In the spring of 1990 the car transporting Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, vocal and influential activists for the preservation of the California Redwoods, exploded. Bari was an organizer for Earth First! a well-known environmental group formed in 1979 that specializes in non-violent direction action. Bari was a major organizer for their Redwood Summer, a series of anti-logging protests aimed at protection of the Redwood forests and the changing of logging practices.
Bari had received a series of death threats in the months leading up to the bombing. The FBI arrived at the scene in minutes. Injured, both Bari and Cherney were taken into custody in Oakland after the bombing and charged with transportation of an incendiary device; they were being held for bombing themselves. Bari never recovered, remaining severely disabled for the rest of her life. Though the charges were dropped amid clear evidence of a third party being responsible for the crime, the most compelling of which being the placement of the device directly beneath the drivers seat, the FBI and national press painted Bari and Cherney as environmental terrorists and used the incident to marginalize the entire environmental movement of the early 90’s.
No other suspects have ever been taken into custody.
The image of environmental activists as crazy, dirty hippies with no jobs and nothing better to do than drugs and violent petty crimes stems from incidences such as these. Far from the successes of other non-violent movements, civil right, and labor for instance, the environmental movement of the late 20th century was unable to garner mainstream support or respect, instead becoming increasingly caricatured and ignored. This allowed policy makers to largely ignore the environmental movement in its totality.
Perhaps the government and big business had learned a few things before the environmental movement was realized, perhaps the social climate was not ready for another cultural revolution, maybe it was a movement ahead of it’s time, lacking the rigorous research and obvious signs of climate change and species loss we now see daily on the news. Whatever the cause, Judi Bari, what she fought for, and almost the entirety of the movement have faded from public consciousness. Climate change, and the fact of dwindling resources have not.
Most distressing about this is the early, pre-911 association of non-violent activism, especially environmental activism, with terrorism. There is good reason to know about Judi Bari, and not just for the protection of the Redwoods, but for the protection of our civil rights and the freedom of speech. The fight to save the Redwoods continues. (original post February 26, 2015)
John Muir in 1920 on saving the Redwoods:
The Who Bombed Judi Bari Movie Official website: