1974.06.01: The Hearsts and the SLA: The Shootout (Red Tide)


Red Tide #13
Summer 1974

The Hearsts and the SLA: The Shootout
[By Michael Letwin]

The massacre of 6 reputed members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (S.L.A.) on Friday, May 17th in South-Central L.A. proved two fundamental things. One was that a few armed people who try to take on the government are going to be quickly killed. The other was that the racist cops will not hesitate to use Vietnam style terrorism methods on anyone who challenges them. In the case of this shootout, this meant the total disregard for the members of the black community which police occupy every day, and which they turned into a battleground.


Whether or not you agree with the methods of goals of the S.L.A., one cannot help but notice that what the cops did in the black community, which included not warning inhabitants of the area of the impending massacre, the deliberate burning of the house occupied by the S.L.A. (and subsequent refusal to put out the fire) and generally [G]estapo like methods employed in the S.L.A. members’ destruction, was sickening. Can you imagine them doing the same thing in Beverly Hills?


The cops however were not the only ones to have fun on that Friday afternoon. The news media also had quite a field day. Reporters considered themselves brave guardians of the truth, while callously mentioning that thank god no one but the S.L.A. members were seriously hurt or killed. (They don’t count.) It was clear whose side they were on[,] especially when they all stated practically in unison that “this is the stuff that Medal of Valor Awards are made of.”

We agree completely: the murder and disregard for poor and working people is that very material that cops get patted on the back for. And after all, it takes a lot of courage for the police to attack 6 people when there are only about 500 of them with the most advanced automatic weapons available!


We on the R.T. feel that the S.L.A. will accomplish nothing but their own death with the elitist and ineffective methods they use. But however crazy, they were created by a destructive and rotten system, and we do not support their massacre by the police. This feeling was expressed quite a bit by members of the besieged community who felt that the police attack was totally unjustified[,] and it is quite clear that their sympathy lay with the S.L.A.

[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See: http://theredtide.wordpress.com/] 


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