Redwood Summer 1990
by Tom Cahill, March 18, 2017
Judi Bari promised us "the Nineties would make the Sixties seem like the Fifties," and she damn near pulled it off almost single-handedly during "Redwood Summer." The year 1990 started off with a bang, literally.
While in Oakland, California, on May 24, 1990, on their way to the first of many planned rallies to recruit students at the University of California Santa Cruz for "Redwood Summer," a bomb exploded under the seat of Judi's white Subaru. The blast shattered her pelvis in ten places among other injuries that should have insured her death. Her former lover, Darryl Cherney, who was in the car with her was injured to a much lesser extent and both were arrested by the Oakland police at the behest of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation who stuck to their story for years that the bomb belonged to the "Earth First!" duo and had gone off prematurely even though it was a highly-sophisticated device beyond the mechanical ability of either of the two as Bruce Anderson, publisher of the "Anderson Valley Advertiser" observed at the time.
On that November's ballot in California was Proposition 130 known as the "Forest Forever Initiative." This would have put an end to the logging of old growth redwoods and unsustainable logging such as "clear-cutting" in which trees are harvested like crops such as corn. But unlike corn that matures in a summer, redwood trees of course take decades to mature. And already by the 1990s more than ninety-five percent of the old growth of the Pacific Northwest Coast up into Canada was long made into homes, picnic tables, firewood, toothpicks and even chips for fiberboard the last of which could be made from much faster-growing hemp which some of us believe was the real reason hemp and with it marijuana was outlawed in 1937. As the late Jack Herer clearly demonstrated in his book "The Emperor Wears No Clothes: The Authoritative Historical Record of Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana" (1984) William Randolph Hearst, with his newspaper chain, focused on a single strain of hemp--canabis sativa--to destroy the entire emerging hemp industry in the late 1930s.
Please allow me to digress a minute because my blood pressure rises every time I think of William Randolph Hearst, father of "Yellow Journalism."
Jack Herer and others have shown us how hemp can save our forests. Pulp for most paper comes from trees. It takes many, many, too many acres of trees to create just the Sunday edition of "The New York Times." In addition to this, toxic chemicals are used to make paper from wood pulp. (My blood pressure is still rising but I have a fan on me now.) From hemp can be made paper without toxic chemicals that is stronger and longer-lasting than paper made from wood. The US Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were printed on paper made from hemp.
Expletive Hearst (E.H.) owned thousands of acres of forest in the USA and Mexico. In 1935, when someone invented machinery that could process hemp quicker and more cheaply, E.H. instantly saw how this could harm his newspaper empire because not only did he own entire forests (plural), but he owned wood mills and wood pulp processing plants. From his connections in Hollywood, E.H. learned that a small number of mostly Black and Hispanic musicians were using marijuana which is processed from "cannabis sativa" that is found in only one strain of the hemp plant. E.H. then produced a movie that made it look like there was an epidemic of Blacks and Hispanics under the influence of marijuana seducing and even raping young white women. The movie "Reefer Madness" (1936)is a classic example of black propaganda that has led directly to another major fraud by the US government against its own people and others throughout the world--the War on Drugs that never ever had anything to do with public health, but everything to do with political and economic tyranny.
My blood pressure is declining but I'm still sweating so please bear with me only a little longer. With fiberboard made from hemp and a glue from its resin, an entire house can be built. The wood for furniture and even the fabric for the furniture, rugs, curtains, etc. can be made from hemp. The covering for electric wiring can be made from hemp. Clothing and fuel and non toxic plastic can be made from hemp. Food and medicine can be made from hemp. Hemp matures in a season and can be harvested like corn.
Hemp is a miracle plant that like a weed (which marijuana is sometimes called in addition to "pot") grows fast and in a wide variety of soils, climates and latitudes. And instead of depleting soil, it nourishes it. So it needs little or no fertilizer.
Now do you see why E.H. was able to organize like-minded men in other industries including financial--all of whom had much to lose if the hemp industry took off--to demonize all hemp along with marijuana? I see swastikas whenever capitalists talk about "free trade." There's no such thing under capitalism which is based on greed and is totally predatory. Just look how US industries are trying to sabotage the development of "free energy." All humankind needs a new system of economics based on ecology. Okay, okay, back to Judi Bari and Redwood Summer.
In 1990, the three biggest lumber companies in Northern California claimed they stood to lose billions of dollars if Prop 130 passed. And they might have been correct. But as citizens, we looked upon ourselves as part owners of the trees like the air and water. Besides, archeologists tell us the Sahara Desert was once a forest until the people of the Mediterranean Rim gobbled-up all the wood.
