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Timeline: Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst

1964-1973 | 1974-2003  


Free Speech Movement protesters march on the Berkeley campus. December: In the first event of the Free Speech Movement, eight hundred students are arrested in a confrontation with the University of California-Berkeley over their right to stage protests on campus. Berkeley establishes itself as a center of student activism.


Malcolm X portrait. February 21: Controversial black leader Malcolm X is assassinated.

March 3: A former chemistry student known as Owsley begins providing the psychedelic hallucinogen L.S.D. in large quantities for San Francisco "happenings."

August 11-16: The black neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles erupts in violence after police stop a black motorist. The Watts Riots rage for days; in the end over 30 people are dead, and 1000 wounded.

October 15: Over two million people across the country attend demonstrations in a Peace Moratorium protesting the war in Vietnam.

Six years after the first U.S. servicemen are killed in Vietnam, the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam reaches 200,000.


January 14: Twenty thousand hippies gather at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for a Human Be-In.


Martin Luther King speaking April 4: Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, by James Earl Ray.

Robert Kennedy addresses a mixed-race crowd. June 5: Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles, California, by Sirhan Sirhan.

Brandishing guns and a politics of confrontation, the Black Panther Party becomes a major political and social force with urban black communities in California and nationwide.

August 28: A protest demonstration at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago turns violent.

October: An extremist group of ex-student activists, labeling themselves the Weathermen, organizes "Days of Rage," a week of violent protests in Chicago.

November 15: Over 250,000 protesters march in Washington, D.C. to protest the Vietnam War.


June: The nationwide student anti-war organization, Students for a Democratic Society (S.D.S.), splinters on ideology. Maoist, socialist, anarchist, and undefined factions all rail against a band of several hundred -- including many of the most prominent S.D.S. leaders -- who form the Weather Underground Organization (W.U.O.) and advocate "exemplary violence" against the war, racism, and capitalism.


March: A bomb factory explodes in New York's Greenwich Village, and three Weather activists die. Two more -- Kathy Boudin and Cathy Wilkerson -- barely escape the collapsing townhouse. The bomb was intended to massacre servicemen and their dates at a Fort Dix dance. After a year-long retreat, the group will reconceptualize itself, emerging with a philosophy of "armed propaganda," in which bombs are used against property, not people. Throughout the '70s, the W.U.O. will place bombs in government and private offices with "colonial" ties. No one will be injured.

May 4: Four students are shot and killed by National Guardsmen at an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio.

June 3: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young end their packed concert at the Fillmore East theater in New York with their anthem of the hippies' free love philosophy, "Love the One You're With."

The feature film Catch-22, based on the popular novel by Joseph Heller, premieres. The term "catch-22," meaning a problem or circumstance that by its nature denies the only possible solution, becomes an important part of the lexicon.


Donald DeFreeze mugshot. After being arrested and released eight times, Californian Donald DeFreeze is sent to Vacaville prison. He joins the prisoners' Black Cultural Association, an African nationalist educational and discussion group. DeFreeze rejects his "slave name" and calls himself "Cinque."

May: The Black Panther Party splits in violent disarray. One faction calls itself the Black Liberation Army, and calls for "armed struggle" and open revolution. By the mid-'70s, the B.L.A. will be tied to numerous armed robberies, jailbreaks, and several dozen shootings of policemen across the U.S. Nine police officers and seven B.L.A. members will die, and over 30 will be arrested in this little-noticed ghetto warfare.

June 15: The Pentagon Papers, a study of decision-making in U.S. Vietnam policy, are published in The New York Times. The papers show that -- as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara will eventually admit in a 1999 book -- the U.S. was "terribly wrong" about Vietnam.


March 30: Police discover a "massive bomb factory" in a Berkeley garage rented by Wendy Yoshimura. Police set up a stake-out, and arrest three armed men who enter the garage: William Brandt, 24, Yoshimura's roommate and boyfriend; Michael Bortin, 23, a painting partner of Steve Soliah and Jim Kilgore; and 22-year-old Paul Rubenstein, who lives with Kilgore and Kathy Soliah. Yoshimura escapes a police dragnet.

