Puerto Rican nationalist and independence activist Lolita Lebrón, died at 11:05am today, August 1, 2010. Considered by many to be “the mother of the independence movement” in the twentieth century, Lebrón was a leading figure in Puerto Rico’s struggle for independence and human rights. Lebrón spent 25 years in prison for participating in a gun attack on the U.S. Congress in 1954 and was arrested again in 2001 for participating in protests against the U.S. Navy’s use of a large part of the island of Vieques as a bombing range. Here are excerpts with a link to full articles below:
Lebrón was born November 19, 1920, in Lares, in southwestern Puerto Rico, and moved as a young adult to New York, part of a mass migration from the island to the United States during the 1940s. There she developed her nationalist views and became a follower of movement leader Pedro Albizu Campos.
In 1954, she and three other nationalists entered the U.S. Capitol with automatic pistols and opened fire from an upstairs spectators’ gallery onto the crowded floor of the House, firing nearly 30 shots. They unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and Lebrón shouted “Viva Puerto Rico libre!” No one died in the attack but five U.S. representatives were wounded, including one congressman who was shot in the chest.
Lebrón later said that she never intended to kill anyone and that all four nationalists expected to be killed in the assault. She and the others — Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andres Figueroa Cordero — received lengthy prison sentences. President Jimmy Carter granted them clemency in 1979 and they were released.
[. . .] Lebrón was arrested in 2001 at age 81 when she and five other people cut through a fence on the neighboring island of Vieques to protest the 1999 death of a civilian security guard killed by an errant bomb dropped during a U.S. Navy training exercise. The U.S. has since closed the Vieques bombing range. She was sentenced to 60 days in jail for trespassing.
In recent years, Lebrón tempered her support for violent struggle. “I think times have changed, and there is no need now to kill for freedom,” she told El Mundo newspaper in 1998. “I would not take up arms nowadays, but I acknowledge that the people have a right to use any means available to free themselves.”
[Thanks to David Labiosa for bringing this item to our attention.]
For full article in English, see http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/08/01/lolita-Lebrón-puerto-rican-nationalist-jailed-shooting-attack-congress-dies/ ; for Spanish, see http://www.primerahora.com/muerelalidernacionalistalolitaLebrón-405180.html
See short video excerpt of the 1954 event at