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Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst | Timeline

Timeline: Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

January 10: Russ Little and Joe Remiro are stopped and arrested by a traffic cop; S.L.A. weapons and propaganda are found in their possession. Nancy Ling Perry sets fire to the safe house in Concord, and the S.L.A. members go underground. Police find the house scorched but not burned down, leaving a significant amount of evidence.

February 4: Hearst newspaper heiress Patricia Campbell Hearst, a 19-year-old Berkeley student, is kidnapped. Three members of the S.L.A. force their way into her apartment, badly beating her fiancé Steven Weed and abducting Hearst. Her armed kidnappers will keep her locked in a closet for the first part of her ordeal.

February 5: Reporters gather at the Hearst family's mansion in a wealthy San Francisco suburb, Hillsborough, to follow the kidnapping story and interview Patty's parents.

February 6: A letter arrives in the mail at Berkeley's listener-supported KPFA radio station. A "communiqué" from the S.L.A., it states that the group has Hearst, but includes no ransom demands.

February 12: In a recording delivered to KPFA radio, Patty Hearst tells her parents that she is okay. Donald DeFreeze -- "Cinque" -- makes a demand for food to be distributed to poor people in the area and throughout the country.

February 13: Speaking to reporters camped outside his house, Patty's father, Randolph Hearst, replies to the S.L.A. demands, saying they are "impossible."

February 16: In a second tape recording, Patty asks her parents to "stop acting like I'm dead." DeFreeze says that the S.L.A. is looking for "a good faith gesture." Hearst is trapped in a "catch-22" by his daughter's statement, "whatever you come up with is basically okay."

February 19: Hearst announces that he will create People in Need (P.I.N.), a food distribution program. P.I.N. director Ludlow Kramer expects that the program will be able to feed 100,000 people for twelve months with $2 million.

February 20: Patty Hearst's 20th birthday. On a third audio tape, DeFreeze repeats his earlier statement that Hearst's contribution should reflect both Hearst's capabilities and the need of the people. He demands that the amount be increased to $6 million. He also demands that Hearst prove that he will stop committing "crimes" against "the people."

February 22: The first day of food distribution for People in Need ends in riots. Randolph Hearst states that $6 million is beyond his capabilities. "The matter is now out of my hands," he says. His representative makes an offer to pay $2 million upon the immediate release of Patty Hearst and an additional $2 million in January 1975.

February 28: The second P.I.N. food distribution has far fewer problems than the first. Ludlow Kramer will later recall that the program gave away $30,000 of top-quality food.

March 4: California governor Ronald Reagan, having earlier predicted that no one would take the food from P.I.N., accuses the thousands of poor people who line up for free groceries of "aiding and abetting lawlessness."

March 5 and 8: The third and fourth food distributions take place through P.I.N.

March 9: In a fourth tape, Patty Hearst is heard to criticize her parents, saying, "I don't believe that you're doing anything at all."

March 10: Newspapers announce they will no longer print S.L.A. communiqués in full.

March 10-13: Randolph Hearst secretly meets with Clifford "Death Row" Jefferson and other inmates who are S.L.A. contacts at the Vacaville prison.

March 25: Food is given away to 30,000 people in P.I.N.'s fifth and final distribution.

March 29: The last American troops leave Vietnam.

March 31: "Death Row" Jefferson and other S.L.A. contacts appeal to the S.L.A. to begin negotiations for Patty's release.

April 2: The S.L.A. promises details of Patty's release within 72 hours in a note sent to the San Francisco Phoenix.

April 3: In a fifth tape recording, sent to KSAN radio station 59 days after the kidnapping, Patty Hearst denounces her family and claims allegiance to the S.L.A. She takes the guerrilla name "Tania." Her family claims she has been brainwashed.

April 15: An unnoticed manager at the Sunset branch of the Hibernia Bank flips a security camera switch. Patty Hearst and four members of the S.L.A. are caught on camera holding up the bank at gunpoint. The bank robbers get away with $10,000.

April 23: Shortly after the bank robbery, the FBI issues a "Wanted" poster with pictures of Donald David DeFreeze, Patricia Michelle Soltysik, Nancy Ling Perry, Camilla Christine Hall and Patricia Campbell Hearst. Americans debate whether Hearst participated willingly in the robbery, or whether she was coerced. The FBI simply lists Hearst as a material witness.

April 24: In a sixth audio tape, Patty offers evidence of her full participation in the bank robbery -- at no time did her comrades have a gun pointed at her. She refers to her family as the "pig Hearsts" and to Steven Weed, her fiancé, as "an ageist, sexist pig." She says the idea of her being brainwashed is ridiculous.

April 29: Hoping to resolve the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon releases edited transcripts of conversations recorded in his office. The conversations concern the Watergate break-in and its subsequent cover-up.

