[DEBATE] : RE: John Pape/James Kilgore freed
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Mon May 11 15:07:31 BST 2009
Below the NYT article is one from the period he was arrested, including
a tribute from Trevor Ngwane.
David McDonald wrote:
> What a poorly written, reactionary article in the NY Times...
Former Member of ’70s Radical Group Is Freed
Filed at 7:16 p.m. ET
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The last captured member of the Symbionese
Liberation Army, the radical 1970s-era group notorious for bank
robberies, killings and the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia
Hearst, was released from prison Sunday, a corrections official said.
James William Kilgore, 61, was paroled from High Desert State Prison
after serving a six-year sentence for his role in the murder of
housewife Myrna Opsahl during an April 1975 bank robbery.
The victim's son, Jon Opsahl, said Sunday it felt ''ironic'' and
''strange'' that Kilgore was released on Mother's Day.
Kilgore was one of five SLA members to serve time for the murder of
''I guess they did their time, paid their debts to society,'' he said.
''Now I guess they can get back to their lives.''
State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Oscar
Hidalgo said parole agents processed Kilgore's release at the Susanville
Kilgore has been granted permission to join his wife in Illinois, where
she moved after he was arrested in 2002 in Cape Town, South Africa,
after nearly three decades on the run. He has two weeks to report to
Illinois parole officials.
Kilgore had eluded arrest longer than any of his fellow SLA fugitives.
His cover unraveled after the 1999 arrest of his former girlfriend, Sara
Jane Olson, who had become a doctor's wife in St. Paul, Minn. Olson,
formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, was paroled from a California prison
His release marks ''the end of the SLA and the era,'' said Stuart
Hanlon, a San Francisco attorney who represented several SLA members.
The gang of mostly white, privileged would-be revolutionaries led by a
black ex-convict also was responsible for the murder of Oakland school
superintendent Marcus Foster, bank robberies, and the attempted bombings
of Los Angeles police cars. Joseph Remiro is serving a life sentence for
Foster's 1973 murder.
Kilgore, a native of Portland, Ore., joined the SLA after graduating
from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1969. He escaped
the 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police in which six of the SLA's
original members died.
He disappeared on Sept. 18, 1975, as the FBI arrested Hearst and other
SLA members in San Francisco.
He resurfaced as University of Cape Town professor Charles William Pape,
even writing a South Africa high school text book titled ''Making
History'' under the alias.
Kilgore married an American woman, Teresa Barnes, and fathered two sons.
Barnes, an associate professor of gender and women's studies at the
University of Illinois in Champaign, declined to comment when reached by
The Associated Press.
Susan B. Jordan, an attorney who represented another SLA member, said
that some romanticized the group, despite the violence, after its
members kidnapped Hearst and demanded her wealthy family distribute food
to the poor of San Francisco.
''They were an extremely misguided group of idealists. They really
believed they could make the world better by what they did,'' Jordan
said. ''I just think they tapped into some mythological fairy story.''
New York attorney Louis Freeman, who represented Kilgore after his
arrest, did not respond to messages left Sunday and in previous days.
Kilgore's pending parole had sparked far less controversy than Olson's
release. Her return to Minnesota drew opposition from Minnesota Gov. Tim
Pawlenty and the St. Paul police union and divided her neighbors.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League and the National Association of
Police Organizations objected to letting Kilgore serve his year of
parole in another state, but there has been little reaction in Illinois.
''Mr. Kilgore has never even lived in Illinois,'' Paul Weber, president
of the Los Angeles police union, said in a statement. ''His last legal
residence was in California, and this is where he committed his crimes.
... The community he terrorized has the right and the duty to ensure Mr.
Kilgore complies with all terms of his parole, including serving his
full sentence here.''
Kilgore served his state sentence after finishing a 54-month federal
prison term for using a dead baby's birth certificate to obtain a
passport in Seattle and for possessing a pipe bomb in his apartment near
San Francisco in 1975.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials called
Kilgore a model prisoner who tutored other inmates.
SOUTH AFRICA: Activists pay tribute to `fugitive' John Pape
27 November 2002
BY PATRICK BOND
JOHANNESBURG — On November 8, James Kilgore, the last fugitive member of
the 1970s US terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), was
arrested in Cape Town. He was known in South Africa as John Pape, the
respected left and labour movement activist. Across the region, there
has been an outpouring of support for Pape from comrades, friends and
mainstream colleagues who worked with him during his Southern African
A 55-year-old trade union and community educator, Pape is employed by
the University of Cape Town and director of the influential
International Labour Resource and Information Group (ILRIG). He is the
author of many articles and books, including a highly regarded radical
economics textbook. Most recently, he was co-editor of a book about
grassroots struggles in black townships (see <
Pape is the father of two young boys, husband to Terri Barnes (a noted
feminist historian) and a model of commitment to the cause of social
justice. His arrest came after 27 years of living underground, first in
Australia, where he studied history and economics at Deakin University
in the late 1970s, then in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, where he taught in a
township high school and researched his doctorate on the plight of
domestic workers, and finally in South Africa, where he has lived since
the early 1990s. Pape became a widely respected radical intellectual and
activist, notwithstanding his prominent position on the US FBI's most
By all accounts a coincidence, Pape's arrest occurred a day after four
fellow ex-SLA members in the US had plea-bargained various crimes,
including an accidental murder during a 1976 bank robbery. According to
a book by Patty Hearst, the newspaper heiress turned SLA supporter, Pape
warned the group against taking the rifle on the bank job.
