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The Evolution of ELF After "Operation Backfire"

By an anonymous IWW Member - ca. 2010

Media reports claim that several alleged ELF eco-warriors turned snitches, including Briana Waters, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, William Cottrell, Darren Todd Thurston, Ian Jacob Wallace, Jacob (Jake the SNAKE) Ferguson, Jen Kolar, Kevin Tubbs, Lacey Phillabaum, Lauren Weiner, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, Ryan Lewis, Kendall Tankersley, Frank Ambrose, Zachary Jensen, Suzanne Savoie, Aaron Ellringer and Katherine Christianson.  They reportedly all caved in and "cooperated" with authorities.  But, more than twenty ELF activists did not have to lose their freedom in order to wage an effective battle defending the Earth.

They could have learned by another person's experience:  Thirty six years ago, in 1977 (around the time when Chelsea Gerlach was being born), an arrest occurred which showed that arson and the use of explosives is counterproductive to the environmental movement.  John Hanna of Santa Cruz, California, was the first ELF "ecommando" to be arrested for underground guerrilla actions done in defense of the environment.  He ended up facing a federal judge in 1978 where he was convicted of placing fire bombs on seven crop dusters, sent to prison and spent years rebuilding his life.

Who Bombed Judi Bari? - Interview with Beth Bosk

Interview by Beth Bosk - New Settler Interview, January 1995

NEW SETTLER: The last my readers know of you with regard to the bombing, you are in an Oakland hospital, near comatose. Outside, the FBI and the Oakland police are accusing you of the act of transporting the bomb that blew up your car as you were careening down a street in Oakland. I'd like you to begin with your recollection of the day you were bombed: why you were in Oakland?

JUDI: I'm going to start the day before in Willits, because I think it is more logical that way... It was the eve of Redwood Summer and we were calling for people to come in from all over the country to engage in non-violent civil disobedience to stop the over-cutting; and the timber industry was mounting a campaign to portray us as violent, and to whip up hatred against us. This included my receipt of increasingly frightening death threats, and fake press releases that were being distributed not only to the press, but were being passed out in the lumber mills and on the logging jobs. The fake press releases had the Earth First! logo on them -- but they weren't written by us, and in contrast to what we were really saying, they were calling for violence and tree spiking. One of the fake press releases actually spelled Darryl's name wrong, so it was easy to prove it was fake -- as we were asserting -- yet these were still being distributed as if they were real, and treated by the press as if they were real.

And perceived real by the increasingly-angered men who work in the industry.

JUDI: We've documented all this stuff since. Louisiana-Pacific, for example, in at least one plant (I suspect in more) held a meeting -- on the clock, that workers were forced to attend -- where they passed out the fake press releases -- presented them as real -- and encouraged the workers (in the words of the plant manager) "to go to public meetings wearing your hard hat and work boots and role up your sleeves and sit down right next to one of them so they won't talk too freely." I know this because the union filed a grievance against L-P for making them listen to anti-Earth First! propaganda on company time.

The companies were very actively trying to discredit us. G-P canceled their mill tours because of the alleged "terrorist threat." That's how they were doing their part. MAXXAM (and I have actual proof from their internal company memos) MAXXAM distributed these fake press releases calling for violence to the press after they acknowledged privately that they were fake. L-P put a barbed wire fence around their Ukiah plant. There was a whole bunch of things going on to portray us as terrorists and make people afraid of us. The bombing didn't happen in a vacuum.

Our reaction, though, was to try to head off the violence. We knew a lot of contract loggers -- the gyppos -- and we wanted to meet with them face-to-face and explain to them who we really were and to allay their fears and to work things out so that we wouldn't have to face violence that summer.

We had asked Art Harwood to help us set up these meetings of local gyppo operators, in that he was one of the largest ones, and he did that and we had two mediated meetings with a paid mediator in Willits. There were some rank-and-file loggers, but mostly it was contract loggers, company owners -- Bill Bailey was there, he owns a big logger supply outfit in Laytonville. Jerry Philbrick was there. Tom Loop was there.

And we had actually been making progress: first in humanizing each other -- in learning that each other were human beings, that we really had more in common than we thought; -- and then in allaying each other's fears. At the second meeting, we had reached an agreement that we called "The No First Strike Agreement": we had assured them that we had no intention of monkeywrenching their equipment, and they had said that they would not assault us if we don't. [laughs]

So we really felt that we were making progress and that things were going well. So, that's where I was on Tuesday of the week I was bombed. That meeting was held in the evening.

A Conversation with Earth First! Activist Judi Bari

by Christine Keyser - On the Issues, Summer 1991

The spirit of Mother Jones lives on today in the backwoods of Northern California. The North Coast's most eloquent anti-chainsaw organizer, Earth First's! Judi Bari, is back at work defending the ancient forests from corporate slaughter after surviving a crippling car bomb in Oakland last May and the FBI's subsequent attempt to pin the blame on her and her companion Darryl Cherney. Just as the grandmother of the American labor movement fought King Coal a century ago, Bari has taken on the Big Timber barons armed with a bullhorn and a diehard credo, "No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth."

Ban's battlecry has reverberated from California's redwood forest to Wall Street to embrace a broad-based progressive agenda rooted in a profound reverence for the earth and its creatures. For the chief architect of 1990's Redwood Summer— the celebrated nonviolent campaign to save the vanishing remnants of California's once verdant old-growth coastal forest—stopping environmental destruction has profound urgency.

Bari has grafted environmentalism onto peace, social justice, equal rights and other progressive concerns. A former Maryland labor organizer, she is a longtime crusader for the dispossessed, the disenfranchised and the downtrodden in factories, fields and offices across the land.

