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Freed Puerto Rican Nationalist Hailed As Hero In Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) --  Four months after President Obama commuted his 55-year prison sentence for conspiracy, and one day after being released from federal custody, Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera returned to Chicago.

For the first time in 35 years, he walked on Division Street, where he was once an organizer for the Northwest Community Organization. He walked past the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, which he helped to found.

The school's present-day students formed an honor guard at La Casita de Don Pedro, 2625 W. Division St., many of whom snapped photos as he passed.

Lopez Rivera said in Spanish that it was good to see Chicago after so many years and said he has a warm spot in his heart for the city.

But his cause remains the same – "Puerto Rico libre" – a free Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans have voted several times against independence from the U.S. in ballot referenda. Puerto Ricans pay no income tax but are subject to Social Security and Medicare withholding.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (25th) called Lopez Rivera a hero and said at the honorary street designation ceremony, "This is your park."

There was one dissenter in the crowd, Mark  Heller, a 60ish retiree, who said the evidence of terrorist acts against Lopez Rivera is "unquestionable." He added the street designation is "an insult to Chicagoans."

Heller got into a brief scuffle with others on hand who ripped up his sign, which read, "Terrorist OLR – not a hero."




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