Here’s what I wrote a year and a half ago for BariNews:
Today, May 24, 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of the 1990 bombing of logging reform activist Judi Bari. The bombing remains an unsolved crime. Here is a brief recap of the historical and political context of the bombing and attempted framing of Judi Bari by the FBI and Oakland Police.
In the spring of 1990, the Forests Forever Initiative, officially Proposition 130, had just qualified for the November 1990 ballot. If passed, it would have outlawed clearcutting, required actual sustained yield logging, put real teeth in the forest practice rules and their enforcement, and ended industry domination of the state Board of Forestry. It would also place a moratorium on logging the remaining old-growth redwood forests. Had it passed, it would have totally blocked the liquidation logging plans of Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and especially Pacific Lumber, which had only four years earlier been taken over by corporate raider Charles Hurwitz and his Maxxam Corporation of Houston, Texas. Early polling showed the initiative was supported by a strong majority of Californians.
Passage of Prop. 130 would have caused losses in the billions of dollars to Pacific Lumber alone, and hundreds of millions more in losses to GP and LP. The three corporations launched an all-out, multimillion dollar effort to defeat the initiative.
Redwood Summer was a summer-long campaign of nonviolent protests and demonstrations intended to prevent the three biggest redwood logging corporations from preemptive clearcutting of the forests of Mendocino and Humboldt counties before passage of Prop. 130 could be passed. Judi Bari said so to local radio and TV interviewer Ed Kowas early in 1990, before the planned protest campaign was even named Redwood Summer. Shortly after, a news story by Mike Geniella in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat quoted Judi Bari calling for a nationwide turnout of protesters for a summer-long campaign of nonviolent demonstrations. That story was carried by Associated Press and appeared in newspapers nationwide, resulting in a huge response from people wanting to join in. It also made Judi Bari the best known logging opponent and organizer, and thereby made her a target of the corporations that would be impacted by forest practices reform.
It was in this context that a pipe bomb was placed under Bari’s car seat and exploded, maiming and very nearly killing her, as she traveled through Oakland on an organizing trip for Redwood Summer. Oakland Police, at the behest of the FBI, arrested Bari within hours of the explosion, announcing to the media that she and her passenger, fellow organizer Darryl Cherney, were terrorists who had been blown up by their own bomb while on their way to do a terror bombing.
The false arrest and the bogus terrorist accusations discredited Judi Bari and the Earth First! movement, and chilled plans for their nonviolent Redwood Summer campaign. All this was used by corporate PR agents to create public distrust of all the environmentalist groups who worked to support Prop. 130, and ultimately to cause the initiative’s electoral defeat by a few percentage points when November 1990 rolled around.
Now, 25 years after the bombing, the crime remains unsolved. Bari died in 1997 of cancer, but she was exonerated of the false accusations by police and FBI that she was blown up by her own bomb. In 2002, a federal jury in Oakland delivered a $4.4 civil judgment against the Oakland police and FBI agents who had falsely accused and arrested her and Cherney. Fully 80% of the damages were for violation of their First Amendment rights to speak out and organize politically in defense of the forests. The jury agreed that the cops deliberately — not mistakenly — used false arrest and false and defamatory terrorism accusations in order to shut down their organizing of Redwood Summer.
One of the first rules of crime investigation is to follow the money. That is, to look at who might have a financial motive to commit the crime. As sketched out above, if Proposition 130 had passed, three logging corporations would have been blocked from making somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion over the next 10 to 20 years. That’s Billions with a capital B. Their campaign to defeat it leaned heavily on the Bari bombing, and especially the false terrorist charges that had filled the headlines for weeks after the bombing, kept alive by police dribbling out claims of more and more evidence that Bari was the culprit rather than the victim of attempted murder. One of their campaign leaflets called for industry supporters to “Defeat the Earth First Initiative” saying “It’s too extreme.”
History has proved the environmental critics correct. The defeat of Prop. 130 allowed all three of the to continue clearcutting northern California’s unique redwood forests for another two decades until they were so logged over and depleted that GP and LP closed their sawmills and sold off the battered forest lands, and Pacific Lumber was driven into bankruptcy by Mr. Hurwitz, who lined his own pockets with hundreds of millions in the process. When the GP Fort Bragg mill closed in 2002, the Mendocino Coast was left without a single remaining sawmill for the first time since the 1850s, when white men first came here to log the redwoods.
The Bari bombing crime remains unsolved 25 years later because it was never honestly investigated by authorities, who were in fact engaged in a campaign of disinformation intended to pin the crime on the victim. Evidence produced during the 2002 civil rights case and trial against the Oakland and federal defendants showed that they only investigated environmental activists as potential suspects, and did nothing whatsoever to investigate the corporations and their agents despite a clear, multibillion dollar motive to target their best-known and most effective opponent as part of a plan to derail Redwood Summer and ultimately to defeat Prop. 130. The crime remains unsolved because what police agency can you turn to when the FBI itself was involved in it?
Darryl Cherney has continued to pursue evidence in the case, and offers a $50,000 reward. He has asked the Mendocino County Sheriff to investigate. The sheriff’s office reportedly said it will look for evidence that the crime originated in Mendocino County, which would give it jurisdiction. With director Mary Liz Thomson, Cherney also produced the new documentary film about the case. It has been showing at film festivals and in limited theatrical showings around the country over the past year. The film is titled “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” It is based on Judi Bari’s own telling of the story while under oath just a month before her death. As Judi speaks, the picture shifts to show the events and happenings she describes, using activist documentary video footage. The film is available on DVD. See < www.whobombedjudibari.com>
For more information about the case, please refer to in-depth reporting on the case by the Albion Monitor, one of the first online newspapers, at < http://www.albionmonitor.com/bari> Although the Monitor ceased publishing in 2009, a full archive of its 14 years of content is still online at the above address. (After reaching the home page, use the search box to find the Judi Bari stories.? See also www.judibari.org for an archive of legal documents, news coverage of the case, and many of Judi Bari’s own writings.