Symbionese Liberation Army, Part One
The Symbionese Liberation Army is the ultimate in horseshoe theory gone wrong. The anti-racism, radical left-wing terrorist organization wanted peace, love and harmony among all genders, races, ethnicities, sexuality, etc., and wished to achieve their goal through pipe-bombs, kidnap and murder. Don't get any ideas, Tumblr.
In November 1973, Superintendent Marcus Foster (the first black superintendent in the city) of the Oakland School Administration was shot and killed. Deputy Superintendent Robert Blackburn was seriously wounded. The attackers used bullets whose core had been removed and replaced with cyanide crystals. Letters and calls were made to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Alameda County Coroner's Office, and a Berkeley radio station by the Symbionese Liberation Army, Western Regional Unit. They claimed responsibility for the slaying of Marcus Foster, asserting he imposed “a political police force,” a “forced youth identification program,” and an “internal warfare computer identification system” in Oakland. The letters depicted a seven-headed serpent and warned that the Oakland police chief would be next.
It wasn't until January 10, 1974 that Oakland Police found their first clues. Two men arrested during a gunfight with police in Concord had a truck full of Symbionese Liberation Army literature. Later that day in Concord, a house torched by arson was also full of SLA literature, a stockpile of weapons and two pipe-bombs. The police found a letter titled “The August Seventh Movement,” a group that claimed responsibility for shooting down two Oakland officers in a helicopter by sniper as well as a communique targeting state prison officials and their wives with death by cyanide. In addition to the two arrested men (one of which was charged with Foster's murder), the police were on the lookout for two other known individuals, one being the arsonist, a topless blackjack dealer who had visited several “revolutionary” inmates over the last year.
The arsonist, Nancy Ling Perry, 26, wrote a letter to a San Francisco newspaper on January 18, 1974. She admitted to the fire and said it was not the headquarters, as police suspected, but the intelligence division. She said she is known as Fahizah, “one who is victorious.” The letter says, “The government is now in the rapid and steady process of removing the means of survival from the lower class and giving these benefits to to the middle class in an effort to rally support for them” and the lower class must “take back what rightfully belongs to it.” In conclusion, “Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of people.” This was the conclusion to the Foster letters as well. Healthy.
By now, the police have a list of 25 named members of the Symbionese Liberation Army which included many Vietnam vets and women. They also believed the Vietnam Vets Against The War were associated. They had found dossiers of several prominent Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland businessmen and leaders with plans to kidnap and hold them for ransom to fund the SLA's “war against the establishment.”
On January 28th, five random people were shot in a two-hour timeframe in San Francisco. Four died and one was gravely wounded. A few days later, station KGO-TV received a warning made of cut-and-paste letters from the SLA demanding the release of their two comrades in San Quentin. It warned, “Five persons shot in San Francisco. Any day now more shooting and killing.” The Bay Area was on high alert and warned residents to not go out after dark. The letter was a college student hoax.
Media heiress Patricia Hearst was grabbed on February 4, 1974 by three SLA members. Daughter of wealthy newspaper executive Randolph Hearst, Patty, 19, was kidnapped at gunpoint from her Berkeley apartment. Her fiance and neighbor were brutally beaten trying to save her as she was taken kicking and screaming to a 1963 Chevy Impala. Three days later, a letter mailed to a Berkeley radio station from the SLA said Hearst was in “protective custody” as a “prisoner of war.” They advised, “Should any attempt be made by authorities to rescue the prisoner, or to arrest or harm any SLA elements, the prisoner is to be executed.” The Hearst family, of course, plead for her unharmed release. A father of one imprisoned SLA member wished to be exchanged as prisoner instead of the innocent child. The leader of the Black Panthers publicly denounced the SLA movement as terrorism and “enemies of the people,” while the Maoists said the SLA would “alienate the masses.” Even Jane Fonda chimed in that the “New Left does not kidnap.” Sadly, Ja Rule was not around to comment.
A follow-up communique demanded that Safeway and Mayfair Markets distribute free food to the poor as ransom for Patty Hearst. Journalists reached out to get the “poor's reactions” to the demands and many said they would not take it. One man said the demands only made him “hate counterrevolutionary movements,” while another person, Abbie Lakeman, 27, said, “I think free food is a right on concept and I wish all rich people could be kidnapped into sharing their wealth.” Sadly, Miss Lakeman is not unique.
Ten days later, the FBI identified one of the three Hearst kidnappers: Donald DeFreeze, a convict who escaped Soledad State Prison the year before. It is also alleged much, much later that Patty Hearst visited Donald DeFreeze in prison before his escape. DeFreeze, eventually revealed as the leader of the SLA, has a rap sheet that includes firebombing, theft, assault, robbery, and bad checks. In his correspondence with the media, DeFreeze signed as “General Field Marshall Cinque.” Cinque was the name of the leader of a slave rebellion on the ship Amistad in 1839. DeFreeze also says that his seven-headed cobra logo is based on the seven tenets of Kwanzaa.
At this point, Randolph Hearst is willing to kick down $2 million of the $400 million the SLA demanded for the poor people free food party. Chaotic violence breaks out at the several distribution centers in the Bay Area. The SLA decides this good faith gesture isn't good enough and sends a “distressed” recording of the kidnapped Patty Hearst reciting demands for an additional $4 million. From the end of February thru March, food continued to be distributed at various locations in California. On March 7th, an unrelated feminist group, the Women's Brigade of Weather Underground, said they were inspired by the SLA and bombed the San Francisco federal building. That terrorist group had some backwards feminist beliefs and required its female members to sleep with all of the male members and hand over their babies to lowest ranking members. I don't even know what kind of feminism that is, but it's definitely its own article of insanity.
Possibly brainwashed Patty Hearst records three different copies of a 25-minute speech criticizing her family's efforts to win her back, felt she had been “written off,” and that they were indifferent to the poor. To put it in perspective, her father was worth $1.8 billion when he died in 2000. She was probably pretty upset that she been locked in a closet for over a month and her dad was only offering $2 million. Patty's fiance publicly admitted there were family arguments about meeting the ransom demands.
On April 2nd, a new letter concealed in one dozen roses to an underground news outlet promised Patty Hearst's release date and location would be coming within 72 hours. The next day, a tape recording sent to a radio station has Patty stating that she has not been brainwashed, drugged or tortured and would like to remain with the SLA, going by the name Tania, one of Che Guevara's rebel associates. Attached was a photo of Patty in front of SLA insignia holding an automatic rifle.
Hibernia Bank was robbed on April 15th by four SLA members, one of which was good ol' Patty Hearst and her automatic. They were in and out in two minutes with a whopping $10,690, meeting four more members waiting outside. At one point, they panicked, shot and wounded two bystanders.
A month goes by without hearing from the SLA. The FBI is baffled but they do find a warehouse full of shotgun shells and bomb making equipment. On May 16th, the SLA shows up at Mel's Sporting Goods in Inglewood for supplies. One is caught shoplifting socks by the store owner who shoots at them as they run, and they shoot back with machine guns. Patty Hearst was waiting outside as a getaway driver. Knowing that Inglewood was getting too hot, Patty and the couple drove down to a motel by Disneyland, a good move on their part.
Stay tuned for Part Two, because this is where it gets good. Or, bad. I mean, mixed feelings all around. It's just terrible.