MEDIA ROOTS — Recently, Flashpoints interviewed the filmmakers of the new film, “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” which premiered at the SF Green Film Festival last Friday. Mary Liz Thomson (Director) and Darryl Cherney (Producer) join Karen Pickett, a long-time friend of Judi Bari, to discuss with Flashpoints’ Dennis Bernstein, their shared experiences as friends and activists over the years of environmental organising and resistance to socioeconomic injustice and state repression through telling the story of their friend Judi Bari and the continued struggle for justice to find who bombed Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.
FLASHPOINTS — “Today, on Flashpoints, we’ll speak to Darryl Cherney and Mary Liz Thomson, the Producer and Director of the brand new film, “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” the film about the life and times of Judi Bari, who was car-bombed in Oakland in 1990.
“[Audio of Darryl Cherney] ‘I heard a crack and then my whole head started to ring like a sitar in my head. 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 log truck without ever seeing it coming and here we are again, me and Judi in a car. And then I heard somebody scream out, ‘It’s a bomb! There was a bomb!’ And then it all made sense, that someone had tried to kill us.’”
“Darryl Cherney, you’ll hear more from him. He’ll be joining us. We’ll also be joined by Earth First! activist and long-time friend, Karen Pickett. And we’ll explore the ongoing investigation, as Judi Bari’s bomber(s) still roam(s) freely.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 1:56): “You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Legendary Earth First! organiser and car-bomb victim Judi Bari may have passed away in 1997. But on the 15th anniversary of her death a 93-minute documentary, ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ produced by her eco-cohort, Darryl Cherney will premiere at the SF Green Film Festival this Friday, March 2nd. The film was directed by Mary Liz Thomson and it is based entirely on archival footage, including Judi Bari’s inspirational speeches, colourful and daring Redwood protests, etcetera. ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari? is actually narrated by Judi Bari herself using footage taken at her deathbed testimony in her successful civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland Police. By the way, they blamed her and Darryl Cherney for bombing themselves.
“We’re delighted to be joined now by Darryl Cherney and Mary Liz Thomson. Darryl and Mary Liz, welcome to Flashpoints. And we’re all celebrating the release of this film and the ongoing battle, shall we say, to track down and figure out who are the real murderers—and I say that word murderer because they gave her a slow motion death, of Judi Bari. Darryl thanks for being with us. Mary Liz thanks for being with us.”
Darryl Cherney (c. 3:27): “Always a pleasure, Dennis.”
Mary Liz Thomson: “Yeah.”
Dennis Bernstein: “Alright. Well, where to start? Maybe we should start with a very, sort of, pragmatic, upfront, question. Why do you think, Darryl, it’s important 22 years after the bombing of Judi Bari to tell the story? Why does it remain relevant?”
Darryl Cherney (c. 3:53): “Well, the movie has four essential purposes.
“The first is to educate on tactics and strategy. And we think nobody in the movement was superior in these arenas than Judi Bari, just a razor-sharp mind and wit. And she could really come up with solutions quickly. And this movie is filled with victories, major victories of saving forests, of taking on the FBI, of getting people to quit their jobs. In other words, in a movement where, sometimes, defeat is the norm, I think it’s refreshing to have a movie that shows victory. Judi was a radical. I think she will appeal to young people as well as our elders.
“And the second purpose of our movie is to inspire action. And Judi Bari’s speeches always inspired action and, to this extent, we are bringing her back to life. Her speeches are as relevant today, and as inspirational today, as they always have been.
“The third reason for the movie is to educate people as to who the historical figure Judi Bari is. And I don’t think it’s ever too late to learn about who are heroes can be, especially women heroes, who I prefer to call sheroes. And Judi Bari needs to have her place in history.
“And the fourth reason is that this case is an unsolved bombing case. And we want to know who bombed Judi Bari. And we think that this movie can help inspire a new generation to demand justice in this case.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 5:26): “What were the multiple struggles. And I say multiple struggles in making this film?”
Darryl Cherney: “Mary Liz, you wanna start with that?”
Mary Liz Thomson: “Well, part of one of the struggles was that there was most of the footage, which we use is archival footage. And it was spread out all over the place in the hands of a variety of videographers who had been following Darryl and Judi for years. We had to find it and go around and collect it and make it into a digital format from all the old formats.
“I mean we knew where a lot of it was, but it was a great discovery process to find more. There was just an amazing amount of footage to work with. And, some of it’s mine and Ken Pearson as well, who shot at the time. And it was pretty amazing.
“We also went to the Willits museum, where the bombed car is still there. So, the research was pretty intense.
Darryl Cherney: “And then, of course, the sound quality was a real bear to handle. And it was actually Skywalker Sound, as in George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’; it was Skywalker Sound who donated the studios to us to try to get some kind of equilibrium on the sound. So, it was listenable. And it was all listenable, but there was tape hiss. There were mechanical noises. So, these things were just some of the struggles. There was over 250 contracts that we had to sign just to get musical releases and video releases.
“But, believe it or not, probably the least struggle we had was actually telling the story because, guess what, Judi Bari is a magnificent storyteller. And, so, we simply allowed her to guide the movie along.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 7:13): “Well, Liz, first of all, just to get a little more from you, when you say archival footage, when we’re talking about archival footage, you mentioned that it was footage taken at the time. You were there on the ground. And the stuff you were filming had a lot to do with all the actions of Earth First! correct?”
