Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were on their way to a rally at UCSC when the bomb tore her car apart.
You have a motion-triggered bomb loaded with nails. It’s armed. You, as an anti-clearcutting “Green Mafia” terrorist, are presumably going to deliver this weapon to the Redwood Empire some 200 miles north of the Bay Area.
Question: would you first put this bomb under your car seat and take it for a nice twisty drive, 75 miles in the wrong direction, down Highway 17 from Oakland to Santa Cruz?
If you can answer “yes” to this, the FBI needs you.
Screening Friday, May 11 at the Santa Cruz Film Fest, “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” is an investigation of the inept, possibly conspiratorial law-enforcement response to the bombing of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney on May 24, 1990.
Bari was the spokesperson for Earth First! and an avowed practitioner of non-violent civil disobedience. She was trying to stop the clearcutting of what was left of the ancient trees in northern California. “We don’t want them all,” she said, “we just want what’s left.”
Earth First!’s “Redwood Summer” attempted to recall the spirit of 1960s activism. Unfortunately, some portion of the locals played the part of the Klan in this drama, making serious threats (even of crucifixion) against the organizers.
Despite these threats, despite a series of dirty tricks played by Earth First’s opponents upon the gullible daily press, the FBI and the Oakland PD never found the real bomber. They had suspects, however: the blast’s victims, Cherney and Bari.
The aftermath of the bombing is the subject of this infuriating, inspiring and unmissable documentary—“edited with solar power” by Cherney himself.
It’s a hectic time for ”Who Bombed Judi Bari”’s co-director (with Mary Liz Thomson). Cherney ‘s newborn daughter is calling for his attention even as this documentary is hitting the festival circuit. Cherney is a New Yorker who moved to Garberville several decades ago, “leaving the most paranoid city in the east for the most paranoid city in the west.”
By phone, Cherney emphasizes the salient points. He says the movie is a tribute to Bari and the “cut and run” tactics she fought. She was also Cherney’s partner and sometime lover.
“We were close,” Cherney says, “though we argued incessantly. I had an epiphany: ‘I’m still partners with Judi Bari, only this time she doesn’t get to yell at me!’ Judi was frickin’ smarter than anybody: a curse and a blessing. The main relationship we had was as musical partners—she played music to her dying day. She played fiddle and I played guitar. She used to say that the most important component of activism is music.
“She was a little MLK when it came to oratory, an incredible fundraiser and writer. She was a unifier. The world needs Judi Bari.”
Cherney’s been working on ”Who Bombed Judi Bari?”for two and a half years. But he’s been trying to turn his and Bari’s story into a feature film for 10 years. During that writing process, Cherney collected the available archival footage, which made him decide to assemble the results into a documentary.
Bari and Cherney’s story isn’t over.
“We’re not done. We’ve won the trial, the jury awarded us $4.4 million. In exchange for taking $4 mil, we negotiated two non-monetary demands. The first is that May 24 be declared Judi Bari Day by the city of Oakland. That’s better than an apology.”
The second demand is more complicated: Cherney and his legal team want what's left of the bomb that injured himself and Bari, as well as a second bomb that partially detonated outside of a Cloverdale lumber mill. The FBI wants to clean house of this evidence by destroying it. Cherney and company want to send it to an independent lab to seek DNA evidence.
Cherney isn’t conspiratorial enough to think the FBI set the bomb off. “The FBI didn’t bomb us, but I believe they know who did.”
The North Coast continues to feel the pressure, although Cherney says the locals have wised up.
“What made the redwoods such fantastic building material no longer exists,” he says. “I just got some salvaged 120-year-old lumber from a barn; I swiped it with a piece of sandpaper and it shines red once again. We don’t have the quantity or the quality anymore.”
I tell Cherney that it’s perhaps too much to expect tourists on their way to Trees of Mystery to understand the difference between an old-growth forest and an herbicided lumber plantation.
He replies, “Imagine that old-growth tree compared to a third-growth ‘pecker pole’—a 1,000-year-old to a 10-year-old. It’s like comparison of a six-room house to a dog house. Certain animals need larger trees as a habitat: shade, which modifies the climate. The larger trees catch fog. A single redwood can store water, which it releases in the summer, water that provides a habitat for the fish. A tree like that also provides a sense of awe. And humanity could use a little humility right now.”
“WHO BOMBED JUDI BARI?”
Friday, May 11, 6:45pm
For ticket info visit www.santacruzfilmfestival.org