by David Thibeault-Muñoz, New England National Boricua Human Rights Network
On April 5, the Holyoke City Council UNANIMOUSLY passed a resolution calling on President Obama to free our beloved patriot’ Oscar Lopez-Rivera. Close to 100 residents rallied at the Salsarengue Restaurant in Holyoke, Massachusetts on Tuesday, April 5th in support of the resolution, proposed by Ward 2 City Councilor Nelson Roman. After several community leaders spoke passionately about the history of Puerto Ricans in the city and regarding the many problems facing the community, organizers made a convincing case for why the City must support this resolution on behalf of Holyoke’s Latinos. Following the rally, residents marched to City Hall, where the Council would vote on the resolution, chanting “Libertad!” “Para Oscar!” and “Hey Obama Listen to Me, We Want Oscar Lopez Free!”. Of the nineteen people who signed up to speak during public comment, seventeen spoke on behalf of the resolution to free Oscar. Following public comment, the Council suspended the rules to discuss and vote on what the people came to hear, what the people came to witness. Many of the Councilors, during discussion, brought up their experience with Jose Lopez’s recent visit to the city and two of the cities Irish councilors raised connections between the Irish immigrant experience and Irish struggle for independence to the experience of Puerto Rican migrants and the Puerto Rican independence struggle. After several weeks of opposition from a handful of vocal councilors, about how the City Council shouldn’t vote on “matters not pertaining directly to the city” and on negative comments about Oscar that aren’t worth repeating, the Council voted unanimously – 13-0 to support the resolution. The people have spoken. The people have been heard. Congratulations to Councilor Roman and the Puerto Rican/Latino residents of Holyoke, and to all who supported the resolution. Libertad Pa’ Oscar!