Judi Bari

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Judi Bari was a leading US environmental activist until her death from breast cancer on March 2, 1997.

Bari was a radical labor organizer, feminist, and organizer of Earth First! campaigns against corporate liquidation logging in the redwood forests of Northern California as well as efforts through Industrial Workers of the World Local 1 to bring timber workers and environmentalists together in common cause.

Both before and after her death, Bari 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.

Bomb & Frame

On May 24, 1990, Bari was nearly killed when a motion-triggered pipe bomb exploded under the driver's seat of her car as she and fellow Earth First! organizer Darryl Cherney drove through Oakland, California. The pair were on an organizing tour for Redwood Summer, a campaign of nonviolent protests inspired by the Mississippi Summer civil rights campaign of the sixties. Bari was an outspoken advocate of nonviolent tactics.

When the Oakland police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrived on the bomb scene and immediately accused Bari and Cherney of knowingly carrying a bomb for use in an act of terrorism, the story made national headlines and network news. A sustained media smear campaign against the pair and Earth First! was kept alive for weeks by a drumbeat of police claims that mounting physical evidence tied them to building the bomb. But after seven weeks of sensational stories claiming an open and shut case, the district attorney announced he would not file any criminal charges against Bari and Cherney, citing lack of evidence.

Bari had received several documented threats of violence or death from timber industry supporters in the weeks before the bombing. She reported them to local police, and after the bombing her attorney turned them over to the FBI for investigation. The threats were apparently never investigated.

Hill & Knowlton Dirty Tricks

Phony Earth First! flyers and press releases calling for violence during Redwood Summer were traced to PR giant Hill & Knowlton by San Francisco Examiner columnist Rob Morse in an article published a month before the bombing. Morse wrote April 29, 1990, that he had received a press kit from H&K on behalf of "Earth First!'s nemesis, Pacific Lumber Co." Morse wrote:

"The kit included a press release on the Earth First! letterhead, but not written in the usual careful, sweet style of Earth First! It read like a bad Hollywood version of what radicals talk like... At the bottom of this ridiculous flyer was the name of Earth First! leader Darryl Cherney, with his first name misspelled.... Not only are trees being clear-cut, but dirty tricksters are turning them into fake press releases." [1] A copy of an internal Pacific Lumber memo, which was obatined as part of the disocvery process in a lawsuit between Darryl Cherney and the company, included Hill & Knowlton staff on the cc list. The memo flagged that the flyer was probably a forgery. Copy of Fake EF Press Release with internal Pacific Lumber memo

Besides Pacific Lumber Company, Hill & Knowlton also represented Louisiana Pacific Corporation, Georgia Pacific Corporation and other major redwood logging corporations in their campaign to defeat a major logging reform voter initiative on the November 1990 California ballot. The corporations stood to lose billions of dollars if Prop. 130 passed, and they spent millions to defeat it. The anti-initiative PR campaign falsely labeled Prop. 130 "The Earth First Initiative," calling it "radical" and "too extreme", clearly capitalizing on the media smear of Bari and Earth First! that was fresh in the public consciousness. The initiative was defeated by a narrow margin even though polls just prior to the Bari bombing showed it enjoyed overwhelming public support.

Lawsuit to clear names

A year after the bombing, when it was clear that police and the FBI were making no effort to find the real bomber -- and were still saying that Bari and Cherney were the only suspects -- the pair filed a federal civil rights suit to clear their names. The suit charged the FBI and Oakland Police with trying to frame Bari and Cherney and falsely portray them as violent terrorists so as to demonize, discredit and neutralize them and Earth First!. The FBI dragged the case out for 11 years, and resisted disclosing evidence, but eventually was forced to turn over thousands of pages of FBI files to Bari and Cherney's lawyers. Five years after Bari's death, the case finally came to trial.

In 2002, a federal trial jury exonerated Bari and Cherney, finding four FBI agents and three Oakland Police officers liable for a total of $4.4 million damages to Bari's estate and to Cherney. The damages were for violations of First Amendment rights to freedom of speech (80% of the damages) and for false arrest and unlawful search and seizure in violation of Fourth Amendment rights (20% of damages). A juror said she took special note and was angered when the jury was shown a video compilation of television news smear stories instigated by the FBI and police and broadcast for weeks following the bombing. It was shown at trial that the FBI and police never found any physical evidence whatsoever tying Bari or Cherney to the bomb.

In a major reversal of position, 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 and celebrate and honor the work of Judi Bari in advancing the causes of forest protection, eco-feminism, labor organizing, bridge building between environmentalists and timber workers, and civil rights for political activists; and be it further resolved that the City shall encourage its schools, civic institutions and citizens to memorialize Judi Bari's work through art, media, festivals, school assignments and other creative means."

Faux biography

In 2005, a purported biography of Bari, titled The Secret Wars of Judi Bari: A Car Bomb, the Fight for the Redwoods, and the End of Earth First!, by Kate Coleman, Encounter Books, drew fierce criticism from Cherney and other friends of Bari. [2]

Nicholas Wilson, coordinator of Friends of Judi Bari [3], says Coleman's book is a classic "trash for cash" smear book commissioned by right-wing publisher Encounter Books and funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Wilson says he has Coleman on tape admitting that she was solicited and paid to write her Bari book by Encounter's then-publisher Peter Collier, co-author and publisher of several books with notorious neocon activist David Horowitz.

The Bradley Foundation is reported to have contributed $11,850 [4] for publication of David Brock's prototypical right-wing smear book, The Real Anita Hill, which targeted the credibility of the main witness against then-nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. Brock later renounced his book as a paid-for hatchet job, and said many of the allegations it contained were made up. Brock is now the Executive Director of Media Matters for America (website) a media-watch organization.

Best-selling feminist author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Susan Faludi attended the trial in Bari v. FBI, and said she is writing a book about Bari that is now expected to be published sometime in 2007.

Bari was the author of numerous articles and commentaries, many of them compiled in her book Timber Wars, Common Courage Press, 1994. Additional writings by or about Bari and the bombing case, together with audio files of her speeches and radio programs, are available at the Judi Bari website.

Some have noted that Judi Bari was the sister of New York Times science writer Gina Kolata, although the two were not particularly close, and in fact espoused different values and made widely divergent life choices.


Web: The official Judi Bari website

External links