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Chapter 35 : “You Brought it On Yourself, Judi”

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

“A lot of social movements get called terrorism. It dehumanizes (them). People have tried working through the system for years. It didn’t work.”

—Alison Bowman, editor, City on a Hill [1]

“The vast majority of people in this world neither own nor believe in ‘private property’, not because they are communists, but because they know it is not possible to own the Earth. This applies to the animals, too, which overall are a hell of a lot smarter than most humans.”

—Darryl Cherney, May 22, 1990 [2]

Darryl Cherney returned from Arizona, refreshed and ready to resume organizing, but the situation in Humboldt and Mendocino County was as volatile as ever. The buildup to Redwood Summer was exceeding all the organizers’ expectations. It was clear to everyone that the North Coast was about to experience a civil war. Accusations of “polarization” and “violent rhetoric” were constantly leveled at the Earth First! and IWW activists preparing to organize Redwood Summer, and many of these came from both local and corporate media outlets. The picture they painted was one of a once peaceful and prosperous region of logging communities disrupted by environmental extremists bent on wreaking havoc on the struggling, hard working timber workers of the region. Such descriptions couldn’t have been more divorced from reality.

Judi Bari had made it clear from the get go that the Redwood Summer demonstrators would not engage in hostile confrontations with the loggers, even if their actions impacted them directly:

“Our very style (if you look into Wobbly history) was taken from the loggers. We’ve had, since I’ve been in Earth First, an unwritten code that the loggers should be treated as potential allies. And we should be totally respectful of them. We are the only environmental group that I know of that has established the kind of relations with the rank and file loggers that we have. We’ve spoken for their interests, we’ve met with them, we even have a union local (IWW Local #1) with them. We have all different levels of rank and file loggers working with us. At the Eminent Domain demonstrations we appeared in public with the loggers and mill workers. We are not going to be yelling at the loggers because we have respect for them as working people.” [3]

Between the months of March and April, the campaign had gone from being just Bari, Cherney, an increasingly reluctant Greg King, and about a dozen others to as many as 100 different organizers. Meetings routinely averaged 60 participants. Almost all of them were local residents and not “outside agitators.” [4]

If anything, it was the forces of reaction that engaged in the most polarization. Indeed, in just the short period while Darryl Cherney vacationed in Arizona, Glenn Simmons continued to editorialize similarly in the pages of the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, denouncing the organizers of Redwood Summer, because (according to Simmons) they “didn’t believe in God” (specifically a Christian Fundamentalist incarnation of “God”). [5] The Mendocino County chapter of the “Associated California Loggers” (still one more employer organization) accused environmentalists of “terrorism” (but cited no specific acts as evidence). [6] L-P spent $100,000 to construct a barbed wire fence surrounding its Ukiah mill to “protect” its employees from Earth First! “terrorists”. [7] Georgia Pacific cancelled public tours of its facility in Fort Bragg, and threatened to restrict access to its lands also ostensibly for similar reasons. [8] Simpson Timber spokesman Ryan Hamilton accused Redwood Summer of “setting a somber tone (that) could become a frightening situation.” [9] A group of “pro-timber” Yellow Ribbon supporters held a demonstration in Fort Bragg denouncing Earth First!, Redwood Summer, and Forests Forever. [10] One local resident, in a letter to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat even warned against covering Earth First! in the media, lest the “good people” of the North Coast would soon find bombs inside their cars! [11]

Indeed, after the incident in Santa Cruz, every act of vandalism, sabotage, or even accidents were blamed on Earth First! There was often no way to tell if any of these incidents were real or manufactured either. For example, in the first few days of May, a Humboldt County gyppo operator in Redway, Van Meter Logging, received an anonymous bomb threat from somebody claiming to be from Earth First!, but this was either a crazy nut (with no association to Earth First! whatsoever), a fabrication by Pam Van Meter herself, or worse still, a another attempt by somebody to monkeywrench the monkeywrenchers in a dangerous act of subterfuge. “(The anonymous bomb threat) was definitely not Earth First!. Earth First! does not engage in attacks against people or terrorism. I sincerely feel sorry for this woman, but we had nothing to do with it,” declared Judi Bari. Van Meter was unsatisfied with this response, and still blamed Earth First!, stating, “If it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place,” which was akin to blaming the victims in Mississippi Summer for inciting the racist repression against them. As it turned out, no bomb ever surfaced, at least not in Redway. [12]

