www.DiscoverTheNetwork.orgDate: 2/10/2016 4:01:48 PM

EMILY HARRIS

  • Founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army
  • Convicted murderer



Emily “Yolanda” Montague Harris was a founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a domestic terrorist group of the 1970s.

Raised in a wealthy, conservative family in Chicago, Montague graduated from Indiana University with an English degree in 1969, after which she taught at a junior high school. In 1968 she met her future husband, William Harris -- whom she would eventually divorce -- and together they embarked on a life of radical activism. In 1972 the couple followed Angela Atwood to San Francisco, where they became involved with the Black Cultural Association (BCA), a black inmate organization that was active in California's Vacaville Prison in the late 1960s and early '70s. Coordinated by a UC Berkeley professor, the BCA, which would eventually evolve into the SLA, brought young white radicals -- like the Harrises, Angela Atwood, Russell LittleWilliam WolfeJoseph Remiro, and Nancy Ling Perry -- to the prison to tutor black inmates (like Donald DeFreeze) in political science, black sociology, and African heritage. Over time, the BCA became increasingly political and ever-more committed to black nationalism. “In the eyes of the young radicals,” says PBS.org, “the black prisoners, no matter what their crime, took on heroic proportions as political prisoners, oppressed by a racist and corrupt American society.”

On April 21, 1975, Emily Harris -- along with Kathleen Soliah, Michael Bortin, and James Kilgore -- held up the Crocker Bank in Carmichael, California. William Harris and Steven Soliah served as their lookouts, while Wendy Yoshimura and Patricia Hearst drove the getaway cars. During the robbery, Emily Harris shot and killed a 42-year-old bystander named Myrna Opsahl, who was a church secretary and the mother of four children. Reflecting later on Opsahl's death, Ms. Harris said: “Oh, she's dead, but it doesn't really matter. She was a bourgeois pig anyway. Her husband is a doctor.”

In September 1975, William and Emily Harris, Patricia Hearst, and Wendy Yoshimura were arrested in San Francisco in connection with the Crocker Bank robbery and Myrna Opsahl's death.