Harry Merlo, CEO of Louisiana-Pacific used to enjoy claiming he believed in the "Golden Rule," "He who has the gold rules." Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan was another quiper who enjoyed his own jokes, "When you've seen one redwood tree, you've seen 'em all," the great prevaricator has been quoted as saying.
To help publicize California Proposition 130, Bari, Cherny and the rest of us in Earth First were planning a series of demonstrations we called "Redwood Summer," a knock-off of "Freedom Summer," the 1964 campaign to register Black voters in the USA's most racist states where during the course of that historic time, four young civil rights workers were murdered. Just as other causes including war have forever filled its ranks with altruistic, idealistic youth, we too hoped to recruit large numbers of college students especially with Bari & Cherney's musical tour de force.
Here are the lyrics of a song written by Darryl Cherney that Steve Ongerth included in his soon-to-be-published book. "Now Judi Bari is a mother of two children. A pipe bomb went ripping through her womb. She cries in pain at night time, In her Willits cabin room. FBI is back again with COINTELPRO. Richard Held is the man they know they trust. With Lieutenant Sims his henchman. It's a world of boom or bust. But we'll answer with non-violence, For seeking justice is our plan, And we'll avenge our wounded comrade. As we defend the ravaged land.
Darryl's song may never hit the top ten but he's put into song a memorial to a woman who will be long-remembered and admired on the USA's "Left Coast" and anywhere environmentalists try to raise consciousness.
Darryl may have been manic-depressive like I am and it may have been his mood swings that caused the break-up of the couple's romance, again just like my third marriage. And like Anna-Marie and I, Darryl and Judi salvaged their friendship out of their romance. Perhaps like Anna-Marie and I, they were more political soul-mates.
And we did recruit boots on the ground. Especially after someone gave us two martyrs, kids and media people from all over the country flocked to Northern California. It took several years of rehabilitation, but eventually Judi returned to the campaign trail, despite intense pain all the time that troubled her the rest of her shortened life, fiddling and singing and inspiring us to keep the faith when the odds seemed so stacked against us by the combined patriarchy of church, state, and industry.
If some of the college kids were frightened-off by the bombing, they were replaced by young second generation hippie men and a more than an equal number of women. It was these and other women in Earth First who deserve most of the credit for the eventual success of the campaign to at least slow down the avaricious industrial devastation. Deprogrammed by the feminist movement and educated by the civil rights and peace campaigns of the 60s, these women came into their own in Earth First in the 1990s. And Judi Bari was proof of this.
Without the restraint of time, many of these young hippies stayed on the job for years. And many distinguished themselves highly with their dedication not only to nonviolent resistance but to saving the trees which we all agreed were the lungs of Mother Earth and not just some of nature's resources or ornaments as Gov. Reagan thought of them.
May Expletive Reagan (E.R.) spend eternity with his pals working in a noisy, dusty, dangerous lumber mill.
As a first generation hippie, I couldn't have been more proud of these young people had they been my own adult children which in time I came to look upon them. Yes, many if not most us smoked pot but not irresponsibly. Hippie to us was far, far, more than "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. More than anything, we were rebels with a cause, rebelling against a society that we considered sick with greed and most of all hypocrisy. "Straight society" we looked upon as "plastic" or "unauthentic," "phony" and easily conned and cowed by authority. Our objective was to "live simply that others may simply live."
Whether aware or not, we took to heart "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams. "'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you when a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with but really loves you, then you become real.'"
When I look back over the eight decades of my life, these young Hippy kids stand out as some of God's most truly beautiful flowers such as we were called in the Sixties--"flower children." I loved every minute of being with them at base camp preparing for a demonstration or civil disobedience. One day at a campground in some redwood forest in Humboldt County someone complained of a toilet stopped up. With my bare hands I unplugged it pronto and took on the job thereafter of "toilet commando" with my bucket and plunger. I delighted in grossing-out the kids, showing them how touch grandpa was.
To protect the trees from logging, some of the kids would climb the redwoods and actually camp in the tree tops on platforms they built covered with tarps and fed by elevators made from rope and pulleys. Julia Butterfly Hill distinguished herself by staying in the top of a tree she named "Luna" for 738 days from December 10, 1997 to December 18, 1999 to prevent loggers of Pacific Lumber Company from cutting down Luna. Her platform was six feet by six feet on which she braved cold and wind and rain and harassment by helicopter. Vandals once tried to cut down the tree and succeeded in gashing it 32 inches deep around the base. But friends of Luna treated her with an herbal remedy and as of the last report in 2007, Luna was doing fine. "The Legacy of Luna" (2000) is the title of the book Butterfly wrote about Luna and their experience together.
