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Chapter 37 : Who Bombed Judi Bari?

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

Now Judi Bari is the mother of two children,
A pipe bomb went ripping through her womb,
She cries in pain at night time,
In her Willits cabin room;
FBI is back again with COINTELPRO,
Richard Held is the man they know they trust,
With Lieutenant Sims his henchman,
It’s a world of boom and bust;
But we’ll answer with non-violence,
For seeking justice is our plan,
And we’ll avenge our wounded comrade,
As we defend the ravaged land…

—lyrics excerpted from Who Bombed Judi Bari, by Darryl Cherney, 1990.

Redwood Summer began and moved forward more or less as planned—in spite of all that happened surrounding the bombing—and Bari and Cherney were not charged and eventually freed. Yet organizers and supporters of Redwood Summer were left wondering who the bomber was, and if they were part of a well organized plot, either by right wing fanatics, Corporate Timber, the FBI, or a combination of all of them. Gary Ball admonished everyone not to jump to conclusions about who planted the bomb, stating, “We’re not getting into conspiracy theories at this point. We’re saying that the police have made an obvious mistake and that they need to do a real investigation to find the criminal who planted that bomb and who is still on the loose.” [1] Although many supporters of Redwood Summer were convinced that the bombing was a conspiracy, there were enough people in Mendocino County reactionary and crazy enough to have acted alone, and the county had a long tradition of such lunatics. As Rob Anderson described it:

“What outsiders (and many insiders, for that matter)—members of the media, politicians, FBI agents, etc.—don’t understand about Mendocino County is its peculiar hothouse political atmosphere—a combination of poor law enforcement, obtuse political leadership, cowboy capitalism, and religious extremism. In this atmosphere, all kinds of twisted and malignant creatures flourish. In fact, at various times, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Leonard Lake, Tree Frog Johnson, and Kenneth Parnell have all lived and flourished in Mendoland.” [2]

Judi Bari herself had agreed that “Mendocino County, as we all know, is known as the largest outpatient ward in America and we who live there are completely used to this stuff…” [3]

Indeed, one week after the bombing, an anonymous letter writer, calling himself (or herself) “The Lord’s Avenger” wrote a letter to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat full of Biblical quotations claiming credit for planting the bomb. [4] On the surface, it was entirely plausible that the bombing was motivated by Christian Fundamentalist anger towards Judi Bari, because of her stances on abortion. It is unlikely, however, that this issue was the primary reason for the bombing—since Bari had been far more vocal about timber and labor issues. [5] There was a strong Christian Fundamentalist streak particularly among the most reactionary representatives of the US Forest Service as well as the least enlightened (and most rapacious) gyppos. [6] Misogyny was no doubt embedded in the bundle of reasons for targeting Bari as well, evidenced by the fact that one of her death threats described her (and her fellow women) as “whores”, “lesbians”, and “members of NOW”. [7] Yet, as will be demonstrated, the Lord’s Avenger letter was more than likely a false lead.

There was also some wild speculation that Darryl Cherney might have planted the bomb himself (unbeknownst to Bari) out of resentment because of their recent breakup as romantic couple, but this theory falls to pieces on the prima facie evidence alone. [8] According to the FBI’s own ballistics evidence, the bomb had a switch, timer, and motion sensor, which meant that it was designed to detonate while the car was in motion during a specific time. It is just as ridiculous to think that Cherney would have knowingly consented to ride in a car containing a live bomb, which he had supposedly armed and positioned, for the purposes of revenge as it is to think that Bari and Cherney would have done so for the purposes of terrorism. In any case, Cherney, who was not mechanically inclined, was not capable of constructing such a device. [9] As Bari related to Bruce Anderson:

“Darryl, first of all, has some of the least mechanical skills of anyone I’ve ever known. I once tried to hire him to hang sheet rock and found him to be unemployable, because he didn’t know how to hammer. And, secondly, whatever else I know about Darryl—Darryl and I have been broken up as a romantic couple for several months now but I love Darryl and Darryl loves me, and there is no question in my mind that Darryl would never, ever do such a thing.” [10]

