Wednesday, May 12, 2010


It's been almost twenty years since a bomb sent Judi Bari to the hospital seriously injured.  About Judi, Nicholas Wilson noted, "The common denominator was her indignation over injustice, whether in the form of war, racism, sexism, political repression, economic exploitation, or the unnecessary destruction of ecosystems."

That was Judi.

When the then  labor activist Judi Bari joined Earth First! and brought the IWW back to timber country in 1988, real grassroots opposition began to grow in timber country. Judi was charismatic and she worked for a an alliance between workers and environmental activists. So it is no surprise that both before and after her death, she was the target of national PR campaigns and covert actions aimed at discrediting and neutralizing
her, the Earth First! movement, and radical environmentalism in general. The public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, representing logging corporations, was shown to be involved.

Judi was downright scary to the corporate powers.They shed no tears when she was stricken with breast cancer and left this world in 1997.

But to paraphrase a tune about Joe Hill, someone who would have loved her, "she never really died."

The following is from Earth First! Journal. 

Remembering Judi Bari
20 Years Ago an Explosion Filled the Sky and Changed Earth First!
By kp
I can barely believe it was 20 years ago, because the events are so fresh in my mind. Of course, I've always said that I was about as close to the bomb exploding in Judi Bari's car on May 24, 1990 as I could have been without being in the car myself. I was at work in Berkeley, and got a call from Kelpie, my roommate and fellow activist, that something terrible had happened. Judi and Darryl Cherney had been taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, Califonia badly injured by a bomb explosion. I had been at a Redwood Summer organizing meeting  at the Seeds of Peace house just the night before, and Judi, Darryl and fellow musician George Shook were planning to go to Santa Cruz for a Redwood Summer roadshow event on the University of California Santa Cruz campus. A few minutes before noon, Judi made a lane change, triggering the motion device attached to the pipe bomb that had been planted unseen under her driver's seat. The force of the explosion drove the seat springs up into her body, pulverizing her pelvis and nearly killing her.

When I got to the hospital—before the crowds arrived and after driving like a proverbial bat out of hell on city streets—I was taken downstairs by FBI agents and Oakland police to answer questions. Initially, this seemed routine. Ask questions—that's what the police are supposed to do after a bomb nearly kills someone, right? Because I figured they were Bay Area cops and wouldn't necessarily know what had been transpiring behind the Redwood Curtain, I told them this seemed to be the culmination of what had been unfolding in our lead-up to Redwood Summer. Our campaign, dubbed "The Timber Wars," was heating up and activists had been receiving increasingly frequent and virulent threats—Judi in particular. The conversation, however, quickly began to stink like a 4-day-old dead fish when they started asking me personal questions; I yelled at the officers that my friend was critically injured upstairs, and stated that I was leaving and not answering any of their questions. I was then taken to the Oakland Police Department (OPD) where I was held incommunicado for hours. An attorney tried to get into my holding pen, being barred from seeing me, while the crowd at both the hospital and the OPD (where Darryl was held, somewhere else in the department bowels) grew to over a hundred people in just a couple hours. (This was all before "instant messaging," texts and all that.)

Well, it was more than fishy—it was downright conspiratorial, and what unfolded over the next few days boggled the mind, since we hadn't known we were being tracked so closely by the FBI, despite the fact that it had been a year since they dragged Dave Foreman out of bed in his skivvies and arrested Peg Millett, Mark Davis and Mark Baker for monkeywrenching in Arizona. Both Judi and Darryl were arrested for transporting the bomb, and the FBI and OPD held a press conference to proclaim Judi, Darryl and Earth First! terrorists as they tried mightily to erode any support EF! might have. Didn't work. Eight weeks later, they were forced to withdraw the charges, but the attempts by the FBI to try to frame the two— particularly Judi—continued as they destroyed evidence, manufactured evidence, fed false information to the press, harassed every activist they could find and used their iron fist to try to crush the movement. Sound familiar? Precursor of the Green Scare. But there were no fires, much less any kind of violence perpetrated by anyone associated with EF! As Judi observed wryly at one point, the FBI would have people believe that "not only are Earth First!ers terrorists who carry bombs around in our cars, but we are stupid, violent terrorists who hide live anti-personnel bombs under our own car seats."

Fast-forward to 2002 when the lawsuit put together by Judi finally burst into a federal courtroom—twelve years after the incident, and tragically, five years after Judi died from breast cancer. Judi worked on the case until her dying day, literally, and made her friends and colleagues promise that we would carry on the case. We did, and thanks to heroic efforts of a scrappy team of radical lawyers, we won! The jury found that the FBI and OPD violated Judi and Darryl's First and Fourth Amendment rights: free speech and protection against illegal search and seizure. The jury's decision was unanimous and 80 percent of the award was for violations of the First Amendment, recognizing the FBI's deliberate smear campaign against Earth First! and against Judi and Darryl.

Judi's victory against the FBI is an important and unprecedented mile marker to remember, as is the bombing itself. We commemorate it 20 years later because it is important that we never forget, and that we remember to never give up and to keep a bold resistance to strong arm tactics as well as to assaults on Mama Earth. Equally important is recognizing what Judi brought to Earth First!, which goes beyond her challenge to the FBI. She brought us lessons from her background as a labor organizer and analysis that helped evolve our radical thinking both philosophically and strategically. We are reprinting her zine, Revolutionary Ecology, where she discusses biocentrism in the context of radical thought: e.g., Biocentrism Contradicts Capitalism, Biocentrism Contradicts Communism, and Biocentrism Contradicts Patriarchy. Check it out.

Judi is an icon, but she would bristle at being canonized. She is symbolic of a revolutionary, irreverent and bold approach to biocentrism, and she had her share of shouting matches with other movement icons; in fact, she reveled in it.

Recognizing the roots of biocentrism not only in ancient native wisdom but "in context of today's industrial society, biocentrism is profoundly revolutionary, challenging the system to its core," as Judi puts forward in her booklet Revolutionary Ecology. While it's easy to see that "biocentrism contradicts capitalism," and that "modern day corporations are the very worst manifestations of this sickness," her essay purports that biocentrism contradicts communism even though her background in revolutionary was rooted in Marxism. This is because, really, all leftist ideologies call for the redistribution of spoils from the rape of the Earth. She saw the possibility of ecological socialism that would organize human societies in a manner that is compatible with the way nature is organized.

The world around us changes, sometimes at breakneck speed. The context of movement building is always in flux and demands that we always evolve our thinking and strategic organizing. At the same time, it is valuable (and smart) to weave in institutional memory and not lose the wisdom embodied in the revolutionary thinking of our companeras that are no longer around getting in our face, reminding us of their views. Viva Judi!

An event marking the 20th anniversary of the pipe bomb attack on Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney will take place in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, over the course of two days. On Sunday, May 23, an event dubbed "Revolutionary Ecology" will take place at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, (3105 Shattuck, across from the Long Haul Infoshop), with a panel of speakers including Ramona Afrika, music by Darryl Cherney and others, film and an exciting historical exhibit. On the actual anniversary, May 24, people from near and far will gather at the moment of the bomb explosion at the site it blasted through Judi's car, nearly killing her and forever changing the Earth First! movement. The site is on Park Boulevard in Oakland, CA. Details for both events will be posted on the website. Info number is 510-548-3113.

No comments: