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Redwood Bummer

It was on a Thursday in late May, 1990, that a bomb exploded under Judi Bari’s seat as she and her beau, Darryl Cherney, were departing the East Bay. The two Earth First!ers had spent the night in Berkeley on a trip that began in Willits and was supposed to end in Santa Cruz. She was badly injured, he was shaken up. This was explained to me that afternoon by Bruce Anderson, who hoped I could make it over to Highland Hospital where Judi was being treated and get some news. I was working at UCSF at the time.

At the hospital that evening I tried but couldn’t get in to see Judi. I was told that her wounds would require major surgery but she was expected to live. I have a dim memory of Steve Antler and some other lawyers being there, showing their support and jockeying for position. Proficient Susan Jordan got the case. 

Synapse went to the printer on Wednesday. (We used to lay it out at Howard Quinn, a union shop at 16th and Alabama. It’s a chocolatier now.) So it would have been Thursday, one week after the bombing, that I went back to Highland to see about Judi. On the floor where surgery patients were recovering I met her parents, Arthur and Ruth Bari, who were grieving but calm and collected. They had flown out from Maryland. We had time to talk. 

At one point I said I knew they had another remarkable daughter, Gina Kolata, the NY Times science writer. Arthur Bari promptly said they had a third remarkable daughter, not by way of bragging but as if to leave no sister behind. He was a skilled jeweler who had aspired to be a chemist, I think, but chose instead to support the family while his wife got a PhD in math. She became a professor. He was Italian, she was Jewish. They were lefties, and quite willing to bring in the recorder to get a statement from Judi. 

The Baris went in to see their daughter and came out 20 minutes later with the tape recorder, no problem. They said Judi had welcomed the opportunity and had spoken for about 10 minutes to her friends in Mendocino. Mission accomplished from my POV. They were staying at the Marriott on Broadway and I offered them a ride. As they were getting their things together to leave, a nurse appeared to say that Judi had something to add. The Baris went back in with the recorder and came out about five minutes later.

As we started down the hall a uniformed Oakland police officer named Wilson —a solidly built Black man, 40 or older— confronted us and asked for the tape. It had been made without authorization, he said. If the Baris hadn’t been involved I might not have complied. But they were and I did. 

As we were driving to the hotel Arthur Bari mused about Officer Wilson’s mindset.

He and Ruth recalled what they could of Judi’s statement, and I passed it on to the newsroom in Boonville.

Back in my SF pad, a little past midnight, the phone rang. I’ll sing you the rest:

Dreamin’ of Dona, from the days of Woody
and Frankie Lyman singin’ Goody Goody
St. Alban’s Queens, tell me what it means?
Mississippi Bummer again!

You can love someone, don’t have to marry ‘em
So Bruce said go visit Judi Barium
in Cokeland, could not get in
The cops said only kin

Said I’m her brother, they said she ain’t got one
said I’m her sister, they said yeah that’s a good one
Get outa the hall, we’ll throw you in jail,
We got a cooler right downstairs

Five days went by, took some vacation
time off from work to go talk to the other patients
Get news to send back to her friends
about their Judi on the mend

Her folks were there. They said she’s gonna recover
I said that’s great you know a lot of people seem to love her
Asked if they’d tape what she had to say
For the good old AVA

So Judi Bari broke her silence
Saying hold on to non-violence
Redwood Summer is our last chance (God knows)
Last chance for the trees
last chance for the trees
last chance for the trees

But as her dad came down the hall
The OPD man had the gall
to confiscate the tape
Judi’d made for you and me

Driving back to the hotel
Arthur Bari softspoken and analytical
said the man must have feared
his superior’s response

How sad… and overtired
drifting off though still a little wired
when the phone rang and a voice went BANG
This is Susan Jordan I am just furious with you

Getting that statement was simply awful
Hey Sue I didn’t think it was unlawful
You didn’t think, she said, now we’ve established
You are a man who does not think

The cops will use it to deny access
and what is more it will be introduced as evidence
you’re a rip-off, just lookin’ for scoops
just like your friend Bruce

A tongue-lashing from Susan Jordan
in the big scheme of things might not be too important
I said I’m sorry, Sue, instead of goodnight, she said you
should know better than to fuck with the cops

But how can that tape be evidence?
I shoulda said this time your client is innocent
I guess she’s right, I’m not too bright
and now I could not fall asleep
a man who does not think
a man who does not think

About Susan Jordan in her classy leather jacket
makin’ big bucks in the legal racket
Tellin’ me to stop, just like the cop
like a personal prison guard

Goodnight Dona, goodnight Woody,
Goodnight Irene, Susan, Bruce and Judi
The loggers and their families
know it’s the last chance for the trees
last chance for the trees
last chance for the trees
last chance for the trees
last chance for the trees

Notes: Few people understand the Mississippi Summer connection. (Judi wished she’d been older during the ‘60s, felt that she’d just missed the real action.) I used to play basketball with Andy Goodman at the 92nd St. Y. Dona in the song was a friend from high school who was with SNCC. She married Bob Moses. It didn’t last. She became Marimba Ani. Wonderful woman.

One Comment

  1. Michael Koepf October 1, 2021

    Outstanding journalism. Outstanding.

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