Veterans of the environmental movement who also had prior involvement with organizations that had been subject to COINTELPRO and COINTELPRO-like infiltration suspected foul play. [11] Dave Foreman, who spoke from first-hand experience, was convinced that it was, and noted the similarities between the bombing of Bari and Cherney and his own legal entanglement over the Arizona 5 case. [12] Certainly, the FBI and corporate timber had several motives. These included:

“Providing police an excuse to search homes and offices associated with the environmental movement in Mendocino County and the Bay Area, removing two of the most high-profile organizers challenging corporate power in California, and contaminating the public image—not only of Redwood Summer, but also of (Forest Forever) and the environmental movement in general with the stigma of violence and lawlessness.” [13]

Four attorneys from Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, Rodney Jones, David Nelson, Steven J. Antler, and Ron Sinoway, calling themselves Northern California Lawyers for an Unbiased Investigation accused the Oakland Police and FBI of incompetence and prejudice against Bari and Cherney. [14] They issued a white paper called “A Position Statement and Legal Evaluation of the Bari-Cherney Car Bombing, which exposed the countless weaknesses in the state’s case against the two. The statement made a convincing case that the bombing was, in fact, a sophisticated plan by the opponents of Redwood Summer to undermine it, perhaps with the complicity of law enforcement agencies. [15]

Chapter 36 : A Pipe Bomb Went Rippin’ Through Her Womb

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“I knew it was a bomb the second it exploded. I felt it rip through me with a force more powerful and terrible than anything I could imagine. It blew right through my car seat, shattering my pelvis, crushing my lower backbone, and leaving me instantly paralyzed. Slumped over in my seat, unable to move, I couldn’t feel my legs, but desperate pain filled my body. I didn’t know such pain existed. I could feel the life force draining from me, and I knew I was dying. I tried to think of my children’s faces to find a reason to stay alive, but the pain was too great, and I couldn’t picture them.”[1]

—Judi Bari’s recollection of the bombing, February 2, 1990.

“I heard a ‘crack’, and my head began to ring like a sitar…like ‘nnnnnnnnnrrrrrrrrrrrrrr’, and the car came to a screeching halt. The first thought in my mind was, ‘Oh no, not again!’ because last August we had been rear-ended by a logging truck without ever seeing it coming, and here we are again, me and Judi in a car. But this time, my head was bleeding and I knew I had a seat belt on, and I couldn’t figure out how come my head was bleeding if I hadn’t hit the windshield. Then I heard somebody scream out. ‘It’s a bomb, there was a bomb!’ And then it all made sense; somebody had tried to kill us.”[2]

—Darryl Cherney’s account of the bombing, May 24, 1990.

At this point, Cherney looked over at Bari where, “she was slumped in her seat, screaming in pain, but as far as I could tell, her body was in one peace.”[3] Bari recalls only being able to make guttural sounds in an attempt to say “help” and vaguely recalls that Cherney kept repeating “I love you,” to her, and that she was going to live, in spite of what had happened.[4]

The blast distorted Bari’s white 1981 Sabaru GL car’s unibody frame, tore out its left side and sent debris and heavy blue-grey smoke flying into the air. It blew out some of the windows and left a trail of fragments on Park Boulevard.[5] The shattered, smoking car veered 100 feet down the road, clipping parked cars and light poles along the way, and hit another vehicle—a delivery truck driven by 40-year-old Ken Rich from Castro Valley—before coming to a stop against a curb in front of Oakland High School, where students were jogging as part of their physical education class.[6] Had the explosion occurred just forty minutes later, it might have injured the students crossing the road to patronize the local shops for lunch. The nearby public school’s officials would keep the students inside campus buildings for several hours until the blast area was declared safe.[7] Rich’s vehicle then hit a woman pedestrian who had a heart attack.[8] He had happened to have been driving the other way, and noticed the smoke billowing from Bari’s vehicle just before it hit his own.[9]