Pape had apparently instructed a US lawyer to negotiate his surrender
several months ago, expecting to return to the US to face trial before
the year's end. He may now receive a similar sentence to that agreed to
by the other ex-SLA members: 6-8 years in prison.
Pape's arrest came at a time when the African National Congress
government has been clamping down on political criticism. Pape remains
in jail awaiting an extradition request from the US authorities. He will
appear again in court on December 6.
Trevor Ngwane, secretary of the Johannesburg Anti-Privatisation Forum
and chair of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, wrote the
following tribute, which reflects the feelings of many on the South
African left. It has been abridged:
“Comrade John Pape was respected by many on the left in South Africa. In
hindsight, he tended to work `quietly' but he did not hide his politics
nor stay in the shadows. I always thought he was a comrade who was
averse to political grandstanding, big talk and theatrics. He seemed to
prefer long-term spade work, working on research and on education.
“He certainly did solid work as principal and rector at Khanya College
[in Johannesburg]. This left-wing institution has produced many leading
activists and progressive left-leaning professionals in South Africa.
Its work in the trade unions during Comrade John's time was outstanding.
Recently, building on John's work, the college has been at the forefront
of encouraging debate and discussion to find a working-class way forward
following the disorganisation and disorientation of left forces here due
to the ANC betrayal and capitulation to neo-liberalism.
“John's latest research and work at ILRIG has been outstanding. He
edited a seminal book on the impact of globalisation on the working
class in South Africa, which is arguably the clearest and most
accessible academic commentary on the subject for working-class
activists to date.
“I got to know Comrade John much better during a difficult time in my
life when his support and willingness to go beyond the line of duty
shone through and left a lasting positive impression on me... Comrade
John's supportive actions were not, in my assessment, calculated as part
of his `cover'...
“I don't feel betrayed, tricked or taken for a ride with the revelations
about John Pape's real identity. Instead, and perhaps strangely, I feel
more respect for him. He certainly was not in a position to tell me who
he really was. If he had done so, he would of course have made me an
accomplice which, knowing John, is the last thing he would want to do.
“As a Marxist, I do not agree with the use of terror as a political
method. I think it is counter-productive because it plays into the hands
of the enemy (look how Bush was able to get away with murder in
Afghanistan and is still using the momentum of the September 11 terror
attacks to whip up war fever in the USA against Iraq).
“But everything Comrade John did in South Africa showed that he had
broken with terrorism as a method of struggle, preferring the hard
patient slog of building among ordinary workers, in the trade unions and
among working-class youth. He exchanged his guns and masks for pen and
paper. He stopped living between the cracks and in the night; he built a
new life, took care of his family and contributed to the struggle of the
workers. He turned his back on terrorism, bank robberies and murder as a
political method and embraced the Marxist method of mass education, mass
mobilisation and mass action.
“Life could not have been easy for John. Living under cover is very
strenuous. The emotional turmoil, the anxiety, the fabrications, the
tension. But clearly, John was a strong person. He managed to excel in
his day job and in political activism despite everything. Twenty-seven
years on the run is a long time. This and the contribution he has made
in the struggle of the South African working class is enough, in my
opinion, atonement for his earlier follies and sins. I personally would
support a call for pardon for John Pape.
“John always gave the impression of deep quiet strength, commitment and
determination. His wife and children loved him because he was a good
husband and father. If he spends his last days in prison, they will
suffer the most. But we will suffer too, we on the left who regarded
John as a comrade and a friend. So too will his colleagues and many
other people who were touched and inspired by him, especially his former
students at Khanya College. So will many shop stewards who studied the
history of the liberation struggle in worker education programs
organised by John.
“I never met James Kilgore but I know and respect John Pape. It is
because of this that I want to be counted among those who will stand
with Comrade John during his hour of greatest need.”
Messages of solidarity can be sent to John Pape c/- ILRIG at
<ilrig at wn.apc.org>. Visit the ILRIG web site at
[Editor's note: When Green Left Weekly writer Norm Dixon visited South
Africa last year, John Pape provided invaluable help by introducing many
left and grassroots activists. Pape's stature on the left was prominent
and he was in no way leading an “underground” existence. Pape was a
regular reader of GLW. We offer our heartfelt solidarity.]
From Green Left Weekly, November 27, 2002.
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