Oscar Lopez Rivera
~ Corine Fairbanks

“There were resolutions of the United Nations

pointing out very, very clearly that colonialism

was a crime against humanity and that colonized

people have the right to self-determination and to

independence and to achieve it by any means

necessary — including the use of force.”
~ Oscar Lopez Rivera, phone interview from prison
           October 2016; National Public Radio

The Grand Governing Council of the national office of the American Indian Movement publicly endorses, and with deep respect, stands in solidarity with Oscar Lopez Rivera, who, even as a decorated Vietnam veteran, had been imprisoned by the United States for 36 years for his struggle to free Puerto Rico from U.S. colonial rule.

Like Leonard Peltier, a political prisoner still incarcerated by the United States, Oscar Lopez has survived 32 years of adversity in prison as a political prisoner. The arrogance, narrow and intellectually small minds reflected by United States of America in imprisoning Lopez, and subjecting him to isolation, torture, and humiliation, thereby presuming would end the movement that he helped create and sever the ties with that of other movements. Instead, these movements were made stronger by the joint struggles for recognition and respect for First Nation Peoples of this land.  

In the 1950’s, and especially the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, J. Edgar Hoover's counterintelligence program started surveilling common people that were tired of how our people, communities, and families were being treated.  The common, everyday people started banding together and demanding to be seen and heard.  Voices were raised because we were tired of the police brutality, the unsolved murders that were not being investigated, tired of all the racism and segregation. The anger to all of this was justifiable and the need to organize to protect our communities was a matter of life and death. Our various “movements” were created to empower and protect our people, by demanding change. We also started questioning and identifying colonial oppression; this was no longer acceptable. Our people wanted to live free and with dignity on our ancestral lands - away from colonial rule and with complete sovereignty. 

Our respective leaders came to be called, “political dissidents”, “terrorists”, “agitators”, “criminals”, and “vagrants”.  Branded with these labels, were: the American Indian Movement; Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña (FALN); Black Panther Party; the Chicano Movement; The Young Lords, Students for a Democratic Society, anti- war activists, environmentalists, and others challenging state and federal systems and institutions.  

We became powerful.  We organized, with our communities, and with our leaders networked with each other.  We made change and were recognized internationally for our efforts and became more powerful.  Hoover's counterintelligence program was then employed to shut our changes down.  The methods they used were to covertly assassinate or the imprison.

Not surprisingly, America does not like to admit to having political prisoners, but political activists from the 1960s and ‘70s continue to be caged in America’s prisons.  2015 statistics reveal that the United States of America holds over 25% of the world’s incarcerated, despite comprising just 5% of the planet’s population. The United States does not like it when people question this. Its concern is to keep a clean public international face when in reality, it refuses to be held accountable for its bloody dark past, and for its current efforts to hide what it is doing to keep our political prisoners imprisoned and rotting away.  

The heroic resistance that both Oscar Lopez Rivera and Leonard Peltier have maintained in prison, is a story of resiliency and human perseverance. Both Lopez Rivera and Peltier show that the human spirit can endure, survive and prevail when our oppressors attempt to annihilate our leadership and our movements towards self-determination, and liberation. With their story we find uncommon valor, sacrifice, and tenacity to endure unimaginable obstacles and tribulations.  Yes, this is what the human spirit can do, yet few people have the integrity to persevere. 

Oscar Lopez Rivera continues to be a freedom fighter and a leader even since his release from prison in January 2017.  It is for all of these reasons that we endorse him, proudly stand with him and our relatives, the Puerta Rican people, and all political prisoners.  


Corine Fairbanks 2018