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Guilty, Guilty: Earth First! - IWW Greenhouse Demo

By Judi Bari -  Composite of two articles from Industrial Worker, March 1989 and Earth First! Journal, Nov. 1, 1988; A substantially shortened summary also appeared in the Mendocino Commentary, October 6, 1988.

Web Editor's Note: Both the Industrial Worker and Earth First! Journal versions of this article are abridged in different places (evidently they’re both excerpted from a common press release). The following represents a combination of both articles. This is the very first article Judi Bari wrote for the Industrial Worker.

The best thing about our regional Earth First! gath-erings are the demonstrations afterwards. I mean, as long as you’ve got 200 yahooing Earth First!ers together, you might as well do an action. So, in keeping with this venerable tradition, our California Rendezvous September 16–18, 1988, we decided to indict some of the criminals responsible for the greenhouse effect. After all, as Fellow Worker Utah Phillips told us, “The earth isn’t dying; it’s being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.”

So we decided to use a traditional Wobbly tactic of an all-day roving picket line with the theme of the Greenhouse Effect. We printed indictment forms (with blanks to fill in the company name) and whipped up a few big banners saying “Guilty Guilty-Greenhouse Effect Violator,” and prepared some indictment forms to lay on the perpetrators.

We had plenty of violators to pick from, but time constraints forced us to limit it to four—Simpson Pulp Mill, MAXXAM / Pacific Lumber Corporation (in Scotia, CA), Eel River Sawmills, and a public hearing on offshore oil.

Simpson was the most dramatic. We gathered in the morning drizzle at Arcata Plaza. By the time our caravan reached Simpson pulp mill, we were 100 strong. Truck drivers were surprised by the sudden appearance of a raggedy mob, just back from three days in the woods, blocking the entrance road to the Simpson plant. We stretched our banners out in the road and, as the Arcata Union described it, “As a truck tried to turn onto Samoa Blvd., the Earth First!ers stood firm in its way and started howling like coyotes.” The first truck stopped and we ran over to tell the driver that the IWW says take a break on us. That was fine with him, and he kicked back to enjoy the show. The driver coming the other direction, though, didn’t take it so easy. No damn hippies were gonna stop him from going to work—he was going to ram our line. “Stop Mr. Block!” chanted the crowd, but the truck kept coming until Earth First!er Corbin Solomon courageously dove under the front wheel of the moving semi. The driver stopped, cursed, then rolled forward. Our line held firm, and people started yelling “Brian Willson!”  as the truck wheels came within feet of Corbin’s body before it finally stopped.

IWW rep Billy Don Robinson jumped up on the truck’s running board to talk some sense into his fellow wage slave. But Mr. Block wasn’t in a talking mood, and took a swing at Bill Don. “No jobs on a dead planet!” chanted the crowd, as the standoff continued for 30 minutes, with trucks backed up down the highway in both directions. Finally the police showed up and ordered us to leave. Since we had more work to do that day, we cheerfully obliged, jumping into our cars loudly announcing “Eel River Sawmills next!” Then we proceeded to Pacific Lumber Corp., skipping Eel River for now and losing our police escort.

At Pacific Lumber we paraded around their quaint 19th Century company town singing Darryl Cherney’s songs You can’t clear-cut your way to Heaven and Where are we gonna work when the trees are gone? We couldn’t block the trucks, for some reason, because they weren’t running. Eventually we ran into a hastily assembled counter demonstration of loggers’ wives carrying signs that said “Earth First! is the Worst!” The Earth First! women immediately responded by calling a women’s action, and, with the men staying back, we approached the women one on one. We talked about how we had kids too, and how Pacific Lumber wasn’t interested in their families’ futures. This tactic seemed to take them so off guard that they stopped yelling at us, and, with the intervention of the local minister, agreed to set up a conciliation meeting between Earth First! and Pacific Lumber employees in the near future.

So it was on to our next target. We hung "Greenhouse Effect Violator" banners on the mile-long Eel River Sawmills log deck on U.S. 101 without incident, which was a good thing because by then we were already late for the oil hearing. Although this was an official state hearing, it somehow must not have gotten onto the liberals’ computer network.

In contrast to earlier oil hearings where 2,000 people showed up to protest offshore oil, hardly anybody came to this one. The testimony was stultifying, with the shirt-and-tie bureaucrats droning on about mitigating impacts and overriding economic benefits. Finally our turn came, and Earth First! / IWW songwriter Darryl Cherney took to the podium guitar in hand. We unfurled our banners as he began singing We’re All Dead Ducks, with Earth First!ers in the audience quacking on the chorus and dancing in our seats.

We woke up the hearing, but not enough, because a speaker shortly afterward contended that sonic booms underwater (used in seismic testing to locate oil) don’t affect marine mammals. So on cue we all yelled “Sonic BOOM!” at the top of our lungs. The startled bureaucrats started to chastise us, but Darryl just gave them an innocent look and said “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said sonic booms don’t affect mammals!”

By then the day was winding down and so were we. We stood outside in the cold and huddled in a circle and sang for a while. Then, as the sun slowly set on the golden California clear cuts, we went our separate ways, home to our cabins and communes to smoke a joint, drink a beer, and get ready for the next blockade. The Earth First!/IWW alliance had pulled off our first joint action, and we were ready for more.

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