Mary Liz Thomson: “That’s correct, yes. Myself and Ken Pearson were in San Francisco the day of the bombing. And we took some Betacam cameras out and just started filming right then. And we were able to interview Judi in the hospital later. And we went up to Redwood Summer. And we did a short [film] that was nationally broadcast on PBS at the time and used for Redwood Summer.
“So, a lot of the footage, when I say archival, we didn’t shoot a lot of new stuff of people talking about the past. We take you there. So, all of Darryl’s reasons are great, but it’s also just an amazing story. And, so, you learn from it all these things, but it’s also the kind of story that you can get deep in, that you can really get to know a character who is an amazing person and who stands up for something. You know, Judy and Darryl.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 8:23): “Alright, Darryl, let me ask you to talk a little bit about Judi Bari and let’s go back. Because I’m sure that there are many people who don’t know much about this story and who maybe were born after the bombing.
“How did you meet Judi Bari? And tell us why you found this woman captivating and inspirational.”
Darryl Cherney: “Well, I was running for Congress in the Democrat Primary in the 1st district, up in Mendocino/Humboldt Counties. And in 1988, I was trying to design my brochure. And I’m terrible with graphic design. And Betty Ball, the founder of the Mendocino Environmental Center said, hey, I have a great graphic artist; her name is Judi Bari and, oh, here she comes now. And in blew Judi like a gust of wind into the doors of the Mendocino Environmental Center. And she immediately agreed to help me with my graphic design and, as she laid out my brochure for Congress perfectly, she was ridiculing my run for Congress, just ripping me to shreds, telling me I belonged in a tree, not on Capitol Hill, and that working for the system does absolutely no good. And I just fell in love with her that minute.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 9:41): “And she, of course, was many things, including an organiser for the Wobblies.
Darryl Cherney: “Yes, Judi Bari was a magnificent organiser. She could bring thousands of people together. She could raise a whole lot of money. She could write and sing songs and play the fiddle. She was a labour organiser who had led two strikes in the East Coast, at the bulk mail center at the United States Post Office in Washington, D.C. and the Retail Clerks Union in Maryland.”
Mary Liz Thomson (c. 10:10): “[Those show up] in our movie, too. So, you get a sense of where she came from and how that worked applying that in the redwoods. She could talk to loggers like nobody else. She was so good.”
Dennis Bernstein: “And that, of course, was why she was so dangerous because she was so good. And she could get down with loggers and get their attention.”
Mary Liz Thomson: “That’s right.”
Darryl Cherney: “She was a world-class bridge-builder. And during the opening arguments of our eventual lawsuit with the FBI—and the cameras were not allowed in the courtroom—but one of the things Dennis Cunningham, the lead attorney said was, do not underestimate the significance and power of this woman inasmuch as it would warrant her being subject to an assassination attempt; don’t underestimate it.
“She was astoundingly powerful. And that kind of a powerful person only comes along once in a blue moon. And that’s why we made a movie about her.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 11:06): “Liz, how did you first hear about Judi Bari? How did you first meet her?”
Mary Liz Thomson: “I was doing a lot of video activism in the [S.F.] Bay Area and working with different groups, Rainforest Action, Network. And someone else was involved with the Wobblies. And they brought Darryl and Judi to a house I lived in, a big collective house in San Francisco. And they did a performance and were down there letting people know what was happening with the redwoods. So, I knew them before the bombing went off. So, when it did happen, it was just chilling. You know? We just knew these people were taken down for speaking out. And, I’ll never forget that day in San Francisco.”
Darryl Cherney: “Which is, ironically or justifiably, where we’re premiering our movie on March 2nd at the San Francisco Green Film Festival. So, it’s all coming back.”
Dennis Bernstein: “That’s the voice of Darryl Cherney. Also, on the line along with Darryl Cherney, is filmmaker Mary Liz Thomson together. They have a brand new film out. It’s going to be shown, premiered this Friday in San Francisco—‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’—produced by Darryl and Liz, as I said.
“We’ve got a little bit of sound from the film. So, let’s give a listen before we continue our discussion on this marvellous film. I saw it in the works. I was at many different, sort of, corners as the film moved along. It was an honour to see it comin’ along. And, boy, I am delighted to see that it is available now. But let’s listen to some of the sound.”
Audio from “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” (c. 12:44):
News Anchor: “The unofficial word is: the two environmentalists injured when a bomb went off in their car just before noon are suspects and not just victims. The unconfirmed report said Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney will be charged with possession and transportation of explosives.”
Bullhorn Speaker: “I think we need to save yield, so that our children can have wood to build out of; we’re not saying no loggin’!”
Interviewer: “What is the basic event of which the case arose?
Judi Bari: “I was bombed and nearly killed in a car bomb assassination attempt. It was a very huge explosive and I felt it rip through me.”
News Anchor: “Police say evidence is compelling. But they would not say what it is.”
Judi Bari: “Of course, the nails didn’t match either. They went into my house and pulled nails out of the window trim. This is not your normal investigation where they’re trying to find out who did something. They were trying to frame me.”