April 30-May 1: Just ahead of the FBI, S.L.A. members pack up their weapons and supplies and move from a Golden Gate Avenue apartment to Oakland Street in the Bayview district.

May: The House Judiciary Committee begins impeachment hearings against President Nixon.

May 2: The FBI finds the abandoned Golden Gate Avenue apartment.

May 16: Patty Hearst, sitting alone in a Volkswagen while Emily and Bill Harris enter a store in Los Angeles, sees a fight between Bill and the store clerk. To prevent the Harrises from being arrested, she shoots 27 .30-caliber bullets into the storefront. The L.A. police now know that the S.L.A. is in town.

May 17: After a raid on an abandoned West 84th Street apartment, the Los Angeles Police Department finds S.L.A. members Donald DeFreeze, Willie Wolfe, Patricia Soltysik, Camilla Hall, Angela Atwood, and Nancy Ling Perry in an apartment in Compton. The S.L.A. makes use of its sizable arsenal in a televised gun battle with police SWAT teams. Police set the house on fire with gas canisters. A television reporter announces that anyone in the house must be dead or dying. All six S.L.A. members will be killed, and for several hours there will be confusion about whether Hearst is among the dead.

The Harrises and Patty Hearst watch the shootout on TV from their motel room near Disneyland. S.L.A. members Russ Little and Joe Remiro listen to the shootout on a distant TV from their prison cell.

June 2: Berkeley radicals hold a rally in support of the S.L.A. Patty Hearst and the Harrises, back in town, make contact with Kathy Soliah, Mike Bortin and several other future S.L.A. members.

June 7: On a seventh tape-recorded message, Patty Hearst offers a eulogy for those killed in the shootout. She proclaims her love for Willie Wolfe and vows that the S.L.A. will continue its fight.

June: Bill Harris, the S.L.A.'s new General Field Marshal, announces that the group is now a unit of the New World Liberation Front (N.W.L.F.). The name will be used freely not only by the reorganized S.L.A. but also by others, in dozens of attacks -- largely bombings of utility sites and corporate offices in California and across the U.S.

June: Radical sports activist Jack Scott reportedly drives Patty Hearst to New York and then rural Pennsylvania, where his wife has rented a farm as a refuge for Hearst, Bill and Emily Harris. Wendy Yoshimura, a fugitive on the 1972 Revolutionary Army bomb factory charges and a friend of Scott, joins them.

August 9: President Richard Nixon resigns.

Summer: The B.L.A., decimated by arrests and deaths, bitterly complains that the black underground has been abandoned by "Euro-American" radicals, and denied support by virtually all black community groups.

November 3: After months without hearing from Patty, Randolph Hearst withdraws his offer of a $50,000 reward for her safe return.

January 2: There is no news of Patty as the date for the final ransom payment of $2 million passes.

April: Russ Little and Joe Remiro are sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Marcus Foster.

April 21: Four members of the S.L.A. hold up the Crocker Bank in Carmichael, California. A bystander, Myrna Opsahl, a 42-year-old mother of two who is there to deposit church collection money, is shot and killed.

June 2: A unit of the N.W.L.F. claims credit for the assassination of Wilbert "Popeye" Jackson, president of the United Prison Union, who had played a key role in organizing the Hearsts' food giveaway. The S.L.A. will deny involvement in the attack, in which Jackson's girlfriend was also slain.

September 18: S.L.A. members Patty Hearst, Bill and Emily Harris and Wendy Yoshimura are arrested in San Francisco. When asked for her occupation while being booked, Hearst says, "urban guerrilla."

September 22: Sara Jane Moore, bookkeeper for the P.I.N. food distribution and an admitted FBI informer -- a white suburban matron described by friends as obsessed by Patty/Tania - attempts to shoot President Gerald Ford in San Francisco.

March 11: In a sensational trial, Patty Hearst, represented by well-known defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, is found guilty of armed bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison. The jury rejects her claim that she was under duress and immediate threat for all of the 18 months between her kidnap and her arrest.

September 29: Bill and Emily Harris plead guilty to kidnapping Patty Hearst. They will serve eight years in prison.

February 1: Twenty-two months into her seven-year term, Patty Hearst has her sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter.

June 4: Russ Little is acquitted of the murder of Marcus Foster after a retrial, and released from prison.

January 20: President Bill Clinton issues a presidential pardon to Patty Hearst.

February 14: Former S.L.A. members Bill Harris, Emily Harris, Mike Bortin and Kathy Soliah are sentenced to between 6 and 8 years in prison for the 1975 murder of Myrna Opsahl. They accept responsibility for their actions in open court and apologize to the Opsahl family.

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