There were plenty of actual threats against Earth First! and its allies, however, and not just anonymous death threats any longer. For example, Humboldt County supervisor Anna Sparks declared, “I think you’re asking for trouble, because they’re (going to be) up here protesting the jobs of the loggers and taking away their livelihoods through their protests and taking away the constitutional rights of people. You can’t help but bring violence in!” [13] This was bad enough, but in Mendocino County Charles Stone, a right wing radio talk show host with ties to actual extremist organizations (to which crypto-fascist Jack Azevedo also belonged) was now using his daily program on KDAC in Fort Bragg to whip up hysteria against Judi Bari and Redwood Summer. Following the incident in Santa Cruz, he urged his regular listeners, who included many of the local gyppos, to pressure the Board of Supervisors to “order” the Redwood Summer to appear so that the “real, god fearing citizens” of the county could pin them down and force them to admit all of their nefarious, secret agendas (whatever those were). [14] Surprisingly, supervisor Liz Henry, of all people, agreed, and placed the matter of Redwood Summer on the agenda for the May 1 meeting. [15]

Supervisor Henry no doubt naïvely assumed that she could negotiate some sort of agreement whereby the demonstrations would not result “in serious injury or economic disruption”, but this failed to understand the true nature of the problem. As was the case in the original Mississippi Summer, appealing to the rule of law was impossible when the law was bought and paid for by the perpetrators of the injustice being challenged in the first place. It was at best foolhardy to ignore the fact that economic disruption had already been occurring (at the hands of the corporations) now for over a decade. Bari faced a Catch 22. She knew that little was to be gained by appearing at what was likely to be a star chamber of hostility, but to not appear would allow the charges against Redwood Summer to go unanswered, and Bari was determined not to back down in the face of prejudice this time. Knowing that she would be hopelessly outnumbered, she enlisted as many allies as she could muster.

Chapter 34 : We’ll Have an Earth Night Action

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

Now Earth Day 1990 was Dennis Hayes’ vision,
But instead of bringing us together it only caused division,
He said turn down your thermostat and recycle toilet paper,
And as long as they contribute don’t confront the corporate rapers.

—lyrics excerpted from Earth Night Action, by Darryl Cherney and Mike Roselle, 1990.

Amidst all of that was going on behind the Redwood Curtain, and the timber wars which were now raging nationally, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day was fast approaching, and even that was full of controversy. The hullabaloo wasn’t over the hype building over the twentieth Earth Day, but rather the growing corporate and state influence over the planning of the events commemorating it. Instead of rallies, demonstrations, speeches, and teach-ins addressing the increasing threats to the environment, in particular by the increasingly destructive evolution of capitalism, the day was shaping up to be a collection of “innocuous ‘feel-good’ festivals” designed by the corporations to “put a shine on the tarnished images of this planet’s despoilers.” The very “earth-raping” corporations whose records were most deserving of criticism had their hands on the purse strings. Worse still, control over organizing the events had been placed in the hands of the local city and county governments. In municipalities and counties where resource extraction or land speculation funded the campaigns of local politicians, there would be every incentive to soften criticism of such activities. As Earth First!er Jeffrey St. Clair put it, “If your issue is growth, how cleanly can you articulate that when the very people you’re fighting are sitting on the planning committee?” The foxes were once again seizing control of the henhouse. In city after city, corporate influence was “green-washing” the event, and some of the worst offenders were the timber corporations clearcutting on California’s North Coast. [1]

Chapter 32 : Now They Have These Public Hearings…

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

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

Now back in Sacramento town sits the Board of Forestry,
And they log their land, they work their ranches, and they teach in the universities,
And the nine who sit in judgment as they massacre the trees,
Are Russ and Rose, Small, Berridge and Barnes, Atkinson, Shannon, Walt and Yee…

—lyrics excerpted from the Board of Forestry Song, by Darryl Cherney, 1989 [1]

Now they have those public hearings where they ask our point of view,
Like what do ya think of this here thing on page 4,002,
And they're so easy to get to if you just know how to drive,
And you don't work and you've got no kids and your rich uncle just died…

—lyrics excerpted from the Ballad of BLM, by Darryl Cherney, 1986 [2]

As the “Timber Wars” heated up, it was not uncommon to see counterdemonstrators at Earth First! protests bearing signs which read, “Earth First! is the problem, not the solution.” At these same events counterdemonstrators were quick to bandy about several Corporate Timber talking points. Four widely held notions were parroted in particular: First, corporations were “good neighbors” that supported ecology and contributed to the community. Second, they asserted that harvesting old growth forest stands was beneficial to the environment because removing the older trees allowed quicker growing (not to mention, managed) younger trees to flourish thus removing more CO­­2­ from the atmosphere. Third, they claimed that California had the most stringent forestry laws in existence, namely the Z’berg-Nejedly Forest Practices Act and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and these were already restrictive enough to make logging almost unprofitable. Lastly, government agencies had been hijacked by radical environmentalists, and for this reason the proposed listing of the spotted owl as threatened was merely an attempt to appease an out of control, overly vocal but tiny minority. However, in February and March of 1990, a series of unrelated events debunked all four such claims thoroughly.

Peru Passes a Packet of Neoliberal Reforms, Erodes Environmental Protections and Labor Rights

By Lynda Sullivan - Upsidedown World, July 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The Peruvian Congress approved a packet of laws on July 3 which critics say subjects the country to neoliberal reforms that threaten to undermine environmental and labor protections and is a gift to the extractive industry.

The Minister of Economy and Finance Luis Miguel Castilla first presented to Congress on this packet of laws on June 25 in order for them to be debated and approved. This has led to an outcry by civil society,[1] as many have compared this law bundle to the neoliberal ‘paquetazos’ of the 1980s and 90s by the previous governments of Alan Garcia and Alberto Fujimori governments. President Ollanta Humala rejects this criticism.[2]

The term ‘paquetazo’ refers to a large bundle of laws supposedly aimed at reinvigorating the economy. In the days of the Garcia and Fujimori governments, the introduction of these paquetazos usually lead to hyperinflation, currency devaluation, extreme price hikes, and an increase in social conflicts and police repression.[3] President Humala’s current attempt to reinvigorate the economy centers round removing any obstacles for investing companies (mainly in the extractive industries), which critics say will irreversibly damage the environment and fuel more social unrest.

Despite the outcries and protests, the packet was approved with surprising ease.[4] Two of the few congress members to vote against the package were Verónika Mendoza and Rosa Mavila. Mendoza pleaded that, minimally, the chapter on the theme of the environment should be debated, revised, and corrected by the Commission of Indigenous People and the Environment. Mavila opposed the chapter on the environment and the rest of the reforms, because “it is a vision of total guarantee for extractive capitalism and nothing for the Peruvians, nothing for the people, and nothing for the workers.”[5]

KPFA FM Radio Broadcast: Repression Against Environmental Activists - Terra Verde, June 27, 2014

Terra Verde, KPFA 94.1 FM - June 27, 2014 at 2:00pm, Hosted By Laura Garzon Chica

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

(On this show) we explore the condemnation of eco-activism as terrorism punishable under the law (or outside the law) in the name of national security. Does the government's attack on civil disobedience signal an end to a legitimate democracy in the USA? What does the corroding of civil liberties and the gutting of the Bill of Rights mean for those who struggle to protect our environment, ourselves as a species, and other creatures? What about corporations and the intelligence industrial complex at large? How do these non-state actors engage in the push to prosecute environmentalists involved in nonviolent direct action as terrorists and/or spies? Guests Will Potter, Shahid Buttar, and Steve Ongerth tackle these questions with host Laura Garzon Chica.

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Judi Bari Day: May 24, 2014

By Karen Pickett - Indybay.org, May 20, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Join us to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the bombing of Judi Bari & Darryl Cherney & attack on Earth First! - With a Speak-Out, Sing-Out, and show of solidarity

Sat., May 24 -- Gather @ 11:30 am at Park Blvd @ E.33rd, near MacArthur, Oakland, California
To mark the moment of the bombing: 12 noon

Bring musical instruments, poems & your voice.

A bit of history: Earth First! activists Judi Bari & Darryl Cherney were subjects of a bomb attack in Oakland on May 24, 1990 as they were organizing for Redwood Summer. They were charged with bombing themselves by the FBI & OPD; Earth First! was smeared, & a serious investigation was never done. Judi & Darryl sued the FBI & OPD for civil rights violations, winning the case in 2002. Judi Bari died in 1997. Activists continue to investigate the bombing.

Judi famously said [when asked by an FBI representative if there was anything the FBI could do to restore Bari's confidence in them as an investigative agency], “Find the bomber and fire him!”

We will never forget.

We will never give up.

Cascadia Forest Defenders Take Over Billboard On I-5

Press Release – Cascadia Forest Defenders, May 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. 

In the early hours of the morning on May 14, 2014, members of Cascadia Forest Defenders climbed a billboard on I5, to drop a banner protesting raw log export in Oregon. The billboard, formerly carrying a message promoting the Best Western hotel chain, now reads: “Big Timber Sends Jobs Overseas. Stop Raw Log Export.”

Due to the economic recession in 2008 and the subsequent crash of the housing market, the demand for lumber in the US plummeted. Timber companies saw a rising demand for logs coming from China and started increasing the amount of raw log exports dramatically. From 2009 to 2013, raw log export from Oregon and Washington more than quadrupled, going from 1,000,000 cubic meters in 2009 to 6,000,000 cubic meters in 2013. Exporting raw logs instead of lumber means that those logs never pass through US sawmills. Instead they are sent to China to be milled there.

Log and chip exports, which make up a third of Oregon’s annual timber harvest, are responsible for the loss of thousands of domestic manufacturing jobs each year. Lane County, for example, where Weyerhaeuser is the largest private landowner and the region’s main log exporter, saw a 75 percent increase in the timber harvest from 2009 to 2012 and a concurrent 14 percent decrease in wood products manufacturing jobs. “We are constantly hearing the propaganda from the timber industry that environmentalists and the spotted owl are responsible for the loss of timber jobs in our state. But we want Oregonians to know that the timber industry is making decisions for corporate profit and against their own workers. These big companies are sabotaging their own mills to make a buck,” says Ben Jones.

Cascadia Forest Defenders also opposes Wyden’s current bill regarding the O&C lands, which would double the cut on Western Oregon BLM forests, eliminate the “survey and manage” safety net for threatened species, and eliminate public comment by getting rid of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA process). CFD realizes the issue of this bill is intertwined with the issue of log export. Because of an increase in raw log export from private forestland, counties are suffering economically, and the logging industry is responding by pressuring politicians to ramp up the cut on public land.

White Castle, a timber sale that Cascadia Forest Defenders occupied for 10 months before it went under litigation, is one of the Variable Retention Harvest clearcuts that Wyden advocates for in his O&C bill. “We don’t want to see our last 5% of never-before-logged forest clearcut. And we don’t want to hear the excuse that we need more old growth clearcuts on public land because the mills don’t have enough timber. Look at the facts. The mills don’t have enough timber because it’s all on a boat to China,” says Maria Farinacci of CFD.

This action is in solidarity with the Friends of Newport, who are currently fighting to stop a new log export terminal from being built on their shores. Erin Grady of CFD says, “Log export is bad for environmentalists, it’s bad for workers, it’s bad for logging towns and it’s bad for coastal communities. It’s bad for everyone but the landowners and the CEOs of big timber, and that is something we all need to call into question.” The billboard can be seen driving North on I-5 between the 30th St. and Glenwood Blvd exits.