Male Commentator: “Terrorists is all they are. They go blowin’ up stuff. And they caught ‘em down in Frisco with a bomb.”
Judi Bari: “And our struggle to save these forests has been a trail of tears of broken treaties. We’ve put, quote-unquote, the best forestry laws in the country on the books. We’ve done everything we can to enforce them and they still take every tree in the forest!”
Interviewer: “What was it you hoped to achieve by pursuing this lawsuit?”
Judi Bari: “Justice. Justice and vindication.”
News Anchor B: “It was an emotional day in the courtroom today, in the case of Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney versus the FBI and Oakland Police.”
Male Commentator B: “People can see when activists are attacked for their activism by the government, by the police.”
Female Commentator: “What the FBI has been doing, instead of fighting terrorism, is looking at activists and tampering with activists’ protected activities. I mean that’s gotta stop.”
Darryl Cherney: “The question, again, asked a lot is: Do you think the FBI was involved in the bombing somehow? And I would say they were involved in the bombing, right up to the present moment, by hiding the identity of the bomber. They’re running cover for the bomber. And they’re doing it right to this moment.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 15:00): “You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica radio. We’re speaking with Darryl Cherney and also the co-filmmaker, Director, Mary Liz Thomson. Together, they have put together the film, ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ It’s going to be showing Friday at the Green Film Festival in San Francisco. And we’ll give you more about that and more in terms of finding out how to learn more about the film and participate in other showings and helping to get the word out.
“On the line is Darryl Cherney. I have to say, Darryl, I’m not usually tongue-tied. But when I think about this—and I think about the whole curve of this story—I’m almost, she was mesmerising, what happened to her was extraordinary, most extraordinary was, as you say, the narration, essentially, the connecting tissue, really, was Judi Bari on her deathbed, refusing pain-killing medication in order to remain clear and give the deposition that led to the landmark case, in which the FBI and the Oakland Police Department were found liable for millions of dollars for, essentially, blaming the victim, blaming Darryl and Judy for bombing themselves.
“Let’s talk a little bit about that deposition and how that became the narration, if you will, or the connecting tissue. Remind people what happened.”
Darryl Cherney (c. 16:53): “Well, I’ve always been not a fan of narrators in documentaries. And, in fact, not only is this film all archival, there is nobody in the present looking back on the past. And I think that gives the film a sense of being in the now, being there on the scene.
“So, with Judi Bari’s deposition, there she is with 30 days left to live under questioning from Dennis Cunningham—Dennis Cunningham is the co-star of the movie, off-screen, but his voice was there asking the right questions—there’s Judi giving nothing less than a heroic performance under incredible stress. And what’s particularly heroic about this is that she knows that she’s not gonna live to see the victory or the results of her labour.
“Now, somebody once said to me that if you’re really an activist in this world you know that whatever you’re working for, you’re not really gonna be able to live to see the results, ultimately, into the future. And Judi epitomised that selflessness and that heroism. And it is very clearly, you know, the power when she speaks, even when she cries. She talks about her children and having their house searched a second time and the fear of being in prison while her children were growing up and not being able to watch them grow, bringing her to tears in the deposition, all just has this powerful thing. She doesn’t know she’s gonna be in a movie. This is just real, raw, Judi Bari, real, raw, activism at its core and at its finest.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 18:34): “Alright. I wanna bring Karen Pickett into the discussion. Karen Pickett was a long-time friend of Judi Bari, a member of Earth First! and was one of the first people after you and Judi were bombed, Darryl. Karen was trying to figure out what the heck was going on.
“Karen, welcome to Flashpoints. Welcome back.”
Karen Pickett: “Thanks, Dennis.
Dennis Bernstein (c. 18:59): “What I’d like you to do is maybe talk a little bit about Judi, how you met her, and what happened with you, and to you, after the bombing.”
Karen Pickett (c. 19:11): “Well, I first met Judi in 1988 when she was first getting involved with Earth First!. Actually, Darryl brought her as his date to my wedding, but that’s a whole other story. But that’s when we met and we became fast friends. We clearly had a lot to talk about even though she was up in Mendocino County and I was up in the Bay Area. We were both working on the same issues. And, particularly, as we were approaching the organising for Redwood Summer, we talked on the phone all the time.
“And I was at the Redwood Summer organising meeting the night before the bombing. And I was also the first person at the hospital. Somebody called my house. Somebody called the Mendocino Environmental Center with the news of the bombing. And that person called my house; and the person at my house called me at my work at the ecology centre. And I just dashed out the door.
“So, when I got to the hospital, even though hundreds of people came very shortly, it was before the crowds were there and the FBI and the Oakland Police approached me, as I was trying to find out how badly Judi was hurt. She was in emergency surgery. And they took me downstairs for questioning. And, initially, for a very short time I thought, well, okay, this is what authorities are supposed to do, right? When a bomb explodes they’re supposed to ask questions. They’re supposed to find out what happened. But very quickly, after just a few minutes, I just had this terrible feeling that something was very wrong. Something was very fishy in the way they were conducting themselves. Something horrible had just happened, but there was something very wrong in the way that things were unfolding in the aftermath.
