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Darryl Cherney Testifies

by Nicholas Wilson

report on Judi Bari vs. FBI trial
Darryl Cherney
Darryl Cherney speaking at a rally for the opening day of trial against FBI and police

PHOTO: Nicholas Wilson

Darryl Cherney's testimony was off to a good start when he got several good laughs -- including from jurors -- in the first fifteen minutes.

Cherney's testimony would range over his personal background, his relationship with Judi Bari, the pair's involvement with Earth First!, their organizing for Redwood Summer, the events immediately preceding the bombing, his recollections of the explosion in Bari's car, his subsequent treatment by police and FBI, and the impact of the sustained police accusations on him, Bari, Redwood Summer, and the Forests Forever ballot initiative. The defense would quiz him about nonviolence, tree spiking, and the songs on his music cassettes. Cherney's testimony had a surprise ending, but it was not the surprise that Cherney had planned.

Dennis Cunningham began the questioning: Good afternoon, Mr. Cherney. It took a long time to get here.
Cherney: Too long.
Q: You're a plaintiff in this action?
A: I am.
Q: And you were associated in your plaintiffhood with Judi Bari up until her death?
A: We were Siamese twins joined at the lawsuit.

With Cunningham as straight man and Cherney falling into his familiar role as storyteller, the Earth First! troubadour began his testimony with a quick capsule history of his life, beginning in his native New York City as a child folksinger, songwriter and political activist by the age of ten. He went to Fordham University, got a bachelor's degree in English and master's in urban education, became an English teacher, and got a job with a record company. After a brief stint in furniture moving, he headed west toward San Francisco, and picked up a hitchhiker who steered him to Garberville, California. He told his rider that he wanted to move to the country, live off the land and save the world. "Go to Garberville," his passenger advised.

So he found himself in Humboldt County, the second most northern county on California's Pacific coast, home to some of the largest remaining stands of old growth redwood forest. Some of them were preserved in parks, but many were being felled at an accelerated rate, particularly on the lands of Pacific Lumber, which had just been subjected to a junk-bond-financed takeover by corporate raider Charles Hurwitz and his Maxxam Corporation.

On arrival in Garberville in 1986, Cherney joined the Environmental Protection Information Center, a Garberville-based grassroots nonprofit organization working to preserve ancient redwood stands and wildlife habitat through conventional means, including litigation, lobbying legislators and watchdogging the Board of Forestry. EPIC became known for its campaign of successful and precedent-setting lawsuits challenging what they deemed bad decisions by the California Department of Forestry, the state agency which regulates logging on private land. Cherney helped initiate EPIC's litigation program, and for a time he was on EPIC's board of directors. But he soon resigned to take a more direct approach to logging reform.

He first saw the name Earth First! on a sticker on the door of the Mendocino Environmental Center. "The name grabbed me," said Cherney, noting that the two words almost rhymed. He learned that Earth First! was a movement and had no hierarchy, unlike EPIC or the Sierra Club. Earth First! embraced biocentrism. The Earth had to come first, not political expediency, not the next three-martini lunch with a congressman. "I could be an Earth First!er and organize demonstrations and not have to go through a board of directors," he said.

He found listings in Earth First! Journal for local contact people in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, and hooked up with them. The first action he took part in was planting trees on a Georgia Pacific clearcut. He realized he was trespassing. He asked his Earth First! friend Mokai if he could declare himself Earth First! Mokai replied, "Sure man, whatever." Thus empowered, Cherney wrote a letter to the Earth First! Journal. It was published. He felt validated.

At the same tree planting Cherney had met Greg King, a fourth generation Humboldt County man who was then living in Sonoma County. Soon after he talked to King by phone, and they decided to call an Earth First! meeting to propose taking on Maxxam. At that meeting, in Mendocino County, which was halfway between Sonoma and Humboldt, there emerged a consensus that they should begin a campaign to take on Maxxam and Hurwitz. The campaign led to the discovery and naming of Headwaters Forest by Greg King and others in that Earth First! group. It helped call attention to Headwaters and, together with other efforts, led ultimately to the Headwaters Forest purchase by the state in 1999. Cherney says he continues to do Earth First! actions to this day, and his campaign against Maxxam goes on.

