida Millán, a coordinator of the group, urged as many as possible to go to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 9 for a “Free Oscar López” demonstration. The turnout in San Juan was larger than usual because it was part of the effort to build a delegation to join that action.
Demonstrators filled a clear “ballot box” with dozens of bright pink pens that will be taken to the White House — along with a draft executive clemency order — so President Barack Obama “will have no excuse” not to sign a presidential decree releasing López, organizers said. The independence fighter, now 73, is serving a 70-year sentence at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Among the speakers were San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a representative of a delegation from the town of Caguas in the central region of the island, and Afro-Puerto Rican singer Choco Orta, who sang a song she composed about López’s fight.
Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. president, told the crowd that as she and her supporters campaign door to door throughout the United States, they have been building the Oct. 9 demonstration and urging everyone to join the fight to free the jailed independence fighter. “Because of their own experiences with the capitalist ‘justice’ system, many workers in the U.S. can identify with Oscar and his fight for freedom,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy, SWP senatorial candidates Jacob Perasso from New York and Cindy Jaquith from Miami, along with Martín Koppel, were on a nine-day solidarity and fact-finding tour in Puerto Rico.
The support for this fight has been fueled by the growing anger among working people in this U.S. colony at the consequences of the unprecedented capitalist economic crisis — increased joblessness, spiraling food prices and cuts in social programs and pensions in the name of repaying the island’s debt to the banks and bondholders. In contrast with the discredited colonial parties that are administering these attacks, López is seen by many as an example of dignity and resistance.
The SWP delegation found there was widespread familiarity with Oscar López and support for his release. It was noticeable as they went door to door talking with workers in the San Juan neighborhoods of Villa Palmeras and Caño Martín Peña.
“Tell Obama to free Oscar López,” was one of the first things Pedro, a retired dockworker, said when Perasso met a group of three workers standing in the shade on Rexach Street. “Thirty-five years is way too long.”
In meetings with members of the electrical workers union UTIER and water workers union UIA, they learned of demonstrations they and other unionists have joined for López’s freedom.
When the visiting SWP members had a hard time finding a parking spot that was not prohibitively expensive, a young parking lot attendant asked where they were headed. They pointed to the Oscar López rally up the street. “Don’t worry,” she replied with a smile, handing them a free valet parking ticket.
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