Earth First! and the IWW, Part 4 - I Knew Nothin' Till I Met Judi

By x344543 - Industrial Worker, November 2013

"Every once in a while a new radical movement arises and illustrates the social firmament so suddenly and so dazzlingly that many people are caught off guard and wonder: “What’s going on here? Who are these new radicals, and what do they want?...

"This new movement...starts delivering real blows to the power and prestige of the ruling exploiters and their governmental stooges. This in turn inevitably arouses the hostility of the guardians of the status quo...who raise a hue and cry for the punishment and suppression of the trouble making upstarts...

"The new movement, with wild songs and high humor, captures the imagination of masses of young rebels, spreads like wildfire, turns up everywhere, gets blamed for everything interesting that happens, and all the while writes page after page in the annals of freedom and justice for all..."

These words were written by IWW member Franklin Rosemont in one of his four articles about Earth First! In the May 1988 edition of the Industrial Worker. In doing so, he brought the IWW squarely into the middle of a firestorm of controversy, and not just on the left, but in timber dependent rural communities as well.

On the left, Earth First! had been (with some justification) excoriated for the reactionary sounding positions taken by Dave Foreman, Ed Abbey, and Chris Manes on starvation among Africans, limiting immigration, and AIDS being "nature's" remedy for excess population, all of which were based on the wrongheaded notion that Thomas Malthus's views on population and starvation had any merit or any relevance to the environment (they don't).

Timber dependent communities lambasted Earth First! for entirely different reasons. Obviously, the bosses hated Earth First! because the latter threatened their profits. Timber workers--many of whom suffered from a sort of capitalist induced "Stockholm Syndrome", not the least of which was made worse by collaborationist business unions (where they existed at all)--echoed the bosses rhetoric, particularly when the capitalists used the word "jobs" when they actually meant profits. Earth First!'s association with tree spiking, and their stubborn refusal to jettison the tactic didn't help matters much.

Ironically, few on the left, and practically nobody in the corporate media paid any attention to what was going on in "ground zero" for the timber wars, California's northwestern redwood coast. Earth First! there had never used tree spiking, and they had gone to great lengths to express their sympathy for the timber workers' plight-identifying capitalist timber harvesting practices as the actual threat to the workers' livelihoods.

Common Misconceptions and Entangled Histories: a Review of Jonathan K London's Academic Revisionism of Earth First! - IWW Local #1

By x344543 - August 29, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In my efforts to uncover as much potentially useful information as I can for the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus's website, the results of which generally wind up in our Green Unionism library, I occasionally come across an unexpected nugget of gold. Other times, it turns out to be iron pyrite (Fool's Gold). Such was the case with Jonathan K London's muddled academically oriented article, "Common Roots and Entangled Limbs: Earth First! and the Growth of Post-Wilderness on California's North Coast", published in Antipode 30:2 in 1988.

The article begins auspiciously describing the pioneering "green syndicalism" of Earth First! - IWW Local #1, as led by Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, Greg King, et. al. London observes that Local #1 (which he describes mainly as "North Coast Earth First!"--that the IWW's role in that history is frequently omitted is not the fault of London):

"offer(ed) the promise of a truly radical movement, by which I mean one that truly confront(ed) capital’s interlinked degradation of both natural and human communities. This article examines the efforts by the North Coast Earth First! to inscribe a new community of activists and timber workers joined in the struggle to contest corporate claims on the redwood forest."

These conclusions match my own direct experiences, having worked alongside Bari, Cherney, and others between 1995-98 and having helped usher in what ultimately became the "Blue-Green Alliance" (that this effort was co-opted by reformist elements was sadly beyond our control).

Having established this, London unfortunately proceeds to the very dubious conclusion that Local 1 ultimately alienated the timber workers with whom they achieved common ground by, "by redefining the redwood forest as the exclusive property of the activists themselves."

A careful examination of London's presentation of the information in which he attempts (vainly) to make his case reveals that he offers no substantive proof to make such a conclusion, and what historical accounts he does reference are carelessly cited out of historical continuity and context. It betrays a lack of deep understanding of the actual issues, and instead suggests a very shallow--perhaps even sectarian--examination of what really happened in the so called "Timber Wars".

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