Judi Bari, March 3, 1995, by Xiang Xing Zhou, San Francisco Daily Journal
|Born||November 7, 1949|
|Died||March 2, 1997
Near Willits, CA
Cause of death
|Metastatic breast cancer|
|Cremated, ashes in multiple sites|
|Residence||Rural home near Willits, CA|
|Other names||Judith Beatrice Bari|
|Alma mater||U. of Maryland|
|Occupation||Earth First! organizer|
|Known for||Environmental, labor and social justice leadership|
Judi Bari (November 7, 1949 – March 2, 1997) was an American environmentalist and labor leader, a feminist, and the principal organizer of Earth First! campaigns against logging in the ancient redwood forests of Northern California in the 1980s and '90s. She also organized efforts through Earth First! - Industrial Workers of the World Local 1 to bring timber workers and environmentalists together in common cause.
- 1 Family background and early life
- 2 Pre-bombing political and conservation activities
- 3 The car bombing attempt on Bari's life
- 4 Aftermath of bombing
- 5 Death and posthumous civil rights trial
- 6 Legacy
- 7 References
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 External links
Family background and early life
Bari was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, the daughter of mathematician Ruth Aaronson Bari and diamond setter Arthur Bari. The elder Baris were both active in left-wing politics; they advocated for civil rights and opposed the Vietnam War. One of Judi Bari's sisters is New York Times science journalist Gina Kolata; the other sister, Martha Bari, is an art historian. Bari's father was of Italian descent and her mother was Jewish. Although Judi attended the University of Maryland for five years, she dropped out without graduating. She admitted that her college career was most notable for "anti-Vietnam War rioting".
Prior to her move to northern California, Bari was a clerk for a chain grocery store and became a union organizer in its work force. At her next job as a mail handler, she organized a wildcat strike in the United States Postal Service bulk mail facility in Maryland.
Bari moved to Sonoma County, California, and settled into married life with her husband Mike Sweeny, whom she had met while still living on the East Coast.
Pre-bombing political and conservation activities
During the early to mid-1980s Bari devoted her time to Pledge of Resistance, a group that opposed US policies in Central America. She was a self-proclaimed virtuoso on the bullhorn. She edited, wrote and drew cartoons for political leaflets and publications. She was flamboyant and articulate.
Around 1985, Bari moved north with her husband and two children to the vicinity of Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, California. In 1988, as she was divorcing her husband, she met Darryl Cherney and began a romantic relationship with him based partly on mutual political beliefs.
In 1988, Bari joined Earth First! and began organizing protests against over-cutting old growth redwoods.
Bari's first forest blockade site was on behalf of expanding the B.L.M.'s Cahto Wilderness Area. Also in 1988, Bari organized one demonstration to protect an abortion clinic.
Bari's actions were seen by many timber workers as threatening their livelihoods. At this time, environmentalists were backing their legal suits by lobbying against perceived timber overcutting with blockades of job sites in the woods and tree sitting. In turn, loggers punched and shot at demonstrators, and ran demonstrators' vehicles including Bari's station wagon off the road with a lumber truck. Timber cutters were known to fell trees in the direction of demonstrators.
To counter the loggers' tactics, and to widen the scope of its demonstrations against timber harvesting, Earth First! came up with the idea of Redwood Summer, protests inspired by Freedom Summer, and by the Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement. Bari was instrumental in the process of calling in demonstrators from college campuses across the United States. Reactions to her lobbying tactics were severe, including a purported ramming of her car by a logging truck in 1989, as well as death threats.
In 1986, Houston millionaire Charles Hurwitz had acquired Pacific Lumber Company and doubled its rate of timber harvesting as a means of paying off the acquisition cost. This enraged environmentalists and drew attention from government agencies because of the use of junk bonds.
On 8 May 1987, a sawmill accident occurred at the Louisiana Pacific mill in Cloverdale, California. A worker nearly died of injuries suffered when the mill's saw blade struck a spike in a log being milled. The spike turned the whirling blade into a storm of tensile shrapnel. A fallout of publicity resulted. Earth First! was blamed for the spike, but cleared by police investigators.
In 1989, Bari used her labor union background to begin organizing timber workers against the corporations for which they worked.
In line with her beliefs in nonviolent action, she harnessed the power of music as part of her demonstrations. She played the violin and sang original compositions by Darryl Cherney and occasionally her own. Their song titles and lyrics aroused controversy by usage of loaded language. Cherney's song about tree spiking, Spike a Tree for Jesus is one example; Will This Fetus Be Aborted, sung as a counter-protest to an anti-abortion rally, was another. The resulting publicity tended to create perceptions about Earth First! among the public contrary to her commitment to non-violence; despite her disavowal of tree spiking and her espousal of civil disobedience, media portrayed her as an obstructionist saboteur. Bari's activism made her seem egocentric, humorless, and strident to some; and her tactics often rankled not only the timber industry and political establishment, but fellow environmental activists.
In August 1989, environmentalist protester Mem Hill suffered a broken nose in a protest confrontation with loggers in the woods. A subsequent legal suit accused a logger of assault, and claimed law enforcement did not protect her from attack.
By the following year, Mendocino County had been convinced that the public interest was best served by reclaiming for the public domain 300,000 acres of timber land from Louisiana Pacific. Ballot proposition 130, dubbed "Forests Forever", was submitted to California's voters in November 1990. It was designed to prevent over-harvesting of the state's timber. The logging corporations were strongly opposed to it. In response, environmentalists began organizing Redwood Summer, a campaign of nonviolent protests focused on saving redwood forests in Northern California. On 6 November 1990, Proposition 130 was defeated by California voters.
On 9 May 1990, a failed pipe bomb was discovered in the Louisiana Pacific saw mill in Cloverdale.
On 22 May 1990, Bari met quietly with local loggers to agree on ground rules for nonviolence during the Redwood Summer demonstrations.
The car bombing attempt on Bari's life
On 24 May 1990, in Oakland, California, the vehicle used by Bari and Darryl Cherney was blown up by a pipe bomb planted in it. Bari was severely injured by the blast, as the bomb had been placed under her seat; Cherney suffered minor injuries. Bari was falsely arrested for transporting explosives while she was still in critical condition with a smashed pelvis and other major injuries. The FBI took jurisdiction of the case away from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, saying it was a terrorism case. The Oakland Police Department was the local agency on the case. The case would go unsolved. Bari's wounds disabled her to the extent she had to curtail her activities. While she lay convalescing, Redwood Summer took place, turning into a series of demonstrations by thousands of ecologists and counter-demonstrations by roughly equal numbers of timber workers and their families. In late July 1990, the Oakland district attorney declined to press charges against Bari and Cherney, claiming insufficient evidence. The false arrests and illegal search warrants became the basis of Bari's civil rights suit (discussed below), filed the following year but not decided until 2002, five years after her death.
Bari and Cherney went on an organizing tour for Redwood Summer. On May 24, the bomb exploded in her car as she and Cherney traveled through Oakland on their way to Santa Cruz. Although Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is mandated to investigate use of explosives, the FBI claimed jurisdiction of the crime on grounds that it was terrorism.
When the Oakland police and the FBI immediately accused Bari and Cherney of knowingly carrying a bomb for use in an act of terrorism, the story made headlines nationwide. By 3:00 p.m. of the day of the bombing, Bari was placed under arrest for transportation of illegal explosives while being treated in Highland Hospital. The police actions shaped media response. For example, a KQED (TV) news report entitled "Focus: Logjam" used the term "radical" to describe Earth First!, blamed them for sabotaging logger's equipment and tree spiking, and tied in Bari's bombing with these actions.
Based on his personal observations, finding in the destroyed car a bag of broad-headed roofing nails he considered similar to nearly headless finishing nails used as shrapnel in the bomb, FBI Special Agent Frank Doyle filed a public affidavit that the bomb had been carried on the back seat floorboard of Bari's vehicle. The FBI was granted a search warrant on May 25 at 2:21 a.m., and agents subsequently took a helicopter to search Bari's home. Agents also searched the premises of Seeds of Peace, where Bari and Cherney had slept the night before the explosion, at the "Seeds House" in Berkeley. Members of Seeds of Peace were repeatedly interviewed, and repeatedly informed police of Bari's and Cherney's commitment to nonviolence.
Within a week, supporters of Bari and Cherney were petitioning for an investigation of the FBI's investigative methods; there were already complaints by Daniel Hamburg and others that the investigation was focused solely on charging the two environmentalists. At the same time, legislation governing the size of protest sign staffs was under consideration by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, as a means of curbing violence by demonstrators. Meanwhile, the remaining Redwood Summer organizers debated whether to cancel demonstrations in the woods as being too dangerous.
