Re: [sixties-l] Mercy for a Terrorist? [SLA]

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: 10/10/00

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    Ron Jacobs' post to DH accurately describes both the atmosphere at the
    time that drew white activists into ranks of groups such as the SLA and
    the response to the SLA from those in a position to evaluate and then
    reject its claims to legitimacy as a "revolutionary" organization.
    First, from certain available pieces of public evidence, there were
    genuine questions as to whether or not this was a government-instigated
    operation designed to both discredit and to split the left, beginning
    with the targeting for execution, as its first public action, the black
    superintendent of Oakland public schools, Marcus Foster, on the basis
    that he wanted the district's students to carry ID cards, something that
    students then or now, seem to have no problem with.  This murder clearly
    appeared to be a way of assuring a separation of the black community
    from that of progressive elements in the overall progressive movement.
    Donald DeFreeze's call for a meeting of all the get-down revolutionary
    organizations raised further questions, but the release of DeFreeze's
    rap sheet quickly answered them for those who had some knowledge of the
    criminal injustice system. DeFreeze had been arrested by the LAPD a
    number of times, once for carrying a bomb, and had been released on
    with no jail time on virtually every occasion.  This was the record of a
    police agent.  Indeed, in a small article in the LA Times, some months
    later, the LAPD admitted that DeFreeze had, indeed, been an informant in
    their pay, but was no longer.
    At Vacaville, before he "escaped," DeFreeze had run unsuccessfully for
    the chair of a black prisoners' organization, and, as I recall, was
    allowed to start his own, and had his work detail moved to a spot where
    he could easily make his "escape." (I use that word in quotes because I
    believe he was allowed to escape to do exactly what he did)
    Two other things also convinced me, before the fiery shootout in LA,
    that this was a government operation.
    One, when the SLA members went to the shooting range in the East Bay
    Hills, they wrote down their real names.  Thye may have been the only
    ones to do so.  At that time a lot of folks who thought heavy times were
    at hand went up to that range, and most of the names on the sign in
    sheet (no ID was requested) seemed to belong to the Smith, Johnson, or
    Jones' families. Someone, logically DeFreeze, apparently told them to do
    Then, on KQED TV, a reporter who was focussing on the case interviewed a
    young black man who had provided the guns to the SLA.  He also admitted
    to being a police agent.  Now, I had seen this young man once before, at
    a meeting at a house in Oakland to plan for a trip and a speaking
    engagement in the Bay Area of Kathleen Cleaver, who was then living in
    Algeria. Many of the folks who were both black and white,didn't know
    each other, but we all agreed on one thing.  This guy was a pig. First,
    the way he moved around the house, checking it out, and then when he
    eagerly volunteered to be in charge of Kathleen's security. When the
    rest of us had a meeting afterward, noone questioned that conclusion,
    and he was excluded from our plans which became academic because Cleaver
    never made the trip. That he subsequently became the gun-supplier for th
    SLA convinced me and others that this was a government job.
    Furthermore, DeFreeze's decision to move back to the virtually all-black
    Area of Watts, where he had worked as a police agent, with his white
    followers who would obviously be conspicuous, cemented that conclusion
    as was the necessity for the LAPD not only to kill everyone in the
    house, but to burn their bodies at the same time, making them
    unrecognizable and only indentifiable from their teeth, leaving what for
    some the unanswered question.  Was DeFreeze actually in the house at the
    time?  I recall that at the time he had a brother in Cleveland who said
    that it hadn't been proved that he was.
    The SLA was not the first of such groups to be headed by a charismatic
    former black prisoner who enlisted well-meaning but naive white
    activists in his behalf, and who let them take the fall--not fatal but
    prison time--while not having his parole violated, but that's a story
    that will have to wait for another time.
    Jeff Blankfort
    Ron Jacobs wrote:
    I couldn't resist sending this response (that I wrote soon after Ms.
    > Soliah's arrest) to D. Horowitz's posting on Kathleen Soliah and the
    > SLA--who, by the way, I think were probably a police-inspired operation
    > and, even if they weren't, made several mistakes based on an analysis that
    > Lenin might have called infantile leftism...
    > - -ron jacobs
    > America's Most Wanted?
    >         Let's get real.  Kathleen Soliah (allegedly a member of the 1970s "urban
    > guerrilla" group, the SLA, who is accused of placing bombs under police
    > cars) should not be facing prison.  Of course, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu
    > Jamal, and several dozen other political prisoners currently serving time
    > in America's prisons should not be behind bars either.  These folks have
    > either served their time or were framed and should never have been behind
    > bars in the first place, but that is a topic for another column.  While the
    > leader of this fair nation gets away with lying to the world, employing
    > whatever public and private means at his disposal to avoid conviction for
    > sexual abuse and abuse of power, police in California and the FBI are going
    > after a woman who acted on her principles (something Mr. Clinton never
    > seems to have had) back in the rebellious days of the early Seventies.
    > Like many others in that time, Ms. Soliah's (ne Olson) move to violence to
    > make a political statement was the result of years of frustration with a
    > government that was killing civilians in an overseas war, overthrowing
    > popularly elected governments that did not want to be victims of its world
    > order, locking up thousands of otherwise innocent citizens for smoking pot,
    > and lying about its guilt in political matters while spying on its
    > opponents of every political stripe. (Sound familiar?) The mass movements
    > opposing these actions did not seem to be working and those of us who
    > hadn't given up and gone off to make money or get so fucked up we didn't
    > care were getting more radical and more desperate.
    > >From this milieu came the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).  Never more
    > than a dozen or so people, this group killed an Oakland school
    > superintendent, kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and demanded and received a
    > ransom of several million dollars in food to be distributed to the poor of
    > the San Francisco Bay Area, went on a robbery spree in California which
    > ended when six of its members were killed by hundreds of law enforcement
    > agents in the Compton area of Los Angeles-- killings broadcast live on
    > television.  Some new leftists--among them the Oakland Black Panthers--were
    > convinced the SLA was a set-up by America's secret police.  The Panthers
    > had plenty of circumstantial evidence linking the SLA's "field commander"
    > Cinque (Donald DeFreeze) to various California and federal police
    > intelligence agencies to back up their charge.  Others on the left, mostly
    > other groups involved in armed propaganda such as the Weather Underground,
    > supported the SLA, stating that they "refused to do the state's work" and
    > renounce the SLA.
    > No matter what, the SLA made the news in 1973 and 1974, even involving some
    > close acquaintances of basketball star Bill Walton (and perhaps Walton
    > himself) in kidnap-victim-turned-revolutionary Patti Hearst's flight after
    > the killings in LA.  Hearst was eventually captured and, in her last
    > defiant gesture, stated her occupation as urban guerrilla during her
    > preliminary interrogation following the arrest. Now she is married to her
    > former bodyguard and prefers not to talk about her days as Tania--the name
    > she borrowed from Che's companion and made her own during her membership in
    > the SLA.  Other surviving members are now living around the country and two
    > remain in prison.
    > Meanwhile, those men who were running this country then have been
    > resuscitated as national heroes and statesmen.  Who can forget the
    > nauseating paeans to the mass-murderer and wannabe dictator Richard Nixon
    > during ceremonies marking his death?  How often is the modern television
    > news watcher subjected to the imperial wisdom of his fellow Christmas
    > bomber and friend of fascists around the world, Henry Kissinger?  It is
    > these men and their ilk, including latter day presidents Reagan, Bush, and
    > Clinton, who should be appearing on America's Most Wanted, not Ms. Soliah
    > and her fellow former radical Mr. Kilgore.
    > ------------------------------
    > End of sixties-l-digest V1 #338
    > *******************************

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