One Police Plaza

Melissa's “Hero”

July 3, 2017

Here’s a final footnote to the Oscar López Rivera story that places in context City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s claim that López Rivera was never linked to any specific act of FALN violence.

The information comes from a sentencing memorandum from the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, Raymond Dearie, for five of Rivera’s confrères who a jury found guilty of criminal contempt.

Evidence also comes from Alfredo Mendez, a former FALN member, recruited by López Rivera’s brother José. After his arrest in an FALN armed robbery in Evanston, Illinois, Mendez became a government witness and testified against López Rivera at his trial in 1981 in Illinois.

Between 1974 and 1983, the FALN was responsible for 146 bombings, incendiary attacks, and armed robberies nationwide. The group coordinated attacks in Chicago and New York. In Chicago they set off bombs in the downtown Loop, including the Merchandise Mart. In New York they set off bombs at the Hilton Hotel, Gimbels department store and the Mobil Oil building.  

The group had links to other violent groups, such as the Black Liberation Army and the Weather Underground, whose members were responsible for the 1981 Brinks armed robbery in Nanuet, N.Y. that caused the deaths of a Brinks guard and two police officers.

 On Dec 11, 1974, they ambushed rookie NYPD cop Angel Poggi with a booby-trapped bomb in an East Harlem building that caused Poggi the loss of his right eye.

On Jan 24, 1975, they set off a bomb during lunch hour at Fraunces Tavern, killing four and injuring 60.

On New Year’s Eve 1983, they set off bombs inside Police Plaza, leaving three officers with lifelong injuries.

López Rivera was central to FALN operations both in New York and Chicago. He was involved in bombings and incendiary attacks. He was a trainer in bombing and sabotage. He set up a series of safe-houses and bomb factories across the country. Searches uncovered literally hundreds of pounds of dynamite and other forms of high explosives, blasting caps, timing devices, caches of weapons and stockpiles of ammunition, silencers, sawed-off shotguns, disguises, stolen and altered identity documents, and the proceeds of the armed robberies.

Dynamite found in the walls of one of his safe-houses matched that used in the Mobil Oil bombing.

The fingerprints of Luis Rosado, who telephoned WCBS radio to alert the station to the New Year’s Eve bombing, were found in another.  

After William Morales — who accidentally blew his hands off at an Elmhurst, Queens bomb factory — escaped from prison, he turned up at a Milwaukee, Wisconsin safe house of López Rivera’s. Morales was suspected of building the Fraunces Tavern bomb.

Then a fugitive, López Rivera was arrested in 1981 in Illinois. At his trial, Mendez told how López taught him bomb-making techniques. He testified that when he arrived at a Milwaukee safe-house, he was led to a basement workshop where López taught him how to construct explosive and incendiary devices. López taught him how to alter watches that served as time delays and how to build firing circuits. López told him the circumstances of Morales’s bomb mishap: the watch on that pipe bomb had been incorrectly altered, causing a premature explosion.

López Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy for transporting guns and explosives. He was not, as Mark-Viverito has claimed, found guilty of any of the FALN’s 146 bombings.

U.S. District Judge Thomas R. McMillen sentenced him to 55 years in prison. A failed escape from Leavenworth prison led to another 15 years.

In 1995, in interviews after his conviction, López Rivera disowned any personal involvement in the bombing deaths linked to the FALN. "By international law, a colonized people has the right to fight against colonialism by any means necessary,” he said, “including the use of force."

Mayor de Blasio could easily have researched López Rivera’s record. Instead, in supporting López Rivera’s being honored as a hero in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, he chose willful blindness. When political pressure became too hot, he altered his stance and said he had privately urged parade organizers to disavow the honor.

Speaker Mark-Viverito continues to maintain that López Rivera was not involved in any specific act of violence.


Copyright © 2017 Leonard Levitt