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In December 1972, DeFreeze was transferred to Soledad prison and escaped the following March 5 from the prison boiler room by simply walking away from a work detail. Rebuffed when he sought help from several black women in the San Francisco Bay Area, he turned to the white radical friends he had met at Vacaville and was given haven by Patricia Soltysik. Joined by Black Convict Thero Wheeler, who escaped from Vacaville five months later, the group founded the S.L.A. They recruited no more than 25 known supporters, among whom were alumni of the Black Panthers and the defunct Maoist revolutionary group called the Venceremos ("We shall conquer") who were dissatisfied because those groups were too moderate for them. Some FBI and police investigators have theorized that DeFreeze is actually only a figurehead and the group is really directed by the white women, perhaps led by Nancy Ling Perry, a longtime radical feminist. But in the bank robbery and in the rambling S.L.A. communiques, DeFreeze acted as leader.
Patterning themselves in part after South American revolutionaries like the Tupamaros of Uruguay, the S.L.A. drew up a set of goals. Among other things, the S.L.A. promised to disappropriate the "capitalist class," disband the prison system, and destroy "all forms of racism, sexism, ageism, capitalism, fascism, individualism, possessiveness and competitiveness." The organization adopted as its emblem a seven-headed cobra, giving each head a symbolic meaning: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative production, purpose, creativity and faith. But at the heart of the organization was a cold determination to act violently against "enemies of the people."
At first the S.L.A. reportedly offered its services to the sagging New Left organizations in the Bay Area, proposing to back them up with terrorist acts. When no one accepted, the "army" went off on its own. Indeed, the group and its tactics have been disavowed by many leftists, among them Communist Angela Davis, American Indian Leader Dennis Banks and Huey Newton.
The S.L.A. struck into public consciousness last November with a claim of responsibility for the murder of Oakland School Super intendent Marcus Foster, who was shot in a parking lot with cyanide-tipped bullets. Foster's deputy, Robert Blackburn, was wounded in the attack. Foster had incurred the wrath of a community group by proposing student identity cards to help combat violence in the junior and senior high schools. Why the terrorist organization became involved was a mystery until it was discovered that one of its members, Willie Wolfe, was also a member of the community group. Two months later, Oakland police arrested two white S.L.A. members, Joseph Remiro, 27, and Russell Little, 24, and charged them with Foster's murder.
Free Food. The army's next terrorist act was the kidnaping of Patty Hearst. On Feb. 4, two black men and a white woman dragged the screaming girl from the apartment she shared with Fiancé Weed near the Berkeley campus of the University of California. They badly beat Weed on the head with a bottle, stuffed Patty into the trunk of a stolen car and drove off.
For two months Patty and her captors disappeared from sight, communicating with her