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Judi Bari

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Judi Bari (November 7, 1949March 2, 1997) was an American environmentalist and labor leader, a feminist, and the principal organizer of Earth First! campaigns against logging in the ancient redwood forests of Northern California in the 1980s and '90. She also organized efforts through Industrial Workers of the World Local 1 to bring timber workers and environmentalists together in common cause.

On May 24, 1990, Bari was severely injured by a pipe bomb which exploded in her car as she and fellow Earth First! member Darryl Cherney traveled through Oakland, California, on their way to Santa Cruz. Bari and Cherney were on an organizing tour for "Redwood Summer," a campaign primarily made up of nonviolent protests focused on saving redwood forests in Northern California and building connections with loggers through the IWW.

When the Oakland police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) immediately accused Bari and Cherney of knowingly carrying a bomb for use in an act of terrorism, the story made headlines nationwide. Bari's supporters pointed out that the explosive was a pipe bomb packed with nails for shrapnel effect, and that it was equipped with a motion trigger to ensure that it would only explode when the car was driven by Bari. The bomb was also placed directly under the driver's seat, not in the back seat or trunk as it presumably would have been if Bari had been transporting it knowingly. The District Attorney declined to file any formal charges against Bari and Cherney, citing lack of evidence.

The bomb closely resembled another that had been used to attack a lumber mill targeted by protesters, however Bari denied connection with the lumber mill bomb which never actually exploded and which she suspected was placed specifically to frame her, as it was found next to a cardboard sign (an odd choice of material if one believes the area is about to explode). The bomb and the crime scene in Oakland on May 24 also closely resembled "crime scenes" fabricated by the FBI in a "bomb school" held nearby earlier that year. The bomb school was intended to train agents on how to deal with bomb scenes. The school emphasized that crime scenes of this sort were not likely to involve victims of bombing but to be the result of the knowing, criminal transportation of homemade bombs.

Bari had received numerous death threats in the weeks before the bombing. She had reported them to local police, and after the bombing Bari's attorney turned written threats over to the FBI for investigation. The local police and the FBI never investigated. Just days after the bombing, while Bari was still in hospital, Mike Geniella of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat received a letter claiming responsibility for placing the bomb in Bari's car and at the Cloverdale L-P mill. It was written in a high-flown, biblical style and signed "The Lord's Avenger," who stated further that his or her motivation was the work Bari had done in defending a Planned Parenthood clinic in Ukiah, California. The letter also described the construction of the bombs in great detail, leaving out only one detail: the motion-sensing device which was a key part of the car bomb. Some, including Bari and her friends, suspected at first that The Lord's Avenger was Bill Staley, a mill worker and religiously zealous man who had harassed the director of the Ukiah clinic, threatening to rape her and to blow up the clinic itself on several occasions. Bari later came to believe, however, that Staley was not responsible for the letter, which was intended to sow confusion and throw people off the track of the true bomber.

A year later, Bari and Cherney filed a federal civil rights suit claiming that the FBI and police officers falsely arrested the pair and attempted to frame them as terrorists so as to discredit their political organizing in defense of the redwood forests. It is still not known who placed the bomb in Bari's car.

Judi Bari died of breast cancer on March 2, 1997.

In 2002, a jury in their federal civil lawsuit exonerated Bari and Cherney by ordering four FBI agents and three Oakland Police officers to pay a total of $4.4 million to Cherney and to Bari's estate for violation of their First Amendment rights to speak and organize and for false arrest and unlawful search and seizure. Fully 80% of the damages were for the First Amendment violations. Judi died in 1997 of breast cancer, five years before her exoneration.

On May 20, 2003, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted a resolution saying: "Whereas, Judi Bari was a dedicated activist, who worked for many social and environmental causes, the most prominent being the protection and stewardship of California's ancient redwood forests. ... Now therefore be it resolved that the City of Oakland shall designate May 24 as Judi Bari Day and celebrate and honor the work of Judi Bari in advancing the causes of forest protection, eco-feminism, labor organizing, bridge building between environmentalists and timber workers, and civil rights for political activists; and be it further resolved that the City shall encourage its schools, civic institutions and citizens to memorialize Judi Bari's work through art, media, festivals, school assignments and other creative means."

In early 2005, a biography of Bari, titled The Secret Wars of Judi Bari, by Kate Coleman, drew fierce criticism from Cherney, Bari's estate, and their friends and supporters, who claimed hundreds of factual errors and a bias against Bari and Earth First! They also pointed out that the book was published by Encounter Books, which they claim is an extreme conservative publisher with an interest in discrediting anti-corporate activists.

Coleman presented the theory that Michael Sweeney, Bari's ex-husband, had planted the bomb in hopes of killing her and Cherney. Sweeney had once been a member of Veneceremos, a radical leftist organization that was advocating violent overthrow of the US Government. [1]

Bari was the daughter of mathematician Ruth Aaronson Bari and sister of the New York Times science journalist Gina Kolata.

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