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The last SLA member walks free…

AP Photo (The Spokesman-Review)
AP Photo (The Spokesman-Review)

Good evening, Netizens...

There are some things in my memory which, despite the passage of time, simply refuse to go away. I lived among some of the most-radical leftists of my generation in the 60's and 70's, and observed some of their most-outrageous behaviors. The riots of Berkeley, which caused the University to shut down after the National Guard tear-gassed several classrooms, mistaking real students for radicals, although it should be stated emphatically, there were times when hardly anyone could tell the difference between the one and the other. One of the favorite aphorisms of that time was “How do you tell the students at Berkeley from the radicals? Answer: Students show up to take their midterm tests.

Perhaps the worst of the lot who practiced their revolutionary zeal with what appeared to be utter disregard for human life were the members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, often referred to as the SLA. Headed by Donald DeFreeze, a.k.a. "Field Marshal Cinque, most of the band of zealots eventually were all either killed in one of the biggest shootouts recorded in Los Angeles law enforcement history or escaped to various foreign countries under assumed names.

Enter James Williams Killgore, age 61, who today was released from prison and is destined for Illinois where his wife is a professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois in the gender and women's studies department. He was the last member of the SLA to be captured, and also the last inmate to be released from prison. You watch: he'll probably write a book about his life on the run and make a bundle of money doing it.

This merry gang of mostly white, privileged would-be revolutionaries led by a black ex-convict (Cinque) also were responsible for the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, the murder of Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster, various bank robberies, and the attempted bombings of Los Angeles police cars. Another SLA member, Joseph Remiro, is serving a life sentence for Foster's 1973 murder.

Most people assume you cannot get away with murder, but if my memory has not failed me entirely, I believe James Killgore just did. I do recall tears streaming down certain faces on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley after the Los Angeles shootout when so many of the SLA died, and if I have a memory of those days, it is that I am thankful it is over now. If I thought the 60's were a strange time, the sheer outrage of the 70's made them only seem insignificant by comparison.


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.