Police find a ready-to-mail communiqué from the "Revolutionary Army" claiming credit for an arson bombing of the U.C.-Berkeley Naval Architecture Building, apparently scheduled for that night. They also recover written plans for another U.C.-Berkeley bombing, and detailed notes for what seems to be a planned kidnap or assassination of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at his Aspen, Colorado, chalet. With information from Rubenstein, police will later connect the Revolutionary Army, and Brandt in particular, with eleven Bay Area office building bombings.

May 26: U.S. president Richard Nixon and Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev sign the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), a cornerstone of détente between the two nations.

June 17: Police apprehend members of Richard Nixon's re-election committee in a burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices in Washington's Watergate hotel and office complex.

Summer: Venceremos, a Maoist group closely associated with black prison radicals, splinters into factions, some arguing for "armed struggle" and others for grass-roots party organizing. For several years, Venceremos has been the most visible radical left group in the Bay Area, and many of those soon to be associated with the Symbionese Liberation Army are active members working closely with black inmate groups.

Willie Wolfe at Vacaville Prison. September: At Vacaville prison, DeFreeze organizes a black inmate self-help group called Unisight. Russell Little and William Wolfe, two Berkeley students who are former members of Venceremos, begin attending Unisight meetings as volunteer tutors.

October: A group of armed radicals associated with a splinter group from Venceremos hijack an unmarked prison car to free inmate Ronald Beaty, a black prison activist and Venceremos organizer. They handcuff two prison guards, then shoot them both at point-blank range. One guard will die.

Angela Atwood. Fall: Bill Harris, a Vietnam veteran and antiwar activist, and his wife Emily, move to San Francisco with their friends from Indiana University, Gary and Angela Atwood. The Harrises and Angela Atwood become involved with Maoist activists and prison liaison groups.

December: Donald DeFreeze is transferred to Soledad prison.


Richard Nixon campaigning January 20: Richard Nixon is inaugurated for a second presidential term.

January 27: A cease-fire is signed in Paris between North and South Vietnam. The war has claimed the lives of 58,000 American men, with far more wounded. Over the span of the war, the United States has spent over $150 billion.

Patricia Soltysik. March 5: DeFreeze escapes from Soledad and heads to Berkeley. Russ Little and Willie Wolfe direct him to a radical "safe house." Patricia Soltysik and Nancy Ling Perry take him in.

June 17: Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev arrives in Washington for a U.S.-Soviet summit. He and Nixon reach an agreement aimed at preventing nuclear war.

S.L.A. logo. July: With DeFreeze as their nominal leader, a group of Berkeley-area activists organize a revolutionary group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. The S.L.A. believes a timely example will spark revolt in Black America. Their goals include closing prisons, ending monogamy, and destroying "all other institutions that have made and sustained capitalism."

August: The S.L.A. establishes links with black inmate leaders in California prisons, most of whom are lifers with little or no experience of contemporary America. Clifford "Death Row" Jefferson believes he is the nominal leader of the S.L.A. Another lifer thinks he is joining the "Lebanese Liberation Army."

Nancy Ling Perry. August 14: Nancy Ling Perry rents a safe house for the S.L.A. in Concord, California.

October: In a move to force Israel to withdraw from Arab territories, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (O.P.E.C.) embargoes oil shipments to the U.S. Soon, Americans will begin lining up at gas stations to buy rationed and overpriced gasoline.

October: White residents of San Francisco begin to be terrorized by a series of random, racially-motivated attacks that claim 15 lives, leaving another eight victims wounded or raped. The perpetrators, the Zebra Killers, are rumored to be members of a Black Muslim splinter group, the "Death Angels," that require the murder of white people as a form of initiation. In response to the murder spree, San Francisco police begin to stop and frisk black citizens at random, a controversial tactic which further inflames already high racial tensions in the city. The attacks will persist for 179 days, until April 1974, when one of the killers turns himself in and names eight others.

November 6: After several months of weapons training, the S.L.A. commits its first revolutionary act. They ambush and murder black Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster and seriously wound his deputy, Robert Blackburn. Foster, an educator of national repute, is mistakenly targeted for his support of an I.D. system for Oakland students. In fact, Foster did not advocate school I.D.s, although it had been mistakenly reported that he did.

1964-1973 | 1974-2003  

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