“And, so, I didn’t answer their questions. And they took me down to the Oakland Police Station and detained me for several hours. And a funny story in all that was that they made the mistake of locking me in a room at the Oakland Police Station that had a phone. And even though we knew next to nothing, we knew that the police were not doing their job. So, I picked up the phone and called KPFA News. And they put me on live. And I, kind of, told the world what had happened. And that we needed to rally. You know? We needed to come together. And people just converged. Of course, this was before cell phones and Tweets and all of that kind of thing.
“So, to come around now and have this little piece of history be told the way that it’s told. It’s, you know, this is a story that’s been told so many times. We’ve had all these panels about COINTELPRO and we’ve talked about it a lot over the last 22 years. But to bring it together graphically in this way, the way that the movie is presented, is beautiful because I think that one of the things that happen with time is that people look back and they think, oh, well, this must be hyperbole; it couldn’t have been that bad. But when you hear Judi talking about waking up after extensive surgery, coming out of the anaesthesia, and seeing cops at the foot of her bed, and telling her that she is under arrest, and when you see Judi at the press conference with the police photos showing a hole in the floor under the driver’s seat and then you cut to the police reports—with the text highlighted that says they base the arrest warrant on the ‘fact’ that the bomb exploded in the back seat, they must have seen it, they must have known it was there, therefore, it was their bomb—then, clearly, it’s not hyperbole.
“And people need to know this story because it’s still going on today.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 23:44): “Alright. Let me recap here. That’s the voice of Karen Pickett, Earth Firster, and friend of the late Judi Bari. A brand new film by Darryl Cherney and director, Mary Liz Thomson, is going to be premiering Friday in San Francisco at the Green Film Festival, for those of you in the [S.F.] Bay Area, that’s 1746 Post Street at 5 pm. And we’re delighted to have Darryl, to have Liz on the line, and Karen in the studio.
“Darryl, let me take you back to that moment right after the bombing. Talk a little bit about, I mean: you’re in the car; Judi was badly shaken, I guess, semi-conscious. Talk a little bit about the explosion and what happened right after.”
Darryl Cherney (c. 24:44): “I certainly will. And I just wanna remind listeners that our website, WhoBombedJudiBari.com can give a lot of information…a great place to get our schedule and how to buy tickets.
“So, what happened right after, first of all, I didn’t even know it was a bomb because I had no frame of reference of knowing. And the car came to skidding halt. And two kids came out of Oakland High School; it was right at Park and MacArthur, right smack-dab in front of Oakland High School. And they came screaming out: It’s a bomb! It’s a bomb! And that’s how I figured it out.
“But I was treated very rudely by the paramedics. I told them to take Judi first. And they told me to shut up. And to just listen to what they said. It was very rude, as if somebody had, ultimately, poisoned their ears and their mind with something about me. I had no idea what was going on except that I was being treated very gruffly. But before I was even pulled out of the car, I just turned to Judi—and this is depicted in the movie—‘cos she said, ‘Did Darryl say anything to you?’ And she says, ‘He told me that he loved me and he told me I was going to live.’ And I repeated that to her over and over again to keep her conscious and to do the only thing I could do in my power was to try to keep her spirit up and to keep her talking and alive.
“And, so, then they took us to the hospital, to the emergency room where they pulled glass out of my eye and stitched up a little bit of my upper eye. And then they said the FBI came in and they said, what’s your name? And for the millionth time I said, Darryl Cherney. And I said, ‘who are you?‘And they didn’t tell me who they were. They flipped down their little billfolds like they do on TV. And I had a patch on this eye; the other eye was pretty closed. And I knew that anybody who was stupid enough to show their badges to a blind man had to be the FBI.
“So, they said, who did this? I gave them a laundry list of death threats we had received and they just waved their hands and said, look, we can tell that this is your bomb, so why don’t you just confess, get it over with, and make it easy on all of us?
“And then, of course, like Judi, I asked to see my lawyer. And shortly after that I was taken out to the Oakland Police Station, we were coming out of a bombed car. I was put in a cold room with linoleum floors and hard-backed chairs and left there for four hours or longer before anybody would come to talk to me. I had to beg to go to the bathroom, beg, I was screamin’ my bloody butt off, man. I was not, I was, get me the hell out of here; I needed to go see Judi is what I needed to see.
“And then they questioned me for four hours. And a lot of people say, well, you shouldn’t talk to the cops. And I agree. But I am the exception, perhaps, that proves the rule because I’m pretty good with law, as we found out later. And I talked to them for four hours, which, at the end of the day, was a good thing ‘cos the jury could see that we weren’t hiding anything. We were willing to talk. And there was one point—I believe it was Lieutenant Sims, scratched his head as he was talking to me—and he said, ‘gee, you sure don’t fit the profile of a bomber.’ Which I responded, ‘well, no—you know what—Sherlock.‘
“And that was kind of the opening hours. And then in the morning after getting out of a holding cell, they put me into another holding cell. And, like Karen Pickett, it had a telephone. And I called KMUD radio, my own public radio station and I gave a talk to the people out there. And KPFA was also very instrumental in this case. And, in fact, KPFA has two different appearances in our movie, one by Mark Mericle and another more recently, by one of your reporters. So, all the public radio stations were very helpful in getting the word out and letting us have a voice while we were being oppressed.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 28:37): “Alright. Well, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna take just a little short break. And we’re gonna listen to Darryl and Judi singing, Judi’s song, ‘The FBI Stole My Fiddle.’ They did take her instrument, right? It was evidence.”