Scientists recently announced that just looking at a tree is healing. The color green, for instance, is health-giving. In WW II, British special forces were taught that, if wounded and waiting to be helped, focus on the color of grass.
Basecamps for Redwood Summer was like being back in the military but without all the saluting bullshit. We took turns at all chores including cooking and serving. There were never any squabbles but plenty of music and other entertainment. I particularly liked some of the vehicles made into motor homes. One bus had a gutted VW camper on the roof as a sleeping loft. But the most beautiful were the ones made of wood on back of pick-up trucks. Most had porches in the rear wide enough for a rocking chair. "HMS Prince Albert" and "Agapanthus" would have been very happy among them.
Meetings went smoothly and quickly with an agenda keeper and time and vibes keepers. I tried unsuccessfully to introduce a technique of brainstorming developed by the "San Francisco Bay Area Women's Brain Exchange," but my verbal skills are poor and I was unable to promote what I still think is a great way to generate new ideas.
As we Hippies dropped out of the mainstream, we started running into Socrates and Yogananda, Eric Fromm, Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem about the importance of self-awareness and how to break through patriarch-dominated religion into pure spirituality. And government we came to view as organized crime. Not only did we think outside the box, we lived and sustained ourselves out there. Pot helped expand our consciousness by relaxing us.
Today (2017) Wall Street is scrambling to exploit the emerging marijuana market. All of a sudden they see profit in the green gold. This infuriates me but I force myself to think ahead, how pot might expand the consciousness and thus pacify vast numbers of the most backward and warlike elements in society. Plus the same entrepreneurs may see value in the rest of hemp.
The young hippies of Earth First in 1990 may never have read "To Have or To Be" by Eric Fromm, but they got the message. I discovered the book the year it was published in 1976 and never read it myself. The title told me everything I needed to know about the path I chose in 1965--to help myself and humankind become humanized.
What Earth First lacked in money for TV spots, we more than made up for in numbers, intelligence, imagination, humor, and last but not least the moral high ground. We placed people before profit. And our forest actions and encampments were to me like a vacation from a very depressing and frustrating issue I had been working on for more than a decade--stopping the sexual assault of mostly young, male, first-offenders, confined for minor crimes such as possession of a little too much pot. For this issue, I was motivated as only a survivor could be. I experienced first hand not only how brutal and dehumanized some men can be but also how corrupt is the criminal justice system. From a handful of us in the Eighties, "Stop Prisoner Rape" has morphed into an international human rights organization, now called "Just Detention International" with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, DC.
To counter our Earth First educational campaign, in September 1990, two months before the November referendum, the timber industry admitted to Congress having spent more than $5 million to defeat Prop 130. This of course probably does not include what it spent under the table in bribes to lawmakers and media moguls to eventually assassinate and bury the initiative in November 1990.
Within minutes of the bombing in Oakland that May 24, 1990, as Judi and Darryl were being taken to the hospital, the corporate media across the country were parroting the FBI's charge that the bomb was the couple's own that they were transporting to some unknown destination for the purpose of sabotage. The news was spread so fast that I can imagine dozens if not hundreds of Bureau employees in offices around the country poised like salesmen with telephones and computers and communications trees of selected media contacts throughout the country and all just waiting for the cue--"bomb away."
This to me was reminiscent of the bipartisan public execution of Pres. Kennedy when FBI director J. Edgar Hoover himself got on the telephone within minutes of the news reaching him and with damn few facts, announced to the upper echelon of government and its Ministry of Propaganda that it was a "lone, leftist nut" who killed JFK. Hoover was even the one who broke the news to Pres. Kennedy's brother, Bobby. And this is the story the US government sticks to to this very day despite the overwhelming majority of Americans polled who reject the Warren Commission finding.
To get to the truth about who killed JFK and why, I dream of a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" of no government members like the one that helped South Africa transition to democracy not long ago.
The FBI was on the scene of the bombing in a flash, "almost as if they had been standing around the corner holding their ears," said one of Bari's lawyers according to Steve Ongerth in his book "Redwood Uprising: From One Big Union to Earth First and the Bombing of Judi Bari" to be published soon.
FBI Agent McKinly from San Francisco, for instance, just happened to be in the neighborhood shopping for an apron for his child to use in a school play "when he heard on the radio about the explosion and went over to see what was going on," wrote Ongerth. Like there weren't enough stores in San Francisco?
In their book, "American Assassination: The Strange Death of Sen. Paul Wellstone" (2004), Professors James Fetzer and Don Jacobs report that FBI agents from various offices in Minnesota must have been on the road to the crash site while Sen. Wellstone's airplane was still in the air to have arrived so soon after the "accident" to secure the area from pesky journalists and others. Sen. Wellstone, a popular Democrat and probable 2004 candidate for POTUS may have interrupted Pres. Bush's second term agenda, undoing some of the machinations of the neocons and their neoliberal comrades in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
One of the FBI's first responders to the Bari/Cherney car bombing was Special Agent Frank Doyle who got into an argument with some Oakland police officers about the location of the bomb. The cops, including a sergeant, said that from the evidence of the damage, the bomb was obviously under the seat when it went off. SA Doyle claimed the bomb was on the back floor, insisting, "I've been looking at bomb scenes for twenty years, and I'm telling you, you can rely on it. This bomb was visible to the people who loaded the back seat of this car," according to Nicholas Wilson, a Mendocino area photographer and citizen journalist who has written one of the best accounts of those troubled times in Northern California.
Twelve years later, after he retired and during the trial in which he was a defendant in the car bombing lawsuit, FBI SA Frank Doyle said it was Oakland police "and not his agency that rushed to accuse" Bari and Cherney of being responsible for the car bombing, according to Mike Geniella in the Santa Rosa "Press Democrat sometime in late April or early May 2002. Doyle was "perplexed when Oakland police insisted on arresting Bari and her companion Darryl Cherney only hours after the blast for transporting explosives," wrote Geniella.
Obviously the location of the bomb was critical. No one in his or her right mind would knowingly sit on a bomb while delivering it somewhere. No one in his or her right mind would ever conceive of making such a bomb.
Three weeks after SA Doyle's original claim that the bomb was in the back seat. Supervisory Special Agent David R.Williams, the Bureau's top explosives expert and Doyle's boss at the time, ruled the bomb had been under the seat and that it had a motion trigger, according to Nick Wilson and Mike Geniella. Yet for four weeks more, two months in all, the FBI kept insisting the bomb was the couple's own intended for some mayhem. The couple were even under arrest for awhile.
When the "back seat" location of the bomb wore thin, the FBI changed its story. Nails in the bomb to produce shrapnel matched those found in Judi's home near Willits in Mendocino County, claimed the Bureau's massive public relations department that spread this line among the Bureau-friendly corporate media. Eventually this too was debunked when it was proven that billions of these nails were being sold in hardware stores all over the western part of the country. But when it comes to propaganda, truth matters little. People selectively believe what they will. As Mark Twain once said, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." But as someone else said, "Ten minutes of truth can counteract twenty-four hours of lies."
And as any armchair sleuth knows, there are no coincidences in a crime, especially a serious crime. Every lead must be followed to a reasonable conclusion. Yet, again as in the JFK assassination, the corporate media was fed one ridiculous story after another. When it comes to the Bari/Cherney bombing, this then is my favorite coincident. Are you sitting down?
Fact check this! One month before the bombing in Oakland, it was the same FBI SA Frank Doyle who conducted a class in car-bombing through the College of the Redwoods in Eureka for college credit for police investigators on a piece of land in Humboldt County owned by Louisiana-Pacific Lumber Company. Some of the students were from the Oakland Police Force and were first responders to the May 24 car bombing.
When I first heard or read about this, I had a fit of rage and called my friend Anna-Marie Stenberg for emotional first aide. But instead of calming me she had a fit of her own and we wound up trying to calm each other. Not long before the bombing, Anna-Marie and I joined Earth First together. Already over-the-hill activists, our model then as now was Emma Goldman especially for having told some tight-ass, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." On the day of the bombing, Judi and Darryl were on the way to connect with Anna-Marie's son, Zack who was a student at UC Santa Cruz, a member of Earth First, and was going to help the couple with their musical presentation at the school.
Oh, my Goddess, was Anna-Marie ticked off when she heard The FBI Story! Mess with a normal mother's cub and you know you got trouble. Anna-Banana as her intimates know her, happens to be one of those supermoms who could lift a bus off anyone's offspring. Trust me, I know her. The totally bogus possibility that Judi and Darryl were carrying a bomb to Zack infuriated Anna-Marie and motivated her, against the will of some other Earth First members, to make the rounds of San Francisco Bay area radio and TV stations strongly opposing the FBI's fairy tale.
What's more Anna-Marie easily found Judi's Subaru that wasn't even taped-off as a "crime scene." It quickly became obvious to her that FBI SA Frank Doyle was (in my words not A-M's) not only a liar but a fucking liar. There's a difference you know. To explain my pique, to put it mildly, as I've written elsewhere in this memoir, I have memos from my own FBI files that COINTELPRO set me up to be beaten, gang-raped and otherwise tortured while jailed for civil disobedience in San Antonio, Texas in 1968. Like the late historian/activist Howard Zinn, I won't even pretend to be objective when it comes to the avalanche of lies from the right-wing headed toward us on the progressive left exactly as in the late 19th Century "Dreyfus Affair" in France. "Rule of law," MY ASS!