Cherney meets Judi Bari

Cunningham asked Cherney how he came to know Judi Bari. Cherney told how in January 1988 he had decided to run for Congress as a challenger to incumbent Doug Bosco, a "Timber Democrat." Cherney was at the Mendocino Environmental Center in Ukiah working on a campaign poster and having a hard time of it. Betty Ball, the coordinator (who testified earlier) said she knew a really excellent graphic artist, Judi Bari, "and Judi walked in right on cue." She did an excellent job on the poster, all the while asking questions, poking fun at him and ridiculing his gall at running for Congress when she found out he didn't have a position on labor issues.

"What was your reaction [to her]?" asked Cunningham. "I immediately fell in love with her," said Cherney.

Cherney was "the singing candidate, and Judi liked that." They became lovers and musical and Earth First! organizing partners. Their first Earth First! action together was a demonstration at Safeway in support of the farmworker union. They both joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies). Their first forest action was to blockade a logging road to a federal timber sale on public land near Cahto Peak, in northwest Mendocino County. They succeeded in stopping the logging and getting enough public attention to it that the Bureau of Land Management eventually cancelled the sale and informally designated the area the Cahto Wilderness. The Cahto people, indigenous to the area, were given a role in determining the use of the area. It is currently proposed for permanent formal wilderness protection. Judi Bari became the principal organizer and contact person for Earth First! in Mendocino County, Cherney said. There were others, but she certainly stood out.

After this fifteen-minute introduction, the jury was excused for the day. As Cherney walked out of the courthouse he was met with a round of applause from supporters, and he was quickly surrounded by reporters and photographers. Cherney said he felt a deep responsibility to do right by Judi Bari, to redeem her good name and that of Earth First! He also had a quip or two: "What do you call an Earth First!er in a suit? -- The plaintiff." He said he's been telling the story of the bombing for the last 12 years. It has never varied because it's the truth, he said, and he vowed to continue to tell his truth on the witness stand.

Earth First! tactics
When his testimony continued the next morning, Cunningham asked if Cherney and Bari were opposed to Maxxam Corporation. No, he said, but they were opposed to Maxxam's practices, especially the clearcutting of old growth forests.

Q: What kind of actions did you take?
A: Tree-sitting was popular. Someone would climb up in a tree and stay there to keep it from being cut down. They would stay up an average of 6-7 days, placing themselves in a vulnerable position and trusting the guy with the chainsaw not to cut the tree down with them in it.

Q: How did you sustain yourselves?
A: Take a lot of cheese and apples -- and books.
Q: Did you have people on the ground helping you?
A: Yes, if we ran out of cheese and apples, they'd bring us more.
Q: What other kinds of actions did you do?
A: Demonstrations. At the Board of Forestry we wore animal costumes, and when the board took a break we took over their chairs. We said it was time for the animals to have seats on the Board of Forestry; humans had had seats for far too long. We got a lot of media coverage. The state and federal legislatures introduced bills in response to us, some positive and some reactionary.

Cherney said timber industry supporters formed anti-Earth First! groups, which he associated with the Wise Use movement. He said local groups like We Care and the Chamber of Commerce met to plot against them and to oppose their wilderness proposal for Headwaters Forest.

Q: Did you work consciously to get press coverage?
A: Yes, it was one of my main jobs. I wrote press releases and did follow-up calls that led to front page coverage in major papers like the San Francisco Examiner and the Chronicle. The stories were about Earth First! actions and the issues we raised.

Q: What of the bad side of the reputation of Earth First? What role did tree spiking play in the work you were doing?
A: Tree spiking and equipment sabotage in general had no role in the work we were doing.
Q: We've heard of the association of tree-spiking and Earth First! What has been the impact?
A: Tree spiking got a lot of animosity toward us from the timber industry. It was talked about a lot in the early days of Earth First! but not actually done. It made the timber industry take notice of us, but they used it in the press against us.

Cherney said he had traveled widely and visited Earth First! groups all over the country but never knew of any of them that actually did tree spiking. Cunningham asked what monkeywrenching meant. Cherney said it referred not just to equipment sabotage but to a wide range of things that might be done to bring destruction to a halt. Sabotage was something far more talked about than actually done, and the talk was a way to vent frustration around the campfire with a few beers. Cherney did not know of a single instance of sabotage ever being done in Mendocino or Humboldt counties. However it was seized on by politicians and the timber industry and used against Earth First! as though it had been actually done.

There had been testimony by earlier witnesses under FBI and Oakland cross-examination about the Earth First! Journal, and particularly the "Dear Ned Ludd" column. Cherney said it was a column by anonymous writers offering suggestions for or reporting on instances of monkeywrenching. He said he opposed the column, and didn't feel it was wise for the Earth First! Journal to run submissions by anonymous authors calling for illegal acts; there was no way to know if they were provocateurs trying to make Earth First! look bad.

Cunningham asked what kinds of things Earth First! was doing in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties prior to Redwood Summer. In 1989 they took part in a nationwide Earth First! tree sit, and put up three of the total thirteen coordinated tree sits nationally. They were growing in influence, attracting more participants and doing more actions.

They were reaching out to loggers and mill workers. They would have coffee with loggers, often at blockades where they had a captive audience, and talk about their common interest in sustainable timber economies. They made clear that they were not trying to shut down the timber industry, but the industry was overlogging, cutting smaller and smaller trees, then turning to chipping and glued wafer board. Some braver loggers joined the IWW, or appeared jointly with Earth First! in calling for reforms.

Cherney told of the April 1990 Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting that he and Bari attended with two Louisiana Pacific employees. They urged the county to use its eminent domain powers to seize LP property and let the workers operate it in the public interest. The newspapers covered that with front page stories. The Ukiah Daily Journal ran the story with a large photo of Bari and Cherney playing music and singing to the Board of Supervisors that day. A copy of that newspaper photo was used to create a death threat that was left attached to the front door of the Mendocino Environmental Center, with the crosshairs of a rifle scope superimposed on Bari's face. Attached to it was a yellow ribbon, the symbol used by timber industry supporters.

Cherney said the idea for Redwood Summer came from a man passing through Ukiah, who stopped in the MEC and suggested a summer-long campaign of nonviolent protests modeled after the Mississippi Freedom Summer of the '60s Civil Rights movement. The idea was to get college students from a wide area to come behind the "Redwood Curtain" for mass demonstrations. It would get media attention and call attention to the problems caused by corporate liquidation logging.

Cherney related Redwood Summer to the Forests Forever statewide ballot initiative to reform logging. It would ban clearcutting, require "sustained yield" logging by limiting the amount cut to the amount grown, and preserve Headwaters Forest. A main goal of Redwood Summer was to keep as many trees standing as possible until the initiative could be passed to protect them. They expected the industry to hire extra crews and try to cut as many trees as possible in advance of the initiative.

Earth First! played only a minor role in the genesis of the initiative. Bari and Cherney went to a couple of meetings and successfully pressed for a provision to fund retraining and transition for displaced timber workers. Earth First! did not draft or sponsor the initiative and was not part of the electoral campaign. But after the bombing and sensational charges against Bari and Cherney, the industry branded the initiative the "Earth First! Initiative," capitalizing on the sustained media smear branding Earth First! as extremist bombers. The initiative was narrowly defeated, though it had strong support in the polls before the bombing and was endorsed by virtually all the mainstream environmental groups.

Cherney said he, Bari and others invented Redwood Summer as they went along. From the beginning they knew it would be strictly nonviolent. "We had a serious nonviolence code because you canât bring mass numbers of people to your area and have loose cannons going off on you," Cherney said. They developed the idea of four large demonstrations that would be peaks of action and draw large numbers of people, and some of those people would remain at a base camp. Each one of three months were dedicated to one of three different lumber companies.

The plaintiffs' legal team knew the defense would try to impeach Cherney's testimony about nonviolence by quoting provocative statements he had made to the media. It was soon clear that their strategy was to inoculate the jury by bringing these issues up on their own terms during Cherney's direct examination.

Cunningham: Around this time you had, speaking of loose cannons, an experience appearing on TV?
Cherney: Yes.
Q: You were on the famous 60 Minutes program?
A: The infamous 60 Minutes program.
Q: You appeared there and you made a very inflammatory statement?
A: I did.
Q: One not comporting with idea of nonviolence?
A: Yes.
Q: Can you repeat it?
A: I will.

