Donald “Cinque” DeFreeze

Donald “Cinque” DeFreeze

Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Death 17 May 1974 (aged 30)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Highland Hills, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Plot Section 17, Marker 219
Memorial ID 22548 · View Source
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Founder and leader of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a revolutionary group that operated in California during the mid-1970s, he is best remembered for his role in the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he became a career criminal in California. In 1972, he was serving a sentence in Soledad Prison for armed robbery, where he met some radical extremists who were performing volunteer work at the prison, where he was converted to their radical political ideas. Shortly afterwards, he was transferred to the Vacaville, California prison, where he escaped on March 5, 1973. Joining with Berkley radicals Patricia Soltysik and Robyn Sue Steiner, he helped found the Symbionese Liberation Army and recruited a handful a members. While espousing revolution to eliminate racial prejudice and poverty, most of the members were middle and upper class whites. The name Symbionese comes from the word, symbiosis, suggesting a union of classes and races. The SLA members adopted new “revolutionary” names, with DeFreeze calling himself General Field Marshal Cinque Mtume. Adopting a seven-headed cobra as its symbol, the group embraced a lose blend of Marxism as its code for revolution. Their creed called for selected violence – assassinations, kidnappings, and bank robberies – all aimed at gaining popular support from the resulting media attention. In 1973, DeFreeze took over the SLA by threatening to kill co-founder Robyn Steiner, who fled to England. In November 1973, DeFreeze order the group to murder Marcus Foster, the first black superintendent of the Oakland (California) school district. Three months later, SLA members Russell Little and Joseph Remiro were arrested and convicted for Foster’s murder. In February 1974, eight SLA members kidnapped Patricia “Patty” Hearst, then a 19-year-old college student and granddaughter of news media mogul William Randolph Hearst, from her apartment that she was sharing with her fiancé. Calling the Hearst Corporation a corporate enemy of the people, the SLA demands that her father give $2 million in food to the poor, which he does comply with, in exchange for her safe return. But in April, the SLA releases a “communiqué” on which Patty announces that she has joined the SLA and will fight with them under the adopted name “Tania,” for Tania Burke, Argentine communist revolutionary Che Guevara’s lover. Patty Hearst is photographed twelve days later as the SLA robs a Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. In May, two SLA members, William and Emily Harris are nearly caught shoplifting in Los Angeles, and Patty Hearst fires a submachine gun at the store to help them escape. The next day, police SWAT teams surround a house in LA’s South Central District where six SLA members are hiding. Firing over 5,370 rounds, all six SLA members are killed, including Donald DeFreeze. Dying with him are SLA members Angela Atwood, Camilla Hall, Nancy Ling Perry, Patricia Soltysik, and William Wolfe. In September 1975, Patty Hearst was captured along with three other SLA members, effectively ending the SLA (as of 2005, only SLA member James Kilgore remains a fugitive). Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison, but in February 1979, President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence and she was released from prison. In January 2001, President Bill Clinton issued Patty Hearst a Presidential Pardon.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 29 May 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 22548
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Donald “Cinque” DeFreeze (16 Nov 1943–17 May 1974), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22548, citing Highland Park Cemetery, Highland Hills, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .