Updated 2:59 P.M. CT
CHICAGO (AP) — Supporters of a Puerto Rican nationalist freed from house arrest this week after decades in U.S. prisons planned Thursday to welcome him back to his former hometown of Chicago, where a procession was planned and a street sign bearing his name would be unveiled.
Those whose relatives died in bombings carried out by the Marxist-Leninist group that Oscar Lopez Rivera helped lead have derided attempts to cast the 74-year-old as a hero and criticized celebrations of his release scheduled for several U.S. cities in coming weeks.
Lopez, who moved from Puerto Rico to Chicago as a child, belonged to the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN. It claimed more than 100 bombings in U.S. cities in the 1970s and ’80s, including multiple attacks at banks and corporate offices in Chicago.
Among the events scheduled for Thursday was the official dedication of “Oscar Lopez Rivera Way” and a procession in Humboldt Park, a West Side Chicago neighborhood. Puerto Rican flags fashioned from metal and arched over a thoroughfare indicate the origins of many of its residents.
At the urging of several congressmen, including Chicago Democrat Luis Gutierrez, then-President Barack Obama commuted Lopez’ sentence in January.
FALN’s most notorious attack was a 1975 bombing that killed four people and wounded 60 at Fraunces Tavern, a landmark restaurant in New York’s financial district.
Before Chicago’s City Council voted this year to bestow the street-naming honor on Lopez, the son of one of those killed in New York said in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed that the proposal was “horrific.”
“A city under daily siege by violence, mayhem, fear and murder, may vote to honor a terrorist who trafficked in violence, mayhem, fear and murder,” wrote Joe Connor, whose father was Frank Connor.
But many backers saw Lopez as a political prisoner and note he wasn’t convicted of bombings. His 1981 convictions and 55-year sentence were for seditious conspiracy, armed robbery and other charges.
“He fought for a political ideal but he never committed a violent act,” Chicago Alderman Roberto Maldonado said in a Wednesday statement.