The explosion startled the workers and owners at nearby businesses. “It sounded like they dropped a bomb from a jet or something,” recalled the manager of a nearby Oil Changers, “the whole street just shook.”[10] One of the garage mechanics, who identified himself as “Charles”, added, “It sounded like a cherry bomb in a tin can. It was pretty loud. I kind of felt it in my body, and I was inside.”[11] Sokhi Dosanjli, the clerk at a local convenience store reported that the smoke was so thick that, “You couldn’t see anything for awhile”, including the nearby MacArthur Freeway.[12]

Shannon Mar was immediately aware that something had gone horribly wrong. Since she was leading the way, she did not immediately see the blast, but she quickly heard it and smelled the residue of explosives. She recalled, “The car shook, heat rushed through the windows, and I smelled sulfur. I looked in the rear-view mirror, and (all I could see was) smoke.” Bari’s car rolled past her own just before hitting Ken Rich’s vehicle and then hitting the curb. Marr immediately came to a stop, exited her car, and ran to Bari’s bombed-out vehicle (where Ken Rich was already standing) to determine the condition of her friends. Marr said, “Judi was stuck in her seat. She kept saying, ‘It hurts. It hurts. I can’t breathe.’ Darryl had a gash over one eye and it was gushing blood.”[13]

Meanwhile, Dave Kemnitzer had fallen slightly behind, but by now he had arrived near the intersection of MacArthur and Park Boulevards. He emerged from his vehicle screaming, “It’s the loggers! The loggers are trying to kill us!” At that moment, Ken Rich ran to Bari’s car and saw Cherney emerge. He recalled, “I’ve been in Vietnam and I’ve seen bombed out cars before. This one took a heavy hit. I’m amazed the people are still alive.”[14] Rich had been trained in first aid, but he described Bari’s car as “so mangled” that he felt it would be more effective, “to let the paramedics treat the victims.” He then recalled Marr running up to him, exclaiming, “They’re my friends!”[15]

Bob Vandemeer, the president of a San Rafael demolitions company, just happened to have been driving behind Bari on his way to an Oakland A’s baseball game.[16] The force of the explosion made him bounce up in the seat of his pickup truck. He then noticed, “a big blue cloud of smoke (which) smelled like gunpowder. (Then) things started falling from the air—parts of (Bari’s) car.”[17] After the explosion, he immediately summoned police from his mobile telephone.[18] He then approached the vehicle where Rich, Marr, and Kemnitzer were congregating. He, like Rich, reported, “(Bari) was unconscious, and sort of smashed up against the door on the driver’s side…As I approached, (Cherney) popped up, bleeding pretty bad all over. He started yelling, “Help! Get me out of here!”[19]

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Shouts Down Pennsylvania Gov. Shapiro Over a Proposed ‘Hydrogen Hub’

By Kiley Bense - Inside Climate News, March 12, 2024

Activists want more public participation in a proposal to produce hydrogen in southeastern Pennsylvania. Touted by the Biden administration as “crucial” to the nation’s climate goals, advocates fear the federally-funded project will create more pollution and further burden environmental justice communities.

Protestors disrupted a public meeting on Monday about a federally-funded “hydrogen hub” to be located in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware that would produce, transport and store the controversial fuel at sites across the region.

While the Biden administration considers these hubs a key part of its climate agenda that would decarbonize greenhouse-gas intensive sectors of the economy like heavy industry and trucking, climate activists consider hydrogen a false solution based on unproven technology that will only lead to more fossil fuel extraction and further pollute the environment.

Minutes after Governor Josh Shapiro took the stage at a union hall in northeast Philadelphia to speak in support of the project, which will be funded with $750 million from the Department of Energy as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Maya van Rossum, stood up from her seat and demanded his attention.

