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Symbionese Liberation Army

The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a small group of militant revolutionaries based in California during the 1970s, owes nearly all its notoriety to the kidnapping and subsequent indoctrination of Patty Hearst, the newspaper heiress. Much of the short life of the group was lived in the media spotlight, making SLA one of the more infamous revolutionary groups of the era, though one of the least respected politically.

The SLA began as a collaboration between convicts and prison activists in 1973. Led by General Field Marshal Cinque (né Donald DeFreeze), an escaped convict and initially the only black member of the SLA, the seven other members—white, middle-class men and women—adopted Swahili names and took up arms for the self-styled Symbionese Federation. The group's motto, “Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people,” signed off each of their communiqués.

The SLA's first ...

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