"Laws . . . we know what they are worth, spiderwebs for the rich and the mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of the government," wrote Pierre Proudhon, 19th century French anarchist.
Fact check this history lesson--Many congressmen and senators opposed the establishment of the FBI during the administration of Pres. Teddy Roosevelt. They feared it would become a secret political police force like the Okhrana of Russia's Czar at that time and this is exactly what has happend.
So where was I when I got the news of the bombing? I was at home in my hay loft in the horsebarn on Ten Mile Ranch when the reports reached me probably by phone and probably from Anna-Banana. Like many Earth First members, I totally freaked out especially when I heard what the FBI was doing to the house in Oakland where Judi and Darryl had spent the night before the bombing. Visions of the FBI smashing my door down, ripping open my Teddy Bear looking for a weapon, trashing the ship model that took months for me to build, sent me into orbit around planet Paranoia. Under stress I'm capable of almost anything--good, bad, wise, even ridiculous.
Figuring the local police already had the news, I telephoned the Fort Bragg Police Department, identified myself as a member of Earth First, asked to speak to Chief Tom Bickell, and was immediately put through to him.
"Chief, we are not terrorists like the FBI is putting out," I told him. "I haven't been with the group long but the people I've met including Judi and Darryl are tough, absolutely dedicated, but nonviolent activists," I said. "We have better sense than to use violence. In fact I was at a meeting not long ago when we all decided to publicly condemn tree-spiking even." I told Chief Bickell. "Tree-spiking" was the controversial use of large metal spikes hammered into a tree trunk about the height of where a logger would place his chainsaw. The result could be catastrophic for the chainsaw as well as the tree-feller. "Besides, I'm 53 and I have better things to do than hang out with a bunch of juvenile delinquents and wannabe terrorists," I said to Chief Bickell.
Then I blew my own mind and I'm certain his. I invited him to lunch at my place on the Ranch to see an Earth Firster in his natural habitat. Chief Bickell then showed what he was made of and accepted my invitation. Some time later I figured out I was reaching out to the Chief for protection from the FBI. Not so Hippy-Dippy after all, eh?
I made us grilled bagels with cheese and tomatoes, some kind of juice to drink, and pound cake with yogurt for dessert. And the Chief ate with relish as I recall.
While I prepared lunch we quickly found something in common; we were both Air Force veterans.
"What kind of plane is this," he asked pointing to a model on my combination desk/dining table.
"Chief, that's the famous North American P-51 Mustang of the Red Tailed Devils of the 'Tuskegee airman' of World War II," I answered incredulously. In 2012, the movie "Red Tails" made these Black fighter pilots famous throughout the world.
"Oh," he exclaimed, explaining he had nothing to do with airplanes when he was in the service. He was in the Air Police, he told me.
Having been in Air Force intelligence, neither did I have anything to do with airplanes to my disappointment. But I had been airplane crazy since I was a kid.
Over lunch I admitted to having a beef with the Bureau and offered to let him borrow my FBI files that I had a lot of trouble obtaining. It contained mostly trivia, some errors and two memos showing COINTELPRO may have set me up for the royal treatment in Bexar County Jail in Texas in 1968 because of my anti-Vietnam War activities including publishing an "underground newspaper."
Chief Bickell then told me that he too was no friend of the FBI. Soon after he became Chief of Police of Fort Bragg, the Bureau invited him to its' Academy for special training. Chief Bickell turned down the offer since he already knew the FBI searches such a candidate's life for the slightest blemish in order to then blackmail the police officer into doing its bidding at some later date.
As soon as she heard about the bombing, my friend, political soul mate and future wife, Anna-Marie Stenberg who was a close friend of Judi, rushed to Oakland in time to see the car and made the observation that the bomb was without doubt under the driver's seat of the Subaru since there was a huge hole in the floor there with edges pointing outward.
"Who could be so simple-minded as to ride with a bomb under her seat?" Anna-Marie asked us when she returned to Fort Bragg. "Certainly not Judi," Anna-Marie answered her own question with obvious knowledge of her friend.
A few days later, Anna-Marie took me with her to see Judi in the hospital. On a wall entirely covered with hundreds of cards from admirers and political supporters, I was amazed to find a get-well card from my sister, Teresa.