Bari has put her organizing skills to work on the North Coast building coalitions with timber workers to fight corporate abuse. She founded a Mendocino chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World and represented a group of mill workers who were poisoned by leaking PCBs at Georgia Pacific's Fort Bragg pulp mill.

In a wide-ranging interview at her rustic "hippie shack" in the backwoods of Mendocino County where she lives with her two young daughters, Bari shared her perspectives on the impact of Redwood Summer, progressive coalitionbuilding in the 1990s, the "feminization" of Earth First!, and the departure in August of Earth First! co-founder, Dave Foreman, who, in a parting swipe, publicly denounced Bari and her feminist compatriots for injecting "class struggle" and "humanism" into an organization he conceived to preserve wilderness.

Community Under Siege

Speech given by Judi Bari at the Cinco de Mayo/May 5th gathering in Booneville, California. Footnotes added by Jym Dyer - republished in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, May 8, 1991

I came of age during the Vietnam era, and I’ve known for a long time that the system is enforced by violence. Some of my earliest political experiences were of 20-year-old national guardsmen beating my 18-year-old non-violent friends senseless and bloody. I didn’t think I had any delusions about how thin the veneer of civility is in this country. But I have to admit that I was totally unprepared for the sheer horror of being bombed and maimed while organizing for Redwood Summer last year.

The bombing represented the end of innocence for our movement. Sure, we had seen violence before, but this was different. The logger who broke Mem Hill’s nose, the log truck driver who ran me off the road — themselves victims of the timber industry — in the heat of the moment, took their anger out on us. But whoever put that bomb in my car was a cold and premeditated killer. And the FBI’s attempt to frame me and Darryl [Cherney] for the bombing made us realize what we are up against. Not only are they willing to use lethal force to protect their “right” to level whole ecosystems for private profit, they are also backed by the full power of the government’s secret police.

The man in charge of my and Darryl’s case at the FBI is Richard W. Held, chief of the San Francisco office. He went on TV last summer to say that Darryl and I were the only suspects in the bomb attack that nearly took my life. Richard Held became notorious in the 1970’s for his active role in COINTELPRO, an outrageous and illegal FBI program to disrupt and destroy any group that challenged the powers-that-be.

COINTELPRO’s method was to foment internal discord in activist groups, isolate and discredit them, terrorize them, and assassinate their leaders. The best known example of this was Black Panther Fred Hampton, who was murdered by the FBI as he slept in his bed in a Chicago apartment in 1969. And there were many, many others.

But back to Richard Held, the man in charge of my bombing case. His personal role in COINTELPRO began in the early 70’s in Los Angeles, where he ordered insulting cartoons to be drawn and sent, supposedly from one faction to another, among the L.A. Black Panthers. This heated up antagonisms between the factions so much that, with a little help from FBI infiltrators, they erupted into shooting wars that left two Panthers dead.

Held was also on hand in Pine Ridge, South Dakota in 1975 to help direct the FBI’s reign of terror against the American Indian Movement (AIM). In this case the FBI took advantage of existing divisions in the native community to hook up with a vigilante groups called GOONS, or Guardians of the Oglala Nation. These local thugs were armed by the FBI and guaranteed that they would not be prosecuted for crimes against AIM members. They attacked over 300 AIM people and killed 70 of them. Not one of these crimes was solved because, said the FBI, they “didn’t have enough manpower.” The Pine Ridge campaign ended with a military sweep of the reservation by 200 SWAT trained agents, and with the framing and jailing of Leonard Peltier.

Why I Hate The Corporate Press

by Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, April 24, 1991

Last Sunday (April 21, 1991) the San Francisco Examiner printed an Op-Ed article by me in answer to the outrageous "ex-CIA agent" attack on Earth First! that they ran the week before. Basically the article came through as I wrote it. But the editors couldn't just let it be. They made subtle and not-so-subtle changes that brought the words printed under my byline more in compliance with their own biases. Here is the article, with the changes marked:

San Francisco Examiner Op-Ed Page, 4/21/1991

"Tabloid attack" on Earth First

By Judi Bari

When I looked at my Sunday paper last week, I thought I had accidentally picked up the National Enquirer. But no, it really was the Examiner, running a supermarket tabloid-style article called "Tale of a Plot to Rid Earth of Humankind."

"It's a strange story," the article begins. And indeed it is. Apparently an ex-CIA agent claims that Earth First has "small organized clandestine cells" of highly educated scientists working to develop a virus that will wipe out the human race while sparing other species.

Not only is this claim preposterous, it is also unsupported by any evidence. The ex-CIA agent who is the source of the story offers no details or proof. The best the author of the article can come up with is an anonymous letter-to-the-editor from a 1984 edition of the Earth First Journal, carefully excerpted for maximum shock value.

The Examiner does not take responsibility for the views of every screwball who writes a letter to the editor, and neither does Earth First. Did the article's author pore over 10 years of tiny print in the journal's letters column to find this "gem," or did the ex-CIA agent point it out as his own source?

Lacking evidence to support the "mad-scientist" theory, this article then goes on to try to discredit Earth First by associating us with violence. It says Earth First co-founder Dave Foreman is under federal charges of conspiracy to "blow up" power lines.

This is false. Earth First doesn't advocate use of explosives. It has never been involved in their use -- except as a target in the car bomb attempt on my life last year. [I wrote "except as a victim in a car-bomb assassination attempt on me last year." (Assassinations are political, attempts on peoples' lives don't have to be.)]

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