Lolita Lebrón

Being ArrestedPuerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebrón passed away last month at age ninety in San Juan. She was a Puerto Rican Nationalist best known for her participation in an attack on the U.S. Capitol on March 1, 1954.

Born on November 19, 1919 in Lares, Puerto Rico, Lebrón became a liberal political activist at age eighteen after a group of Puerto Rican nationalists were killed during peaceful protest.  Following this 1937 event, which is now known as the Ponce massacre, Lebrón began protesting unfair discrimination at some of her workplaces and became active in the Puerto Rican Liberation Movement.  She became an official member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party in 1946 and used her persuasiveness and leadership abilities to influence the party’s socialist and feminist ideals. Lebrón held several high positions in the Nationalist Party, including Secretary, Vice President, and Executive Delegate.  In 1950, after two Puerto Rican nationalists attacked Harry Truman’s residence, Lebrón participated in several protests against the United States’ treatment of Puerto Rico.

Lebrón’s most famous protest occurred on March 1, 1954 at the U.S. Capitol building.  That morning, Lebrón, along with three other Puerto Rican nationalists, marched to the Capitol, fired 29 bullets, and shot five congressmen.  One congressman, Representative James Van Zandt from Pennsylvania, wrestled the protestors’ guns away from them.  The assailants were arrested and taken into custody.

Lebrón, who compared the March 1 protest to the American colonies’ revolt against the British during the Revolution War, expected to die that day fighting for her country.  Dressed in a skirt and jacket, waving a Puerto Rican flag, and screaming “Viva Puerto Rico libre!” Lebrón  survived her protest and served 25 years in prison.

After being released from prison in 1979, Lebrón visited cities in the U.S. that were home to concentrated populations of Puerto Ricans and continued to live in Puerto Rico protesting the United States’ involvement in her country’s affairs. Lebrón was arrested again at age 81 after protesting against the U.S. Military’s use of a Caribbean island as a bombing range and served an additional two months in prison.

Finally in 2005, Lebrón took a pledge of nonviolence, but continued to speak out for her country until her recent death this August.

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