“The Department of Energy said that community engagement is supposed to be a highest priority. You have yet to have a meeting with the impacted community members to hear what they have to say,” she shouted, interrupting Shapiro as he was speaking about the buy-in for hydrogen hubs at all levels of government in Pennsylvania. “When are you going to have a meeting with those community members?” she asked.

Environmental Justice Community & Labor Victory at Ava Community Energy

Earthworkers Unite!

By members - Earthworks Unite, January 17, 2024

The following statement was issued on September 12, 2024

We, the eligible staff of Earthworks, are excited to announce that we have formed a union with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Earthworkers Unite. We ask that the Leadership Team (LT) and Board recognize Earthworkers Unite and agree to come to the bargaining table with us immediately. We currently have 21 workers signed up in the union, which we believe represents at least 77% of eligible staff.

We have formed this union in solidarity with our fellow workers, colleagues, and partners. Core to creating a just world is deep democracy and we cannot work towards this future without first modeling it within our own organization. We deserve a workplace where we are respected, empowered to create the strategy which determines our work, and know that when there is conflict there is a just and impartial process available to us. We believe deeply in the work we do and love the communities we work with, and have organized this union to do this work more sustainably and equitably. This announcement is an invitation for Earthworks to continue to align its actions with its mission to promote a just future and address systems of oppression both within and outside the organization.

We know Earthworks can and must be better for its workers and for the communities we serve. We can only effectively organize, advocate, or support partners when we are respected and supported by our workplace. We unionize in solidarity with peer organizations including the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and the League of Conservation Voters, and the more than 9,000 workers IWW represents in the so-called United States. The next great labor movement is here, and we are proud to be a part of it.

Labor unions are still giving Democrats climate headaches

By Alex Nieves - Politico, December 4, 2023

One of California’s most powerful unions is not loosening its grip on oil jobs.

Despite the Biden administration and California lawmakers pouring billions of dollars into new climate-friendly industries like electric vehicles, hydrogen and building electrification, a key player in state politics is still defending fossil fuel interests that provide thousands of well-paying jobs.

President Joe Biden’s investment in clean energy sectors through a pair of massive spending bills — which promise lucrative tax credits for projects that pay union wages — was supposed to speed up the labor transition away from oil and gas. That hasn’t happened in deep-blue California, home to the country’s most ambitious climate policies — and most influential labor unions.

“We believe we’re still going to be working in the oil and gas space for the foreseeable future,” said Chris Hannan, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, which represents nearly 500,000 members across dozens of local unions, from pipefitting to electrical work.

Unions’ longstanding — and well-founded — distrust of the renewable energy industry as a reliable source of labor-friendly jobs is slowing the “just transition” that Biden, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic leaders around the country have pushed.

With federal officials trying to get clean energy funding out as fast as possible ahead of the 2024 election, and California politicians cracking down on the fossil fuel industry, unions’ reluctance to relinquish fossil fuel jobs undermines Democrats’ aggressive climate targets, according to a lawmaker who serves both a union- and oil-rich area of the state.

While the union embrace of fossil fuels is unique to California — one of the few blue states with significant oil production — the struggle highlights a larger question over how states can quickly build massive amounts of clean energy infrastructure without undercutting labor.

Power Up for Climate Justice: a landmark report on financing a global renewable energy target

By staff - 350, November 22, 2023

With just days to go until Cop28, we are launching a landmark report to highlight the need for massive investment in renewable energy sources rooted in justice. “Power Up for Climate Justice: Financing and Implementing a Global Renewables Target” makes it clear: an agreement to triple renewable energy capacity to over 11,000 gigawatts by 2030 is poised to take center stage at COP28.

But such a target will only deliver for climate justice if it is accompanied by a robust energy package that includes finance for the Global South and financial system reform. 

It is also imperative that a target be accompanied by a binding commitment in the COP28 final text to phase out fossil fuels by 2050. Both the scaling up of renewable energy capacity and the phase out of fossil fuels must be anchored with concrete processes and resources for their implementation.

