This is how the FBI describes the moment when Patty Hearst lost her anonymity forever:
"Around 9 o’clock in the evening on February 4, 1974, there was a knock on the door of apartment #4 at 2603 Benvenue Avenue in Berkeley, California. In burst a group of men and women with their guns drawn. They grabbed a surprised 19-year-old college student named Patty Hearst, beat up her fiancé, threw her in the trunk of their car and drove off. Thus began one of the strangest cases in FBI history."
Strange, indeed. Hearst’s kidnappers were part of a small group of self-styled revolutionaries called the Symbionese Liberation Army. The group distinguished itself with slogans like “death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people.”
But the group was no joke. In November 1973, members had ambushed and murdered Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster, the district’s first African-American school superintendent. Foster’s “crime”? The SLA branded him fascist because it mistakenly believed he had backed a plan to require ID cards for all Oakland high school students.
Three days after the kidnapping, the SLA announced that they were keeping Hearst as a “prisoner of war.” They imprisoned her in a small studio apartment at 1827 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco.
The Hearst kidnapping transfixed the nation as it took one strange, scarcely believable turn after another. Shortly after Hearst’s disappearance, the SLA demanded that the Hearst family undertake a massive food distribution program throughout California as a condition for the release of the kidnapped heiress. The Hearst family agreed with the demand and put together an effort that by 22 February made its first food distribution within San Francisco.
It was a disorganized disaster. Scores of people were injured as panicked workers threw boxes of food off moving trucks as huge crowds of people unexpectedly showed up for the food. The SLA issued a "Communique" the next day demanding that a community coalition is put in charge of the effort.
Patty Hearst issued a series of tape-recorded verbal messages over a period of a few weeks. Among other things, she criticized her family’s poor response to the food distribution demand, and eventually declared she had joined the revolution and that “I would never choose to live the rest of my life surrounded by pigs like the Hearsts.”
|THEN This photo of the Hibernia Bank was taken in 1976. The bank was located on Noriega Street at Twenty-second Avenue. (Image courtesy of Western Neighborhoods Project.) Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.|
|In this picture from left to right are Nancy Ling Perry, Donald DeFreeze, and Patty Hearst. They are running out of the bank and are jumping over one of the two people they shot during the robbery. Both people survived their gunshot wounds.|
|2603 Benvenue Avenue, Berkeley|
|19 April 1974|
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