Darryl Cherney: “Yes, they definitely took her instrument.”
Mary Liz Thomson: “It was in the car, yeah.”
Darryl Cherney (c. 29:00): “They took it. They never gave it back. And they said it was state evidence. It was her childhood fiddle. She never lived to see it again.”
Dennis Bernstein: “Alright, well, let’s listen to you and Judi singing ‘The FBI Stole My Fiddle.’”
Audio of Judi singing “The FBI Stole My Fiddle” by Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney:
“(D) Well, I was drivin’ out of Oakland
On a tour for Redwood Summer
When a bomb went off inside my car
It was a major bummer (G) (F)
(D) They blamed me for the bomb (G) (F)
(D) That almost took my life (G) (F)
(D) But there’s one last thing that they did
One last twist of the knife
The FBI (G) stole my fiddle
The FBI (D) stole my fiddle
The FBI (A) stole my fiddle (G)
The FBI stole my fiddle [1st chorus]
chorus: William Sessions stole my fiddle!)
(3rd chorus: J Edgar Hoover stole my fiddle!)
(4th chorus: Richard Held stole my fiddle!)
And I want my fiddle (D) back! (G)(Gm)(D)(A)
The next day in the papers
Although it made no sense
Was a picture of my fiddle
And they called it evidence
They took away my Birkenstocks
They took away my car
But when they took my fiddle
Well, you know they went too far
They said my strings was fuses
My bow it was the light
And down inside my fiddle hole
I stashed my dynamite
So when I stroke my fuse strings
With my fiddle bow
You’d better run for cover
‘Cos this fiddle might just blow!
Well, Special Agent Richard Held
Is the man behind the show
He helped frame Leonard Peltier
And jailed Geronimo
He falsified the evidence
Life sentences, no bail
It’s time to get them free
Then let’s put Richard Held in jail!
Now, Louis Fries got my fiddle
And I want my fiddle back!
The FBI stole my fiddle
And I want my fiddle back!”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 31:58): “Yeah, Judi Bari with Darryl Cherney, ‘The FBI Stole My Fiddle’—irrepressible.
“The film ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ is premiering. And we’re delighted that after a long struggle to make it happen, it did, in fact, happen. Darryl Cherney and his cohort, the co-filmmaker, Mary Liz Thomson put this together. And I want to tell you, for people in the [S.F.] Bay Area, Friday [March 2nd], 5pm, in San Francisco, 1746 Post Street. You can check it out. And there is more information at the website WhoBombedJudiBari.com. Is that correct?”
Darryl Cherney (c. 32:49): “That’s correct. And, by the way, that 1746 Post Street is the San Francisco Film Society. They’re allowing the San Francisco Green Film Festival to have their event at their venue.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 33:01): “The FBI and the Oakland Police Department were clearly culpable. A jury found them liable to the tune of $5 or $6 million bucks?”
Darryl Cherney: “It was $4.4 [million].”
Dennis Bernstein: “$4.4 [million]. Let me not exaggerate. But when you’re suing the FBI and the Oakland Police Department you don’t usually win. So, apparently, you had a great case and with Dennis Cunningham and others, such as Bill Simpich and the other lawyers. You had a great team. And, of course, as you say, you had Judi on your side.
“Darryl, this wasn’t the first attempt to kill Judi Bari was it?”
Darryl Cherney: “No, eight months earlier Judi Bari and I were driving on Highway 128 toward the coast of Mendocino with Pam Davis from Santa Rosa Earth First! and four children. I’d say very young children between the ages of three and eight. And a log truck driver rear-ended us while we were on our way. And we actually stopped for a soda, got back to the car, and we didn’t realise a log truck was behind us. But then as we came into Philo, California, this truck rear-ended us, sent us flying into the air. And we came down on a parked pickup truck, took out the porch and the deck of a café. And when the truck driver came out he exclaimed twice—and I heard this with my own two ears—“I didn’t see the children! I didn’t see the children!,” meaning if he’d seen the children, he might not have tried to rear-end our [car]. But there was four children in the car, as well as three adults.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 34:43): “So, the truck driver was indicted?”
Darryl Cherney: “No. The CHP tried to blame Judi for getting rear-ended by telling her that her taillights were a little dim when, in fact, her taillights had been blown to smithereens by the logging truck. And I actually looked at the police and said, ‘I was following Judy last night; her taillights worked fine.’ And they said, ‘Well, they were a little dim.’
“So, in other words, they tried to blame Judy for getting rear-ended by a logging truck. No, no indictment occurred.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 35:13): “And this wasn’t the only sign that people were unhappy with Judi Bari and what you were doing, all working on Earth First! because there were other little notes that would arrive, huh?”
Darryl Cherney: “Many, many death threats occurred just before Redwood Summer, about a few dozen, three dozen, in a period of about a month and a half, just before Redwood Summer.
