- Founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army
- Maoist radical
- In 1975, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison
Joseph “Bo” Remiro was born into a devout Catholic family in 1947 and grew up in San Francisco. He dropped out of San Francisco City College in the mid-1960s to join the U.S. Army, where he served in the 101st Airborne Division and did two tours of duty in Vietnam. Remiro returned to the United States in 1970 and subsequently joined the Marxist-Leninist Venceremos organization, which took its name from the battle cry of Fidel Castro‘s Communist henchman, Che Guevara.
As he became an increasingly heavy drug abuser, Remiro in the early 1970s joined the Peking House, a Maoist commune in the Bay Area. He also became involved with the Black Cultural Association (BCA), a black inmate organization that was active in California’s Vacaville Prison at that time. Coordinated by UC Berkeley instructor Colston Westbrook, the BCA brought a number of young white radicals—like Remiro, Russell Little, Nancy Ling Perry, William Wolfe, William Harris, Emily Harris, and Angela Atwood—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.”
In 1972 Remiro was a founding member of the East Bay chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization. He maintained his affiliation with that group until March 1973, when he decided that it was insufficiently militant for his revolutionary spirit. While residing in Oakland, Remiro worked on Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale‘s 1973 mayoral campaign, and on fellow Panther Elaine Brown‘s bid for the city council that same year. Remiro also participated in the boycott activities of the United Farm Workers.
In 1973 Remiro became a founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a violent, Marxist-Leninist terror cult that sought to overthrow the U.S. government by means of guerrilla warfare. A number of the radicals whom he had previously met through the BCA also became members of this fledgling group.
On November 6, 1973, Remiro and Russell Little assassinated Marcus Foster, the first black superintendent of the Oakland, California School District, in retribution for the support he had voiced for a plan to issue school identification cards to students as a means of keeping drug dealers off the campuses. The SLA condemned this proposal as a police-state tactic. Unbeknownst to the organization, however, by the time of Foster’s murder, he no longer backed the program.
On January 10, 1974—two months after the SLA had proudly claimed responsibility for Foster’s murder—Remiro and Little were stopped for a traffic violation while driving a vehicle filled with weapons and SLA propaganda materials. Police questioned them regarding Foster’s death, arrested them on the spot, and then booked them into Concord City Jail (before transferring them to the Contra Costa County Jail). Later that day, fellow SLA member Nancy Ling Perry, having heard about the arrests of Remiro and Little, set fire to the group’s Concord, California safe house in an effort to destroy any evidence that might be useful to the police. When officers arrived at the house, they found it damaged but not burned down—and thus, with a significant amount of evidence still intact.
On June 27, 1975, Little and Remiro were both sentenced to life in prison for the Foster murder. Little’s conviction was overturned on a technicality in 1981, but Remiro continues to serve out his term at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Further Reading: “The SLA Is the CIA” (by Mae Brussell, from The Realist, February 1974); The Essential Mae Brussell: Investigations of Fascism in America (by Mae Brussell, 2014); “Joseph Remiro: From VVAW Member to 1973 SLA Assassin” (FreeRepublic.com, 3-24-2004); “The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army” (PBS.org); “What Is the Symbionese Liberation Army?” (Slate.com,1-24-2002); “Russell Little” (PBS.org)’; “For Paralyzed Meth Addict, Worst Is Over” (San Francisco Chronicle, 12-4-2009).