Earlier this year, G20 leaders acknowledged that a yearly investment of $4 trillion by 2030 is required to finance the global energy transition. But across the Global South outside of China, we are confronted with a stark reality: investment in renewable energy has remained more or less flat since the Paris Agreement.

COP28 must underpin the tripling of renewables with tangible political commitments and processes to unlock finance: debt cancellation at scale, $100 billion in concessional finance, and $200 billion in grants yearly.

The good news is, this is all possible. 350.org’s Power Up for Climate Justice report presents a roadmap for unlocking the finance to make a global renewable energy target at COP28 a significant milestone for the climate. 

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Peasant Voices, Episode 3: At the Heart of Food Sovereignty

COP28, Migrant Justice, and Climate Justice: How do we talk about climate, migration and borders at COP28?

By staff - Climate Justice Coalition and The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, November 2023

The role of climate change in both forced displacement and wider migration is increasingly apparent, with climate impacts on people in marginalised communities becoming more severe and more people being forced to leave their homes, the majority of whom are moving within or between countries in the Global South. At the same time, countries and corporations in the Global North profit from the increased militarisation and proliferation of racist border policies. A militarised response to a heating world, in the form of walls, camps and drones, will only increase suffering and prolong the climate emergency. Climate action must include justice for all people everywhere.

With COP28 taking place in the UAE, from 30 November until 12 December 2023, civil society will be talking about climate and migration. This briefing note aims to guide communicators and campaigners on how migrant justice intersects, and how to talk about climate-linked mobility in a way that is justice aligned and does not stoke fears and insecurities.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Frontlines to Big Greens: Stand with us in calling for #Ceasefire now and Justice for Palestine

By Hendrik Voss - It Takes Roots, October 31, 2023

Over 2 million Palestinian people have suffered under a 16 year blockade on Gaza and now endure a complete siege, as Israel bombs, starves, and displaces them. Israel has cut off food, water, and electricity to Gaza and has engaged in bombing of residential buildings, markets, schools, health facilities, and mosques – all with the support of the United States and other governments. Palestinians are forced between two decisions, stay and try to survive, or try to flee into exile, but will never see their home again. Our solidarity as environmental justice and human rights defenders globally is vital, as we are witnessing genocide before our eyes. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance at $3.8 billion a year, totaling more than $260 billion to date. Five of the top six global defense corporations based in the United States are profiting from and enabling the ongoing bombardment against Palestinians in Gaza.

As environmental justice frontline communities that have experienced violence and displacement at the hands of settler-colonialism, we stand in unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle for self-determination and to live freely with their human rights fully intact on their lands.

Our It Takes Roots alliances comprise over 200 groups in more than 50 states, provinces and Indigenous territories across North America, Puerto Rico and Guåhan. Since the beginning of the most recent escalation in the 75-year history of settler-colonialism and violence across historic Palestine, many of our members have drawn upon their extensive grassroots organizing experience and we have taken our grief and outrage to the streets, into the halls of Congress, engaged in direct action, and educated our communities. Together, we continue our practice of international solidarity, and call for an end to the siege of Gaza, and an end to the occupation.

Further, we call on the larger environmental and climate movement to stand with frontline and Indigenous Movements around the world by calling for a ceasefire, an end to all violence and warfare, insisting that Israel allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, and calling on our governments to refuse to send any additional weapons or funding to the Israeli military. Now is the time to build on our cross-sector relationships, and to appeal to all our partners and allies who might still be on the sidelines, to join the international struggle for a free Palestine. We must build momentum to prevent further loss of life.

Life is sacred. We mourn the devastating loss of all Palestinian and Israeli lives, and all casualties of colonialism and rising militarism around the world. It Takes Roots is determined to continue our work for justice and peace at home and globally. Liberation of one is only possible with the liberation of all.

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