"COINTELPRO!" Judi, Anna-Marie and I agreed may not have built and placed the bomb but was now running the show to discredit not only Bari and Cherney but the rest of us in Earth First and our mission to save the last of the Redwoods. CORPORATISM UBER ALLES.
As mentioned in an earlier chapter, COINTELPRO was the FBI's counter-intelligence program against the New Left and anyone else that might interfere with the smooth operation of the corporate dictatorship from the time of JFK's bipartisan execution to about 1971 when so much abuse including murders of Black Panthers forced Congress to come down on the Bureau.
"We are out of that business forever," said J. Edgar Hoover or one of his clones. But Redwood Summer in California proved beyond a doubt that COINTELPRO was still alive and well but under deeper cover with a new code name. In fact, Richard Held who had worked with COINTELPRO in an earlier incarnation was now Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco field office and the government's leading mouth in the attempted assassination of Bari and Cherney.
Especially those of us who have been on the receiving end of COINTELPRO, know the dark side of its originator--J. Edgar Hoover. Ward Churchill knows and has written at length about the crimes committed in the name of justice by America's national secret police force; crimes called "excesses" by Congress, "dirty tricks" by corporate media mockingbirds and "atrocities" as we survivors call them. A Native American, Churchill is the author of "The COINTELPRO Papers" (1990), "Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against The Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement" (1988) and seventeen or more other books. He is also a long-time political activist and a former professor at the University of Colorado.
Clint Eastwood didn't even scratch the surface of J. Edgar Hoover's vices in his movie "J.Edgar" (2011) although I thought Leonardo DeCaprio did an amazing job portraying the Director.
Also on the far right of the political spectrum where Hoover lived all his life, Lawrence Silberman said of Hoover after discovering The Director's secret files in 1974, "J. Edgar Hoover was a sewer that collected dirt. I now believe he was the worst public servant in our history." Silberman was made a federal judge by Pres. Reagan and was part of the Federalist Society that screened Pres. Bush's judicial nominees.
When he was JFK's attorney general and Hoover's boss, Bobby Kennedy called the FBI director a "mean, bitter, vicious animal" that fit perfectly Hoover's mug and moniker, "Bulldog." Hoover had no love for Bobby or his brother and knew they were going to retire him after the 1964 election so it must have delighted The Director to have been the one to break the news to him about his brother's death.
In the review of Noel Twyman's book, "Bloody Treason" (1998) about the assassination of JFK, John Kelin wrote, "It is amusing, in a sick sort of way, that Hoover seems to be the one person who had no redeeming qualities." He then quoted Twyman, "I have searched the literature and if there is something likable about him, I haven't found it."
Yet the FBI's headquarters in Washington, DC is still named "the Hoover Building."
Like many associated with the JFK execution and LBJ's Murder Inc., Hoover died "unexpectedly" on May 2, 1972. Although he was 77, cause of death was listed as "undiagnosed heart disease." But some of us "conspiracy nuts" believe he was poisoned for his clash with the Nixon Whitehouse and the CIA about the time of Watergate.
As we saw in the Presidential election of 2016, the ghost of J.Edgar Hoover still haunts the FBI decades after his death. Even former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made a serious charge against the current director.
After lunch with Chief Bickell on the day of the bombing in 1990, I drove to Our Lady of Good Council Church in Fort Bragg and talked Fr. Anthony di Russo into giving the benediction at a prayer circle organized by ANNA-MARIE that evening near the town's museum for the recovery of our comrades. I confessed to the priest that I hadn't been a practicing Catholic for years and that I had been attracted to the Church for the free meal each Wednesday. Then with tears in my eyes, I assured Fr. di Russo that what the media was broadcasting was untrue. We were all absolutely dedicated to nonviolence. The bomb was not Judi's and Darryl's. And I broke down unable to control my emotions. Fr. di Russo arrived promptly and while he gave the benediction, I played "Amazing Grace" softly on my harmonica as some in the crowd hummed along. Judi didn't have much use for religion or spirituality but I'm sure she would have been moved by the flickering candles and the drama of the event.
A few days later when I went to town to thank Fr. di Russo, I learned he had been very suddenly and unexpectedly transferred to Massachusetts. Fuck the patriarchy--that harms men as well as women.
On June 20, 1990 we had a massive educational demonstration in Samoa, a lumber town in Humboldt County. And a month later on July 21, we had an even bigger demo in Fort Bragg in which Anna-Marie was the principle organizer, mainly responsible for making sure there would be no violence on our side. There were a few arrests in Fort Bragg but they were drunken, undereducated mill workers, fearful of losing their jobs as management had told they they would if Prop 130 was successful.