On 29 May, representatives of small local logging companies and of Redwood Summer signed an agreement for nonviolent and non-destructive protests of timber harvesting. Redwood Summer eventually continued, though as a series of both demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. The latter were organized by loggers' families, who felt their employment was in jeopardy.
On 6 July, a new search warrant for Bari's home, granted largely on information given in the first one, was executed with exemplars of typewriting the target of the search.
FBI laboratory analysis discovered that the explosive was a pipe bomb packed with nails for shrapnel effect, and that it was equipped with a motion trigger to ensure that it would explode only when the car was driven. The bomb was also placed directly under the driver's seat, not in the back seat or luggage area as it presumably would have been if Bari had been transporting it knowingly. After seven weeks of continual news stories citing repeated police claims that all evidence pointed to Bari and Cherney as culprits, the Oakland District Attorney announced that he would not file any formal charges against the pair due to insufficient evidence against them. The crime would go unsolved.
Theories of the bombing
The Lord's Avenger
Just five days after the bombing, on 29 May, while Bari was still in hospital, Mike Geniella of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat received a letter claiming responsibility for placing the bomb in Bari's car and at the Cloverdale mill. It was written in a high-flown, biblical style and signed "The Lord's Avenger," who stated further that the letter writer's motivation was Bari's defense of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Ukiah, California, during an anti-abortion protest. The letter also described the construction of the two bombs in great detail. The bomb in the Cloverdale sawmill included a pipe bomb and a can of gasoline, but it failed to ignite and did no damage. The other bomb was in Bari's vehicle.
As Bari discovered through the depositions for her civil rights trial, the May 24 bomb in Oakland also closely resembled "crime scenes" fabricated by the FBI in a "bomb school" held in redwood country earlier that year. The FBI school was intended to train local and state police officers on how to investigate bomb scenes. The school taught that bomb explosions inside a vehicle were not likely to involve targets of bombing but indicated the knowing, criminal transportation of homemade bombs. This was said to be because it was difficult to break into a locked car to plant a bomb. Nevertheless, two of the three bombs set off as a practicuum for the school were placed inside automobiles.
According to Bari, FBI Special Agent Frank Doyle was the bomb school instructor, and at least four of the law enforcement respondents to the bombing were his students at the school.
Bari had received numerous death threats citing her anti-logging activism in the weeks before the bombing. She had reported them to local police, and after the bombing Bari's attorney turned written threats over to the FBI for investigation. The local police and the FBI never investigated, court evidence later showed.
Aftermath of bombing
Redwood Summer ended with a fractionating Earth First! claiming success because they had trained so many volunteers in nonviolent resistance. Nevertheless, Proposition 130 went down to defeat on 6 November 1990.
Writing and public service career
Bari became a political writer as part of her interests in feminism and ecology. In May 1992, in her writing, she claimed to have feminized Earth First!, a radical environmentalist group founded by men. While making this claim, she admitted blocking loggers from their work.
By the end of 1996, Bari was working as a para-legal and hosting a weekly public radio show. She also headed the congressional committee that wrote a compensation clause for lumber workers laid off because of the establishment of the Headwaters Forest Reserve; the resultant bill establishing the reserve passed on 14 November 1997, shortly after Bari's death.
Death and posthumous civil rights trial
Bari and Cherney had filed a federal civil rights suit claiming that the FBI and police officers falsely arrested the pair and attempted to frame them as terrorists so as to discredit their political organizing in defense of the redwood forests.
In 1997, the law enforcement officers named in the civil rights suit were sued for conspiracy to violate Bari and Cherney's First and Fourth Amendment rights. On 15 October that year, the agents lost their bid for immunity from prosecution.
Also on 15 October, federal judge Claudia Wilken dismissed from the case FBI supervisor Richard Wallace Held, who had been prominent in the agency's COINTELPRO effort, on the grounds that he had no duty to oversee the daily duties of his subordinate agents.
In 2002, a jury in Bari's and Cherney's federal civil lawsuit found that their civil rights had been violated.
As part of the jury's verdict, the judge ordered three FBI agents and three Oakland police officers to pay a total of $4.4 million to Cherney and to Bari's estate. The award was a response to the defendants' violation of the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and for the defendants' various unlawful acts, including unlawful search and seizure in violation of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. At trial the FBI and the Oakland Police pointed fingers at each other.
