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Rebels Without a Clue: A Little History Behind an Extremist Group in the U.S.

They had guns and a flair for publicity, and that combination captured the attention of the American public and made the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) one of the most high profile of the extremist fringe groups of the 1960s and 1970s.

The SLA was a Berkeley-based group that espoused a confusing revolutionist agenda. It first made headlines in 1973, when two SLA members were arrested for killing a local school district official. In February 1974, SLA members burst into the apartment of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, kidnapping her and demanding her parents buy $6 million worth of food for the poor.

Two months after the kidnapping, Hearst announced her new revolutionary name was "Tania." As a gun-toting SLA member, Hearst helped rob a bank in San Francisco. In May 1974, police trapped six SLA members in a house in Los Angeles. After a gun battle in which the house caught fire, all six were killed. Hearst was arrested in 1975 after a bank robbery in Sacramento in which a bank customer was slain. She served 2 and a half years in prison, married a former guard, wrote a book, and moved to Connecticut.

The SLA made the news again in 1999 when a former member, Sarah Jane Olson (formerly known as Kathleen Ann Soliah), was arrested for her part in a plot to bomb police cars in Los Angeles in 1975. Soliah, who had been living for years under an assumed name as a housewife in Minnesota, pleaded guilty and was eventually sentenced to 14 years. She was paroled in 2009.

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