“There was also other violence being engaged upon Earth Firsters up north. Greg King was punched out. A grandmother named Mem Hill also had her nose broken by a logger. The tension was—”
Mary Liz Thomson: “There were all those fake press releases trying to stir up violence, saying that Earth First! was going to provoke violence. So, some of those tactics, one thing that I think was so interesting is—just for Occupy today—all the climate change skeptics and all that onslaught of the fakeness, the attempt to be divisive and stir things up. There’s just, kind of, a lot for people to learn that applies to today, too—same kind of tactics.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 36:16): “I guess I’m pointing that out—and it becomes very clear in the film—that there was every reason for the FBI and the Oakland Police Department to take this as an attempted homicide instead of arresting the bomb victims. And I think that becomes clear in the film, yes?”
Mary Liz Thomson: “Yeah. Definitely, there were so many death threats in all these instances where clearly there were plenty of people who could have wanted to do this to bomb them. And they never followed up on any of them—nothing.”
Darryl Cherney: “Well, one of the things that we had to prove in the trial, Dennis, was that the FBI lied and knew they were lying. And, so, that’s very difficult to prove, to be able to get into somebody’s mind to show that they knew they were lying. But the paper trail and even their own courtroom testimony made it so obvious that they knew they were lying that we won that lawsuit. But the lying was just blatant.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 37:23): “Could you describe, Darryl, the impact Judi’s testimony, her posthumous deposition had on the jury.”
Darryl Cherney: “Well, the jury was left in tears by Judi Bari’s deathbed deposition, her deathbed testimony. But there was another component. And it happened at the very beginning of the trial when the jury was selected. And the jury, ultimately, wound up—it wound up being a jury of ten—and there was eight women and two men. And I knew, as soon as I saw that they jury was 80% women. I said I knew we were gonna win because Judi had a certain resonance with women. She was a radical feminist, but she was a working-class mom. She worked as a professional carpenter as well as a sign painter and graphic designer and other odd jobs. She resonated with women; and it was metaphysical, just about, the way she could communicate with women. And, so, when the jury was 80% women, I knew we were destined to win this case.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 38:27): “You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica radio. That is the voice of Darryl Cherney. He’s joined by Mary Liz Thomson. Together, they made the film ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ And, again, it premieres in San Francisco [March 2nd] at 1746 Post Street at the San Francisco Film Society.
“And I have to say thank you, Darryl. I’m really glad you made this film. And I think Karen Pickett wants to jump in here.”
Karen Pickett (c. 39:06): “Well, I’m so glad that this film was made, first of all, thank you Mary Liz and Darryl. I know it’s been a tremendous amount of work on the part of a lot of people. But the fact that it’s passing into the public realm now on a national basis, that’s significant in itself. But the timing couldn’t be better because the Occupy Movement has me very excited these days. And I think that there’s a lot of parallels that we can see.
“You know, the cross-movement organising people are trying to do in the Occupy Movement that is really making it feel like something that hasn’t happened before. That was the same kind of cross-movement organising that Judi was doing. And I think that the organising that Judi did—and we all did—up to present has laid the foundation for a lot of the stuff that’s going on in the Occupy Movement and, also, the boldness, people just going out into the streets and then counting heads, instead of counting heads first and saying, do we have enough people to do this? Should we do this? You just do it. And that’s kind of what Redwood Summer was all about. You know? Let’s just put the call out.
“And Redwood Summer was, essentially, Judi’s brainchild and we hadn’t done it before. And it was a matter of looking at this crisis situation and saying, let’s just take this bold step. Let’s get as many people as we can and just do it. And it made a difference.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 40:58): “Darryl, say a little bit more about Redwood Summer and the significance of this plan to bring large numbers of people in to stand with these extraordinary trees, these ancient survivors that meant so much to so many people and to the whole ecosystem up north. I mean Judi—along with the rest of you—put this story on the map. And before that nobody would really be thinking about trees. Who could give a damn about cutting a few trees? I mean this was a revolutionary movement.”
Darryl Cherney (c. 41:50): “Yes. And, before I totally dive into that, let me first say that Redwood Summer was based on Freedom Summer in Mississippi and the Deep South in the early 1960s, in which things were so bad for African-American people, even to get to the voting booth—especially to get to the voting booth—that they put a call out for northerners, particularly White northerners and college kids to come to the South and draw attention to what was going on down there because as long as it remained behind the curtain it could continue. But as soon as you shone the light on it, of the public and the media, then change could happen.
“And to that end we had a fundraiser in Los Angeles not too long ago, a few weeks ago. And Tom Hayden, who co-hosted the event, brought with him a surprise guest, Charles McDew, that founded Freedom Summer in Mississippi. And Charles McDew just gave this lavishly lauding speech of our movie, which we recorded on video and posted on our Facebook page, Who Bombed Judi Bari?. So, if you want to see the connection between Freedom Summer in Mississippi and Redwood Summer and the call to bring people in, Charles McDew speaks about that on video. And one of the things he said—”
Mary Liz Thomson (c. 43:12): “I also [inaudible] too, which is great. What he mentioned was how he could see how what they did was see that Redwood Summer followed up on [Freedom Summer], continuing into the future.”