In 1990, Fort Bragg had and still has a population of six thousand. Dr. Jonathan Shepard, a retired professor of economics, painstakingly counted from aerial photos published by the Santa Rosa "Press-Democrat" seven thousand people marching through town in support of Prop 130. And not all the people on the sidelines were against us. As many cheered us as jeered as we marched by to the center of town where the flatbed truck of Robert Swanson, one of my neighbors at Ten Mile Ranch, served as our speakers' platform.
My biggest contribution to the demo was assisting Anna-Marie and Chief Bickell on a committee of public safety that Anna-Marie organized. Seven years later, when speaking with Chief Bickell about another issue--growing pot for medicinal use on an empty lot next to the police station for security--Anna-Marie spotted in the Chief's office a plaque awarded to him for keeping the peace that historic day in July 1990. After we told the Chief he deserved it, Chief Bickell responded, "No, you deserved it, Anna-Marie."
A minor contribution I made to the success of the demo in Fort Bragg in 1990 was a routine I created with a hard hat that I covered with lichen and those tiny, bottle-brush like pine trees popular at Christmas. Fore and aft, I glued signs, "Ask me what a CLEARCUT is!"
At the demo, I had a friend write on my bald pate, "The Great Mendocino Desert."
"One 'S' or two?" my friend asked. "Two" I responded wrongly. But luckily a better speller intervened.
The print and TV media loved it and all day I was constantly removing the helmet and bending over to let people read the message. A photo even appeared in the Fort Bragg "Advocate News," Thursday, July 26, 1990.
In that same edition of the Fort Bragg paper was a story about a WW II vet who had been shot down in a B-26 over Italy and spent more than a year as a POW. "Conspicuous among the ranks of undulating bodies and painted faces at Saturday's demonstration was Jeff Brehm, He was a white-haired man wearing a cap that identified him as a Veteran For Peace."
"'I'm here because I agree with these young people,' Brehm said. 'A stand has to be taken against the corporations that maximize profits with no consideration for anything else. Corporations that owe allegiance to no country,' he said, Then he melted into the crowd of demonstrators four and five decades younger,'" stated the article without a byline.
At her first public appearance after the bombing, Judi Bari attended an eco-feminist demonstration at the Federal Building in San Francisco on August 14, 1990, demanding an "Investigation of the Investigators." A photo I took that day shows Anna-Marie standing behind Judi's wheelchair, the bright colors of A-M's tie-dye T shirt making an unmistakable halo around the head of our living martyr.
"WHEN YOU FIND THE BOMBER, FIRE HIM," shouted Anna-Marie whose IQ and quick wit matched Judi's and may have been one of the reasons Judi--a definite control freak--eventually turned on Anna-Marie. When I took Anna-Marie's side in a dispute between the two, the look I got from Judi made me know I was persona non grata forEVER. And sure enough after that I would get the cold shoulder at meetings, and base camps and demos.
At the rally in San Francisco, speaker after speaker including Dolores Huerta, the farmworker organizer, cited a long list of FBI abuses while others in the crowd circulated petitions demanding that legislators move quickly to protect environmentalists from such as the FBI.
"Now that the Cold War was cooling, it was obvious to many of us that COINTELPRO had targeted the environmental movement as currently the most serious threat to the lifestyles of America's rich and famous," I wrote in an article published in "The Mendocino Country Environmentalist" September 1, 1990. I believe the name Buckminster Fuller tagged the CIA with--"Capitalism's Invisible Army" also include the FBI and the vast Intel community.
In a show of solidarity with Bari and Cherney, many at the rally wore silver duct tape as armbands. It was similar all-purpose tape that can be found in many homes throughout the country that was allegedly used to make the bomb and was "key evidence" in the Bureau's case against Bari because a roll of it was found in her home. What a stretch!
Some of the signs at the rally appeared like a contest to rename the Bureau using it's present acronym--"Federal Bureau of Inquisition," "Fabricate, Brutalize, Intimidate" to name a few.
Sedonia and her new husband-to-be, Barton Stone (aka "Bird Brother") were at the rally. I had Bird Brother write with a broad felt pen on top of my bald head, "FBI Exposed" over which I placed a traditional English barrister's white wig that went with the black gown I wore and the sign I held, "Verdict is in . . . FBI GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS." Anytime I saw a camera, I'd dramatically remove the wig and bow low enough for the words on my head to be seen. But the gimmick didn't go over nearly as well as the similar message I created for the Fort Bragg demo a few weeks earlier.
