New York City Council Header
File #: Res 0740-2015    Version: * Name: Calling on President Obama to grant clemency to Oscar López Rivera.
Type: Resolution Status: Adopted
Committee: Committee on State and Federal Legislation
On agenda: 6/10/2015
Enactment date: Law number:
Title: Resolution calling on President Obama to grant clemency to Oscar L?pez Rivera so that he is immediately released from prison, as his continued incarceration is unjust and serves no legitimate purpose.
Sponsors: Rosie Mendez, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ydanis A. Rodriguez, Margaret S. Chin, Ruben Wills
Council Member Sponsors: 5
Attachments: 1. Committee Report, 2. June 10, 2015 - Stated Meeting Agenda with Links to Files, 3. Hearing Testimony 6/10/15, 4. Hearing Transcript, 5. Hearing Transcript - Stated Meeting 6-10-15, 6. Minutes of the Stated Meeting - June 10, 2015
Preconsidered Res. No. 740
 
 
Resolution calling on President Obama to grant clemency to Oscar López Rivera so that he is immediately released from prison, as his continued incarceration is unjust and serves no legitimate purpose.
 
 
By Council Members Mendez, The Speaker (Council Member Mark-Viverito), Rodriguez, Chin and Wills
 
Whereas, Oscar López Rivera was born in Puerto Rico in 1943; and
Whereas, Oscar López Rivera moved with his family to Chicago as an adolescent; and
Whereas, Oscar López Rivera is a decorated Vietnam War veteran; and
Whereas, During his tour of service in Vietnam, López Rivera's unit was securing the perimeter of a town to ensure its safety during an election when  the unit unwittingly entered a mine field where many of his fellow soldiers began to sustain serious injuries; and
Whereas, Instead of running for cover, López Rivera tended to the wounded and cleared a space for helicopters to land to evacuate them; and
Whereas, On that day, López Rivera refused to leave his friends behind, and for this act of valor he was awarded the Bronze Star; and
Whereas, It is this dedication to community, friends and family that would become a hallmark of López Rivera's life;
Whereas, When López Rivera returned home from the war he found his community wracked by drugs, poverty, substandard housing and blight; and
Whereas, Once again, López Rivera refused to run and instead became an activist, fighting to improve conditions for his family, his Puerto Rican community, and the Latino community of Chicago; and
Whereas, As a community activist, López Rivera helped found La Escuelita Puertorriqueña, now known as the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School and the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center. He became a community organizer for the Northwest Community Organization, ASPIRA, ASSPA, and the 1st Congregational Church of Chicago. He helped to found FREE, a half-way house for convicted drug addicts, and ALAS, an educational program for Latino prisoners at Stateville Prison in Illinois. López Rivera also worked to establish bilingual education in public schools and pressured universities to recruit Latino students and faculty. Perhaps most significantly, López Rivera struggled to end discrimination against minority communities; and
Whereas, López Rivera also fervently believed in Puerto Rican independence, and was critical of the U.S. government's role in the governance of Puerto Rico; and
Whereas, Between 1981 and 1983 López Rivera and 13 other men and women involved in the movement for Puerto Rican independence were convicted of seditious conspiracy; and  
Whereas, In 1981, López Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in prison; and
Whereas, López Rivera has consistently maintained that he was not involved in any acts that harmed anyone or took a life; and
Whereas, López Rivera's sentence was greatly disproportionate to the offense for which he was convicted; and
Whereas, In 1988, López Rivera was convicted of conspiracy to escape prison and sentenced to an additional 15 years in prison to be served consecutively to his original sentence; and
Whereas, This sentence was also greatly disproportionate to the offense for which López Rivera was convicted; and
Whereas, In addition, López Rivera was made to serve over 12 years of this sentence in  solitary confinement, meaning he was confined to a  closet-sized cell for 23 hours a day with no human contact; and
Whereas, In 1999, President Bill Clinton, offered to commute López Rivera's sentence as well as the sentences of all but two of his co-defendants; and
Whereas, In explaining his decision to offer clemency, President Clinton noted that López Rivera was never convicted of specific crimes that resulted in deaths or injuries nor was he ever convicted of any act of violence; and
Whereas, President Clinton also noted that "our society believes that a punishment should fit the crime;" and
Whereas, President Clinton concluded that the sentences received by López Rivera and his co-defendants were "out of proportion to their crimes"; and
Whereas, Once again, López Rivera refused to leave any member of his community behind and therefore declined the President's offer of clemency; and
Whereas, Had López Rivera accepted President Clinton's clemency offer, he would have been released from prison in 2009; and      
Whereas, Oscar López Rivera has now served over 33 years in prison; and
Whereas, López Rivera has served more time in prison than Nelson Mandela; and
Whereas, Many prominent politicians and world leaders including Coretta Scott King, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, many Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and others have called for López Rivera to be released from prison; and
Whereas, The movement to release López Rivera has become a unifying force, bringing together people of widely diverse backgrounds and political and social beliefs; and
Whereas, In 2013, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said of López Rivera's continued imprisonment, "In any case or interpretation, justice cannot be served by keeping Oscar López Rivera in prison. Now is the time for his immediate and unconditional release;" and
Whereas, The United Nations Decolonization Committee has passed a resolution every year since 2001 calling for López Rivera's release; and   
Whereas, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to commute López Rivera's sentence and "grant his immediate release from prison"; and
Whereas, In 2013, Alejandro García Padilla, Governor of Puerto Rico, called on President Obama to commute López Rivera's prison sentence saying, "We see Mr. López Rivera's release as an issue that must rise above partisan affiliations and status preferences. It is an issue that touches basic issues of humanity, justice and compassion. It is an issue that relates to principles that you certainly share with us. Thirty-two years in prison for Mr. López Rivera is just enough. I ask - Mr. President - that you exercise your constitutional power of pardon to commute his sentence and grant his release;" and
Whereas, Religious leaders including Metropolitan Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Roberto González Nieves,  and Reverend Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ have called for López Rivera's release; and
Whereas, National labor organizations including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and SEIU have called for López Rivera to be released; and  
Whereas, Supporters have sent tens of thousands of letters to the President calling for López Rivera's immediate release from prison; and
Whereas, New York City is the home of the largest Puerto Rican community outside of Puerto Rico; and
Whereas, There is overwhelming support in New York City's Puerto Rican community for López Rivera's immediate release; and
Whereas, In January of this year, López Rivera celebrated his 72 nd birthday; and
Whereas, López Rivera's official release date is in 2023, when he will be 80 years old; and
Whereas, All of the other men and women sent to prison along with López Rivera have since been released and are leading productive and responsible lives; and
Whereas, López Rivera is a dedicated father, grandfather, friend, decorated war veteran and community activist; and
Whereas, Despite the length of time he has spent in prison and the over 12 years he spent in isolation, López Rivera has not lost his spirit or his profound humanity; and
Whereas, It is time for López Rivera to be set free; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Council calls upon President Obama to grant clemency to Oscar López Rivera so that he is immediately released from prison, as his continued incarceration is unjust and serves no legitimate purpose.