Darryl Cherney: “Yeah. What he said, which is basically what Mary Liz said, but a little more in depth, is that they said, ‘if we all die two years from now and this movement is dead, at least we planted that seed and others will pick up on it.‘ And then he said, ‘you were the see that we planted.‘
“With Redwood Summer, Judi and I, without realising what Charles McDew had said back in Freedom Summer, we were saying the same thing. In Judi’s speech, at the end of our movie, toward the end, she says, ‘You gotta take this message home. And work on whatever issue it is you work on because it’s all one issue. The same issue that rewards Charles Hurwitz while it takes away welfare checks away from needy mothers.’
“And, so, the point is that Redwood Summer was just as much about educating and inspiring people, as much as it was about the redwoods. And, of course, the redwoods were, and are still, very few and far between when it comes to the 2,000-year old majestic giants that Judi and I, Karen Pickett and Mary Liz and thousands of others felt so passionately about back then, as we do today.
“So, the idea was that just as racism exists, there’s also speciesism, that there is a discrimination against non-human life forms on this planet, which is a very strong Earth First! tenet, that we need to draw attention to the rights of all species as well as to the rights of human beings.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 44:44): “And one of the things true to Judi Bari was that she was a humanitarian, that she did not want to hurt any living being. And she led the fight to come out against tree spiking. You want to remind people what that is and what stand she took that didn’t win her the allegiance of all the environmentalists.”
Mary Liz Thomson (c. 45:15): “Well, it’s just interesting the Redwood Summer and that movement had to go through some issues that other movements go through, too. And once it got to a bigger level Judy was a strong force in pushing for more of a mass, non-violent, movement. You have to use civil disobedience in a non-violent way.
“And people were so frustrated. I mean they were taking redwoods out so fast. It was an incredible time when you saw the surge in clearcutting and the huge rapid pace. You know? You can relate to, and understand, the frustration in people wanting to use monkey-wrenching, or sabotage, or whatever, just to put a stop to it. And she saw that they had [end] the tactic because one logger was hurt—not by anything Earth First! did. But it happened from a tree spike. And that was something that she realised that it wasn’t worth the chance of anyone getting hurt. It wasn’t gonna save enough trees.
“And maybe it did save some. I mean there were areas where tree spiking was really widely applied all over and it probably did save some trees. But she was a huge force in moving the movement towards renouncing it.”
Darryl Cherney (c. 46:27): “Well, Judi said that you can’t have a movement that espouses sabotage and violence that also prints the names of its contacts in the back page of the newspaper.
“And just as I hear Occupy Oakland has issues with violence versus non-violence I say—by the way this is on my website, DarrylCherney.com, in Darryl’s 20 Rules of Activism, if I may make a plug—that violence is a dominant gene, that as soon as somebody brings violence into the movement, that it applies to everybody. And that’s not fair to the people who are non-violent.
“And, so, Judi understood the need for a public movement to have a non-violent position. And, also, the effectiveness of non-violence from Dr. King in the Civil Rights Movement to Gandhi and onward that non-violence has a proven track record of success. And that’s what really counts.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 47:15): “You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. I don’t wanna belabour the point, but if you’re in the [S.F.] Bay Area. You will want to be in San Francisco Friday [March 2nd] at 5pm on 1746 Post Street to see the [world] premiere of ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ It is premiering in San Francisco and Washington on the 2nd and the 4th, but Friday—for all of you who know Judi Bari, who have heard about Judi Bari, and for all of you who never heard the name Judi Bari, even more so—you wanna go there. If you want to meet, on the screen, a visionary, powerful woman who made a big difference in the lives of many people, many women, that would be Judi Bari.
“Now, Darryl, Judi never could participate during Redwood Summer, but it went ahead.”
Darryl Cherney (c. 48:16): “She actually made it to one demonstration at the San Francisco Federal Building in front of the FBI offices. It was an all women’s rally for Judi. But, ultimately, you are correct the very grand pinnacle of all her organising at the time—Redwood Summer—she was not able to attend. How sad is that? But you are correct. She, essentially, did not participate in Redwood Summer, unless you count the fact that her hospital room was in a sense its own organising office, just filled with people constantly. The hospital threw their hands up in the air over the two-visitors-per-room position. And it was just always a mob, not just of people in her room, but people sitting outside in the hallways waiting to get in.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 49:04): “Is there a song on the CD from that rally in front of the FBI?”
Darryl Cherney: “Actually, ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ was written for that rally. And that is on the CD.”
Dennis Bernstein: “Alright, let’s cue that up. Let’s play a little bit of ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ from that rally.”
Audio excerpt from the song “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” by Darryl Cherney (c. 49:27):
G. Marshall Hahn’s calling GP’s shots from Atlanta
Don Nelson sold him the union long ago
Now, they weren’t gonna have no Wobblies
Running their logging show
So, they spewed out their hatred
And they laid out their scams
Jerry Philbrick called for violence
It was no secret what they planned
So, I ask you now, who bombed Judi Bari?
I know you’re out there still
Have you seen her broken body?
Or the spirit you can’t kill?”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 50:57): “Darryl, we don’t know who bombed Judi Bari, do we, because the FBI arrested the bomb victims instead of going after the bomber?”
Darryl Cherney: “Well, they never even conducted as much as a fingerprint comparison. And there were fingerprints to compare. They didn’t even compare our fingerprints. There was no investigation of any kind whatsoever.