- "Oakland investigators testified that they relied almost exclusively on the F.B.I.'s counter-terrorism unit in San Francisco for advice on how to handle the case. But the F.B.I. agents denied misleading the investigators into believing that Ms. Bari and Mr. Cherney were violence-prone radicals who were probably guilty of transporting the bomb."
While neither agency would admit wrongdoing, the jury held both liable finding, "[B]oth agencies admitted they had amassed intelligence on the couple before the bombing." This evidence supported the jury's finding that both the FBI and the Oakland police persecuted Bari and Cherney for being bombed instead of trying to find the true perpetrators in order to discredit and sabotage Earth First! and the upcoming Redwood Summer, thereby violating their First Amendment rights and justifying the large award. Simply, instead of looking for the actual terrorists, they persecuted the victims of that terror because of their political activism.
After the trial's gag order was lifted, jurors made it clear they believed the agents were blatant liars.
- "Investigators were lying so much it was insulting .... I'm surprised that they seriously expected anyone would believe them ... They were evasive. They were arrogant. They were defensive, " said juror Mary Nunn.
- Timber Wars. Judi Bari. Common Courage Press, 1994. ISBN 1567510264, 9781567510263.
- Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism & Deep Ecology. Judi Bari. Trees Foundation, 1998. No ISBN.
- The Feminization of Earth First! by Judi Bari
Judi Bari Day
On May 20, 2003, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted a resolution saying: "Whereas, Judi Bari was a dedicated activist, who worked for many social and environmental causes, the most prominent being the protection and stewardship of California's ancient redwood forests. ... Now therefore be it resolved that the City of Oakland shall designate May 24 as Judi Bari Day ...
In early 2005, a critical biography of Bari titled The Secret Wars of Judi Bari, by Kate Coleman, drew fierce condemnation from Cherney, Bari's estate, and their friends and supporters, who claimed hundreds of factual errors and a bias against Bari and Earth First! They also pointed out that the book was published by Encounter Books, a non-profit publishing house founded by neoconservative Peter Collier and funded primarily by arch-conservative foundations not sympathetic to Bari's causes. In the book Coleman speculated that Bari's ex-husband had planted the bomb in hopes of killing her and Cherney. A review of the book in the LA Times by Mark Hertsgaard entitled, Too many rumors, too few facts to examine eco-activism case, said, "the reporting is thin and sloppy, and the humdrum prose is marred by dubious speculation." However, the Times Review was said to contain its own errors.
The story of the case and the trial inspired an award winning documentary movie, The Forest For The Trees. The film, which aired on PBS and the Sundance Channel, follows the case through the lead attorney, civil rights legend Dennis Cunningham, and is told by his daughter, Bernadine Mellis. Among the awards the film received was the Grand Prize at the Green Film Festival in Seoul.
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- Stories of Globalization, p. 180.
- http://www.nigc.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=3Bu8TCjpyKY%3D&tabid=605 Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- "Bari bomb jurors apparently having a real tough time / After 2 weeks of deliberations, still haven't reached all verdicts". The San Francisco Chronicle. June 11, 2002.
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- The Encyclopedia of American Law Enforcement, pp. 155-156.
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- "Environmentalists Win Bombing Lawsuit". The New York Times. June 12, 2002.
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- "Cops, FBI lied about probe, juror says / Woman speaks out on Earth First trial after gag order lifted". The San Francisco Chronicle. September 5, 2010.
- Guthmann, Edward (February 1, 2005). "Is the biographer of activist Judi Bari a tool of the right -- or just a skeptical liberal?". San Francisco Chronicle (Hearst Communications). Retrieved May 17, 2010.
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- The Encyclopedia of American Law Enforcement: Facts on File Crime Library. Michael Newton. Infobase Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0816062900, 9780816062904.
- The Last Stand: The War Between Wall Street and Main Street Over California's Ancient Redwoods. David Harris. University of California Press, 1997. ISBN 0871569442, 9780871569448.
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- The Attempted Murder of Judi Bari, 1994 interview
- Friends of Judi Bari, a defense group
- Judi Bari article at Sourcewatch.org
- IWW Obituary for Judi Bari
- Don't Mourn, Organise! The Judi Bari Story on BBC, December 2004, 30 min. audio (MP3)
- Website debunking Coleman's "Secret Wars" book