The commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence is getting all the attention today but President Obama also commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera, a former Chicago community organizer turned FALN terrorist who was convicted of “seditious conspiracy” in 1981. López Rivera is considered a political prisoner by many on the left but a domestic terrorist by many on the right. Mother Jones described his background in a 2014 plea for his release:
In 1981, López was charged with armed robbery, possession of an unregistered firearm, and interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, allegedly as part of a larger plot to challenge the United States’ role in Puerto Rico by force. The court determined that he was connected to the FALN. At his trial, one man testified that López taught him bomb-making skills.
In all, the FALN claimed responsibility for more than 120 bombings across the US between 1974 and 1983, leading to the death of six and the injury of dozens. But the basis for López’s conviction was specifically the more than two-dozen bombings claimed by the organization in the Chicago area, none of which resulted in injuries. A 1980 Chicago Tribune editorial observed that the bombs were “placed and timed as to damage property rather than persons” and that the FALN was “out to call attention to their cause rather than to shed blood.”