“However, 22 years later we do have a motion in court that we are winning so far to get key evidence returned to us that has potential DNA and fingerprints on a partially exploded, essentially, an unexploded bomb that was made by the same bomber who bombed Judi Bari’s car. Two weeks earlier a bomb had gone off at a sawmill in Cloverdale. And then a letter writer came and took credit, not just for the bomb in Judi’s car, but for a bomb that was put at the Cloverdale mill and which he said he was trying to frame Judi Bari.
“The point is that bomb, very much intact, because it was a dud has never been tested for fingerprints or DNA. The court ordered back in January of last year, of 2011, for the FBI to turn it over to an independent forensic laboratory, as directed by us, our side. And the judge, it’s been appealed, the judge was listening to the appeal, has waited over a year, has said nothing. And we are filing—here, Dennis, you’re getting the news story first—we are filing a motion tomorrow to wake this case back up and ask the judge to order this evidence turned over to an independent lab, so we can at least get a fingerprint and/or DNA identity of the person who bombed them.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 52:46): “And for some reason the FBI and the Feds wanted to get rid of all the evidence.”
Darryl Cherney: “They want to incinerate it. And, by the way, we do have DNA off of the letter that took credit, off of the postage stamp on the licked envelope. And that DNA happens to be of an unidentified female, very interesting, makes you wonder if the bomber didn’t have a secretary.
“So, if the DNA on the bomb turns out to be male, even if it’s an unknown male, then we have a conspiracy—a woman and a man involved in the bombing, not just one person. But we don’t know yet.”
Karen Pickett (c. 53:20): “And you also have to wonder why the FBI wants to get rid of the rest of the evidence, why they don’t want to turn it over. Why do they care? Why are they putting up a fight in this challenge?
“And, you know, on the anniversaries of the bombings we go to the bombing site here in the [S.F.] Bay Area. I do, and a handful of other people, every year to mark the moment. And we take a banner that is a depiction of Judi with her fist raised in front of the FBI building and it says: Don’t Ever Give Up. And that’s part of the message here. Don’t ever forget. And don’t ever give up. Because I think part of the function of this movie, of this film, is to be part of the investigation. Because the more people are talking about it, this is how crimes are solved; this is how investigation is being done when it’s not being done by police agencies, but it’s being done by the people.
“And like we had back then, the Wobbly Bureau of Investigation, and I think that one lesson from the trial, from the last 22 years, from Judi’s strategy is that you can always stand up to that power no matter how powerful it seems. And she said, in the movie, too, that it’s not enough to be right. And it’s not enough to be innocent. And that she had a fear of spending the rest of her life in jail, even though she was innocent, particularly, when it was revealed very early on that Richard Held from the FBI was heading up the investigation and behind all of this because he was the same COINTELPRO operative at the FBI that had waged campaigns against the American Indian Movement and the Black Panthers and the Puerto Rican Independistas.
“And, you know, it reminds me of the Homeland Security issuing orders to the Oakland Police Department about how to carry out their business. It’s overwhelming, but we can always fight back. We can always stand up to that power strategically.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 55:43): “Okay, we only have about two minutes left and I wanna [get] first, you, Mary Liz Thomson, and then you, Darryl—again, why this film was important for you to make. Let me start with Mary Liz.”
Mary Liz Thomson: “Well, I think a lot of people have a really vague idea that somehow the redwoods were saved. And they don’t really have any sense of what that took and who did it. And I think it’s an amazing American story, an amazing global story of these people who, like Karen said, stood up to power. And I think it’s just a powerful thing to see that in action. I think people will love seeing the story.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 56:25): “Darryl.”
Darryl Cherney: “The original reason we started working on a film was actually to make a dramatic feature with a screenplay. And when two screenplays later we hadn’t quite succeeded, we converted to making a documentary. But Hollywood had been actually deluging us with offers to make this movie; and they all seemed kind of sleazy, if I may say so.
“So, part of making this movie was about making the movie ourselves. And after we weren’t able to do it with a script, we moved to the documentary format. But to repeat what Mary Liz essentially said, this is a movie about victory. And I think we need more of that in this world.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 57:00): “Alright, well, Darryl, Mary Liz Thomson, and all the people who worked on this film, I congratulate you. I urge people to check it out, if they want to be inspired again and meet somebody on the screen who can change your life. She certainly changed mine. I know I’m not alone.
“The film, again, is ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ Friday—let me belabour the point—Friday [March 2nd], 5pm, in San Francisco, 1746 Post Street. You want to check it out for the [world] premiere at the San Francisco Green [Film] Festival.
“Darryl, Mary Liz, Karen Pickett—”
Karen Pickett: “And people should get advance tickets, too.”
Darryl Cherney: “Yes. On the SF Green, it’s SFGreenFilmFestival.org. But go to San Francisco Green Film Festival. Buy your tickets. There’s only 143 seats in the auditorium. It’s gonna sell out.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 58:01): “Alright. Well, thank all of you—more to come. I’m Dennis Bernstein for the Flashpoints team. And we’re outta here.”
Karen Pickett: “Thank you, Dennis. Viva Judy.”
Darryl Cherney: “Thank you.”
Mary Liz Thomson: “Thank you.”
Transcript by Felipe Messina for Media Roots
Click to listen (or download)