1954 Gunfire in the Capital

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico

(3/1/54) On March 1, three men and a women, all Puerto Rican nationalists, fired gunshots from the gallery of the House of Representatives, wounding five Congressmen.

The United States gained Puerto Rico from Spain as a result of the Spanish American War. The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was founded in 1922, the party demanded that Puerto Rico become independent. Others on the island favored a form of autonomy under American control. The island had its own legislature that by the 1940’s were controlled by People’s Democratic Party. The PDP supported an act by Congress which established autonomy while the United States maintained responsibility for defense and foreign affairs..

The nationalist opposed the new arrangement and demanded independence. They ordered armed uprising in Puerto Rico starting in October 30,1950. Fighting broke out in a number of cities. Local forces with American support put down the revolt. 28 died and 49 wounded were wounded during the fighting. They also attempted to assassinate President Truman on November 1, 1950 when two Puerto Ricans attempted to gain access to Blair House, one was killed the other captured and sentenced to prison.

In 1952 a plebiscite was held in Puerto Rico where resident where offered a choice of continued rule as a colony or autonomy as a Free Associated State or Commonwealth. Puertoricans voted overwhelmingly for the Commonwealth (82%) but the nationalist boycotted the vote claiming it did not provide for full independence.

A decision was taken in 1954 to attack the Capital in Washington in with the hope that it would give the movement publicity. Four Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores and Andrés Figueroa Cordero arrived on the capital on March 1, 1954 and entered the gallery of the House of Representatives. They opened fire with automatic weapons on the Congressmen below. Five Representatives were wounded. They were Alvin M. Bentley, Clifford Davis, Ben F. Jensen, George Hyde Fallon, and Kenneth A. Roberts. All recovered. The perpetrators were all sentenced to 80 years in prison. They were all pardoned by President Carter in 1979.