Not long after the rally in San Francisco at a meeting at Anna-Marie's home in Fort Bragg, Judi showed her dark side. She accused Anna-Marie of misappropriating some money for a telephone call. I knew for a fact that Anna-Marie had spent much of her own money helping make Redwood Summer a success. I quickly sized-up the situation, that Judi wasn't concerned about a few dollars. She wanted to regain and quickly total leadershio of Earth First and felt Anna-Marie was in her way.
I was outraged and expressed it. Judi slashed back at me and from then on I was on her shit list along with the FBI.
Judi Bari to me remains an enigma for which I've had to refer to astrology for help understanding her.
Born November 7, 1949, Judi was a Scorpio (Sun) and Virgo (Rising). Anna-Marie is opposite, Virgo (Sun) and Scorpio (Rising). In astrology, Scorpios have powerful emotional stingers especially in their most dominant Sun sign. More than once I felt Anna-Marie's Scorpio stinger but it was in her Rising sign and much less hurtful than that of Judi's. According to Derek and Julia Parker in their book "The Compleat Astrologer" (1982), "Scorpios have great personal magnetism, there is always something exciting, dynamic, and fascinating about them." But "He is a bad man to make an enemy of since his resentment is long-lasting. He will battle against severe odds to win--sometimes to the point of trampling on others in the process."
After more than a quarter century, the question remains "Who bombed Judi Bari?" And it may have been Judi herself who obscured the truth since she told a number of intimates that she thought it was her ex-husband, Mike Sweeney, who built and placed the bomb and who had access to her car, but then for unclear reasons she refused to name him publicly and preferred to cast the blame on the FBI. To call her "complex" would be an understatement. But even supporters besides me called her egocentric and manipulative. In the end she may have preferred to blame the FBI, a much bigger villain for her outsized ego. But leaving the case "cold," would be a twofer for her, leaving a cloud over both her ex-husband and the FBI, well within Scorpio's emotional capability.
I was never close to Judi Bari, so this is all I dare postulate. But it does bring to my mind the old nursery rhyme about the little girl who "when she was good, she was very, very good and when she was bad she was horrid." That to me was Judi Bari with a very sharp, clear contrast between her two selves.
At times I thought Judi was even more showbiz than political which helped our cause greatly and explained her enlarged ego. She organized exciting demonstrations and rally's. like Bill Graham was to rock 'n' roll, Judi was to the environmental movement. A bomb rocketed her into celebrity where she may have retained her "cocoon," as Dr. Allen Roland writes about in his book "Radical Therapy" (2002). The ego may be necessary in childhood for protection but it is meant to be shed like a cocoon for one to become a psycho/spiritually healthy person, writes Dr. Rolland. Psychological trauma especially in early life could delay, even inhibit the casting-off of the ego resulting in problems in relationships, etc., he continues.
Judith Beatrice Bari died 6:45 AM, March 2, 1997 of inoperable breast cancer less than six months after diagnosis. She was 47. That afternoon many of us gathered at Navarro Beach for a farewell circle.
Bari "frequently resorted to theatrical antics to drive home her message," wrote Mike Geniella in the Santa Rosa "Press Democrat" March 3, 1997, under the heading "Intense Style, Rankled Many, Belied Warmth."
In a letter-to-the-editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser soon after her death, I wrote "There were parts of Judi Bari I disliked intensely. Her razor sharp tongue made her sarcasm unmatched as she was the master of the put-down even with her own friends and allies. She seemed to not know the strength of her words or the deep hurt they could cause even among those of us who were not very thin-skinned.
"She was manipulative to the max, a control freak extraordinaire who would browbeat you one moment, then make a play for sympathy the next in order to get her way. She was also adept at making you feel like the smallest being on the planet if you didn't agree with her one hundred percent. I've experienced all this for what I consider minor transgressions.
"On the other hand, Judi Bari was the most intelligent and effective and by far the bravest activist I have ever known or known of in the thirty years I've been a political activist.
"I forgive you Judi for your Scorpio stings, I love you and I'll miss you."
Not long after I wrote that, I changed my mind, deciding Judi was the second greatest activist I had ever worked with. Anna-Marie Stenberg who I would marry a decade later, still occupies first place in intelligence, effectiveness and courage.
After Judi's death, her ex husband, Mike Sweeney, got custody of their two daughters, Jessica, then aged eleven, and Lisa, then aged sixteen. How the three lived together under the cloud of suspicion that the girl's own dad tried to kill their mom is grist for a story some years from now. But the story of the two girls and their father gets even more interesting five years later when in 2002 a court ruled the FBI violated the civil rights of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney awarding them $4.4 million. How the money was divided and did Mike Sweeney enjoy any of it directly or indirectly, wouldn't I like to know?