24 June 2017

The Symbionese Liberation Army: June 2017

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 fiancĂ©, 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.” 

  The first time Patty Hearst was seen by the public after being kidnapped was 15 April 1974, when she was visible on bank surveillance cameras. She was armed with an M-1 carbine rifle, holding up the Sunset branch of the Hibernia Bank along with several members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The robbers shot two people in the bank and stole more than $10,000.
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.

It was early February 1974, and it was dark outside as three people arrived at 2603 Benvenue Avenue in Berkeley. 2603 Benvenue Avenue was a 4-unit apartment building built-in 1967. To build the structure, the owner of the property had to demolish the old single-family house that formerly occupied the site. The City of Berkeley approved the request to demolish, and two separate buildings were constructed on the site. The front building, shown above, contains two apartments: #1 and #2. Behind the front building is a second building which also includes two apartments: #3 and #4
Patty Hearst was a 19-year-old heiress to the Hearst family fortune. She and her boyfriend, Steven Weed, were Cal students and they rented the 2 bedrooms, one bath,1,024 sq ft apartment #4 at 2603 Benvenue Avenue because it was within 4 blocks of the Cal campus. On that February evening, three men walked up the walkway to the rear building; they knocked on the sliding glass door of apartment #4. The door was opened, and Patty Hearst was kidnapped by 3 members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The ransom demand was 70 million dollars.

2603 Benvenue Avenue, Berkeley

19 April 1974
"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera." Dorothea Lange 

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"The important thing is not the camera but the eye." Alfred Eisenstaedt

The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view these photo galleries.

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