Four years after radical environmentalist Judi Bari died of breast cancer, and 11 years after a car bomb nearly killed Bari and her colleague Darryl Cherney in Oakland, California, their federal civil rights lawsuit against the FBI is scheduled for trial on October 1.
After the 1990 attack, authorities arrested Bari and Cherney themselves for transporting the bomb that tore Bari apart — leaving her struggling for a year just to walk — and ruptured Cherney’s eardrums. The FBI and cops claimed the bomb was in plain view in the back seat, although photos of the auto, which police tried to conceal, show clearly that the device was hidden under the driver’s seat.
Although the Alameda district attorney didn’t file charges against Bari and Cherney for lack of evidence, officials never searched for the actual bombers.
In 1991, the pair sued the Bureau and Oakland police for false arrest, illegal search and seizure, violation of their civil rights, interference with the right to organize, and denial of equal protection under the law in allowing the real bombers to go free.
Before she died in 1997, Bari travelled widely, exposing what court-compelled discovery was revealing in the case: falsified evidence, lies to the media and courts, conspiracy between government and business to demonize Bari and Earth First!, and reasonable suspicion about FBI involvement in the blast itself. After Bari’s death, her heirs and Cherney continued on.
More FBI dirty tricks. Through its outrageous harassment of Bari and Cherney, the FBI was aiming to kill Redwood Summer — a project, initiated by the two, to bring thousands of students from around the country to Northern California to mount a serious challenge to timber industry rapaciousness. The Bureau’s strategy in this instance was identical to the one it used in counterintelligence programs against the Black Panther Party and Native Americans three decades earlier: attempt to destroy a movement by destroying its leaders.
The FBI and police have delayed the case with numerous appeals, most but not all of them denied. Since the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the case can go forward in October, last-minute efforts are underway to reinstate charges against Richard W. Held.
Held, who learned COINTELPRO tactics during the 1970s FBI war against the American Indian Movement, was in charge of the San Francisco FBI office at the time of the bombing.
Bari lives! Thanks in large measure to the determination of Judi Bari, the FBI managed to stop neither Redwood Summer nor the case against it. (To find out how to support the lawsuit, write the Redwood Summer Justice Project, P.O. Box 14720, Santa Rosa, CA 95402, or call 707-887-0262.)
A feminist, carpenter, and union organizer, Bari was ahead of her time. She had become convinced that only a coalition of timber workers and Earth First!ers — a “Teamsters and Turtles” alliance — could save the giant, centuries-old trees of Northern California.
Bari inspired many with her message that big business is destroying the earth, that the system must change fundamentally, and that all people have a stake in the outcome. Her truth has found its way past dynamite and death and now must emerge in court.