Cherney said he was interviewed for about an hour by a 60 Minutes crew. They asked him about logging of redwoods, the nature of EF and the like.

Q: How did it lead to the statement you made?
They said the interview was over. The producer whips around, says I have one more question for you. She makes a suggestion that if somebody's going to die, they might want to take something with them when they go. She asks me what I would do if I was going to die. I said if I had a terminal illness I would definitely do something like strap dynamite to myself and take out the Glen Canyon dam or the Maxxam office building after it closed for the night.

Q: Why did you say that?
I should know better as a person who does media, but I was kind of pandering to 60 Minutes. I was a little bit enamored with being on their show. I didn't want to contradict 60 Minutes. I take responsibility for my statement, but that's what I was doing at the time. As I was saying it I realized what a stupid thing it was. I regretted it immediately. After the interview I told 60 Minutes that that was nothing I would actually do, and nothing Earth First! would do, and that I regretted the statement, retracted the statement and wished they wouldn't run it. I made several phone calls between January or February and when the show appeared in March. When they ran the story, they had me singing a song, then making the statement. They didn't run my name. I was just a generic Earth Firster. Greg King was upset with me. Mike Roselle said don't worry, they'll never run it. Judi Bari never let me hear the end of it until her dying day. The timber industry took the ball and ran with it. They put out a press packet during Redwood Summer that featured that quote prominently.

Another thing Cherney wished he had not done was sending an Earth Night poster to the media as part of a protest against Earth Day 1990. He was angry that corporations had co-opted and bought out Earth Day, so he decided to send out a press release denouncing it. While typing it he thought maybe there ought to be an alternative called Earth Night. He designed a poster saying "Do something for the Earth, at night," and sent that with the press release. There were no contact names on the poster, but there were on the press release that accompanied it.

Reaction to Redwood Summer
Q: After Redwood Summer was announced, what responses came from the other side?
The response from the other side was enormous. It's important to keep in mind that there was a ballot initiative looming, along with Earth Day 1990 raising environmental consciousness around the country. There were meetings at Fortuna City Council and other agencies. People were howling in protest against us. Starting around April 10 Judi, myself and others began to receive a barrage of death threats and communiquŽs that we took to be a threat to our lives. A threat with a hangman's noose on it was stapled to a stop sign outside my house.

Q: What did you do in response to the threats?
Some of the threats and threatening communiques such as the false press releases I reported to the Humboldt County Sheriffs and FBI in late April or May 1990. They sloughed me off and did nothing.

Q: Was there a time that spring when your group made an announcement about tree spiking?
A: Yes.
Q: What happened?
A: Approximately 19 prominent Earth Firsters from Humboldt and Mendocino along with quite a few others from Oregon said tree spiking could endanger millworkers and we didn't want to endanger human life. We renounced it.

Q: What responses to that announcement did you observe?
There were a number. There were front page headlines such as the Santa Rosa Press Democrat's, "EF axes tree spiking." There was a fake press release handed out almost immediately in sawmills with Earth First! letterhead and no contacts denouncing the tree spiking renunciation. When people in interviews would say, 'You spike trees you're bad' I'd say 'I agree with you, I renounce tree spiking' it would defuse it, bring discussion back to issues of timber industry.

Just before the bombing
Q: You were working on organizing for Redwood Summer in the week before the bombing?
Yes. I was on tour with George Shook, a friend, activist and banjo player. Occasionally with Judi, who didn't come on entire tour because she was a single mom. The tour began maybe the 18th or 19th of May, about a week before the bombing. It brought us to Berkeley on the 23rd.

The meeting at Seeds of Peace was the final culmination meeting for Redwood Summer. We finalized our four demos at the LP mill in Samoa, GP mill in Fort Bragg, the Sequoias to the south, and a labor day march through Fortuna. We finalized those. I presented my proposal for nonviolence guidelines, as well as how to train nonviolence when people came to camps. A procedure was finalized.

Q: After the meeting what did you do?
I spent the night at Seeds of Peace house in Berkeley. In morning I went to where Judi was staying, Dave Kemnitzer's. I'd met Kemnitzer two or three times at the most. I went there with Shannon Marr. We worked on a grant for food to get money so Seeds of Peace could feed us, and have the right equipment to feed us with. I rehearsed a couple songs with Judi. The plan was to go back to Seeds of Peace, and pick up George who was out getting his banjo repaired. The three of us were going to caravan to Santa Cruz. We would do a concert, give a speech, we'd play songs. It was going to be open to the public. A lot of college students would certainly come.

Q: When you left, you were leaving with Shannon and Judi?
Both Shannon and Judi were going back to Seeds of Peace house in Berkeley.

Q: What was your and Judi's relationship by this time?
We were breaking up as romantic partners and we were arguing a lot.

Q: But you were still working together and appearing together.
Oh yes. We put the Earth first.

Q: Who did you ride with back to Seeds of Peace house?
I rode with Judi. I went outside and the two cars were almost symmetrically parked in front of the house. I wasn't sure if I should ride with Shannon, since I'd come with her, or ride with Judi, who was my organizing partner still. I stood there between the two cars and said, 'Who should I ride with?' Judi went, 'Me.'

Cherney saw some things Bari had in her car, including her guitar and fiddle. He had a backpack. He didn't recall whether Judi had a box of papers but she often did. He carried things out of the house, and she put them into the car. They started talking about how fast Marr was driving, because they didn't know the way. Right in the midst of the conversation there was a crack, a loud sound, and his head started to ring. Like a sitar it was a musical sound. Reality was suddenly completely altered.

Explosion and aftermath
Q: What's the next thing you remember?
A: I had this vague recollection of the car bouncing around, bouncing, and I don't remember the car stopping but I just remember that and then after the car had stopped or even the middle of that whole process I was trying to figure out what had happened. I went through process of elimination in my head, had we been hit by another car, run over by a train, had I been shot, was I dead? I didn't know, everything was crazy. Two kids came running toward the car shouting, "It's a bomb! It's a bomb!" That's when it clicked in my mind that someone had tried to make good on those death threats. My eye was injured, I had my hand on my head, and I started to look around. Judi was moaning, calling out in pain, "My back hurts! My back hurts!" I told her, "I love you, I love you, you're going to live."

Q: Did rescuers come?
A: Yes. They pulled me out of the car, I said take Judi first, I don't want to leave her, and they said you have to come. At some point, getting out onto the street, I started to call out who we were, "I'm Darryl Cherney we're environmental organizers. We're with Earth First! Somebody tried to kill us. Judi's the finest environmental organizer in California. Someone was guiding me toward an ambulance. In the ambulance they kept asking me my name over and over again. As they shut the door I said, please don't take me. Take Judi. They said 'Shut up.' I couldn't understand why they were so rude to me. They said Judi was already in the ambulance. I said she couldn't be. They just said 'Shut up' and 'What's your name?'

Q: Did you see any police?
A: In the hospital, I saw a uniformed Oakland police officer. He asked me to give a statement, just to state what happened.

Cherney met other law enforcement in the hospital. Two men in suits walked up to the side of his bed and said, "Darryl Cherney." He asked who they were. They showed their FBI badges. Their business cards identified them as Phil Sena and Stuart Daley. When they asked who could have done this, Cherney said the timber industry. He told them of Candy Boak sending out fake press releases, and two individuals engaged in a hate campaign on the radio in Fort Bragg. One of the agents waved his hand and said, "Look. we can tell this is your bomb so why don't you just confess, make it easier on yourself and get it over with?"

Cunningham: What did you feel?
Cherney: I thought before that that finally people would realize that the death threats were really exemplifying violence coming from the timber industry, that they were the violent ones. When they said that, I realized that probably wasn't going to be the case and that the news media and FBI would probably try to frame us.
Q: Why did you think that?
A: They'd just blamed me for the bombing.

One of the agents asked Cherney to sign a consent form allowing them to search his van. He signed it with an amendment saying please don't remove any papers. A few hours after the FBI agents left two plainclothes OPD officers told him they wanted to take him to the Oakland police station. "I didn't feel like I had a choice," said Cherney. "I'd been accused of being the bomber, and the officer guarding me told me he was preventing me from leaving."

At the police station he was put in a smoke-filled room with a table and a chair, and left there for six hours. The door was locked. To go to the bathroom he had to "bang on the door for half an hour and beg and plead to go to the bathroom." After he begged for food they took him to a sandwich machine. When they started to question him he asked to see a lawyer, and also had asked for a lawyer when interviewed by the FBI. "They just blew me off went on to next question," Cherney said.

Q: What happened when you asked for lawyer at OPD?
A: They said if I saw a lawyer they'd definitely throw me in jail. They said if I just talked to them there was a chance they'd let me go that night. They gave me a form to sign to waive my right to remain silent. I signed it and said, "I really want to help you."

Cherney wasn't sure who the officers were. He couldn't see very well. He ruled out Sgt. Chenault because all the questioners were Caucasian. Since then he read the interview notes prepared by Sims and Sitterud.

Q: Did you understand from them that you were going to be charged with possession of the bomb?
A: I certainly understood they were accusing me of being the bomber, as I'd already experienced that from the FBI. They asked me a lot of questions about my friends, and who I'd stayed with. I kept saying please ask me about the death threats and about who could have done this and let's please get out of this room and go look for the bomber. [Darryl's voice trembles.]

Q: Did you make the statement that someone 'threw a bomb' in the car?
A: I never thought such a thing and I don't know why I'd have said such a thing.

After being locked in the interrogation room for about eight or nine hours, and after about four half-hour interview sessions, officers told Cherney they were booking him into the jail. He was fingerprinted, then put into a holding cell around 3AM. Later that day he was moved to a larger holding cell where he remained for the next five days. He was in custody and not free to leave as of Thursday afternoon, and was bailed out Monday night.

He went to court the next morning for his arraignment, and there were "a ton" of news people there. The D.A. said there was not enough evidence to charge at that point, and Cherney's $100,000 bail was dismissed, but a $10,000 non refundable bond fee had been paid. Bari's bail was not paid because they were afraid for her life. "We were going crazy, we'd been bombed, and we thought it best to have an Oakland police guard there, to keep someone from trying to kill her again," Cherney said.

Media Coverage
After he got out of jail Cherney had to spend a lot of time in the Bay Area instead of in Mendocino and Humboldt counties where Redwood Summer actions were taking place. "I spent a lot of time talking to media after reading day after day that we were the only suspects," said Cherney.

Having been a media contact for the previous four years, Cherney said he saw a shift in media assignments; replacing the environmental reporters with whom he had rapport were the police reporters. "The media coverage was all about bombing and whether we were terrorists," Cherney said.

Cherney followed the media coverage closely, and he and his associates kept copies of it. "My attorneys would actually allow me to read the newspaper articles through the thick glass window they have in jail," Cherney said. He particularly remembered seeing the San Jose Mercury News.

Cunningham showed Cherney a large packet of newspaper clippings to have Cherney to verify that they were clippings from the time after the bombing, and that he had seen them. The clippings were received in evidence. The jury will have access to them during deliberations. Due to defense objections, Judge Wilken said she would review the articles and remove anything that mentions the FBI history of disrupting activists.

Cherney felt that the media coverage gave prominent play to the police allegations, often giving the police quote first, and giving little space to evidence and arguments that he and Bari were the targets of the bomb.

"I've never lit a firecracker"
Cunningham asked Cherney to describe what effect the charges against him had on Redwood Summer as it played out over the summer. Cherney said he had to spend time on his legal defense, staying in the Bay Area to attend court hearings. He gave quite a number of press interviews in response to the charges. He was not up in Humboldt or Mendocino or on tour recruiting people. Redwood Summer did not go the way it was planned. His and Bari's organizing efforts were severely crippled. "I've never even lit a firecracker in my life. To be accused of being a bomber was devastating," Cherney said.

The charges also had an effect on people working with him. He was told they needed to stay away from the Forests Forever Initiative. He remembered timber industry people walking up to him in public places in Humboldt or Mendocino and going "Boom!" People made fun of him. He received more threats. "Somebody promised to my face to kill me. I reported that to the police, and that person was arrested, thankfully," Cherney added.

Law enforcement presence was "huge" at demonstrations and rallies that Earth First! was conducting.
Q: Was there a change from how things had been before?
A: Yes, they brought bomb squads with them.
Q: Was there response from public or timber people to the protests?
A: There were huge anti-Redwood Summer anti-Earth First! rallies. Letters to the editor. Newspaper stories and editorials. I was dealing with a different collection of press people, a lot of police reporters. I watched reporters I'd normally had a great relationship with writing things the police were saying about us that I knew not to be true. It was very hurtful.

Q: What was your expectation for Redwood Summer before you were bombed?
A: I expected there would be tree sits, people chaining themselves to gates, and innumerable public protests. Sometimes the best way to get the respect of timber workers is to blockade them, get to know them, let them know you're serious, you put your body on the line. We'd get people there from all over the country and teach them nonviolent civil disobedience so they could go home and defend their promised land same as we were doing.

Q: What was the relation of Redwood Summer to the Proposition 130 initiative campaign?
A: The atmosphere before the bombing was thick with excitement and enthusiasm. I will say it was tempered by the death threats, which made us very, very nervous. Made us terrified. I was terrified for Judi's life perhaps more than for my own. With Prop. 130 on the horizon, everyone knew this was a historical moment. This was the D-Day for the forests in Northern California, where forest protection was either going to happen or perhaps not. We wanted to keep as many trees standing as we could before Forests Forever would pass. We wanted to generate publicity for the forests so people would understand that there was a problem that needed to be solved and Forests Forever could be that solution.

Q: Did you expect Forests Forever would succeed on the ballot?
A: I thought it was going to win, and we were going to do our darnedest to keep trees standing until then. But we understood that there were millions of dollars against it. People had high hopes, but we understood the forces against it were mighty.

Q: What was the impact of the charges against you and Judi, and as you experienced it on the movement, the issues about forest protection that you had been working to publicize?
A: The timber industry started calling the Forests Forever initiative the Earth First! initiative, which it certainly was not.

While the jury was out of the room for a break, Judge Wilken heard arguments about defense objections to showing a videotape of Judi Bari in action before the bombing, speaking first at a sawmill rally and then to loggers at a logging road blockade.

Sher objected that it was not relevant because it showed events that occurred long before the events in this suit. "It's their political position," he said. "It may or may not be useful to their political purposes."

Judge Wilken said she understood the damages claim to be that false charges interfered with plaintiffs' ability to express themselves and get their message across. This was an example of what they did before that, what they expressed. She had reviewed the tape and found no problems with it.

Bari action video
When the jury returned, the tape was played for them. Bari, wearing jeans and an Earth First! t-shirt, her long brown hair in a braid, spoke through a bullhorn at a rally at the gates of a Louisiana Pacific wood chip plant in Mendocino County. She said Earth First! was not there to protest the loggers, the millworkers or any LP employees. They are not responsible for LP's logging practices. They know the problems those practices cause. LP chairman Harry Merlo is the ultimate tree-nazi, Bari said. He wants to cut every tree. He has the final solution, and it's wafer board, where they grind up smaller and smaller trees and glue them back together with toxic glues.

"One of the things they like to holler about is jobs," Bari said. "I'd like to see people defend wafer board, because not only is wafer board eliminating the forest, it's also eliminating the forest jobs. LP just closed down the Potter Valley sawmill in the next valley over from here. That sawmill employed 136 people. Subsequently they opened up this chip plant here and it employs 15. And that's what we're looking at. It doesn't take a logger to harvest a tree farm. It's done with machinery. We are talking about less jobs in the mills, and we are talking about more toxic jobs."

The scene shifted to another day on a logging road in Humboldt County near where Cherney was doing a tree-sit on Pacific Lumber land. Bari was talking to loggers about sustainable logging and sustainable jobs. She said they knew first hand the problems caused by the accelerated rate of clearcutting the forest. "We're not here against the loggers," she told them. "We're here against Harry Merlo."

When the short videotape was finished, Cherney confirmed that it showed typical Judi Bari tactics, not dodging the "jobs, jobs, jobs" line that the public relations people for the timber industry put out, but turning it around and showing that the corporate decision makers were the ones eliminating jobs by depleting the forests and automating sawmills. It was also typical of her appeal to the workers to recognize their common interests with environmentalists.

Back to the aftermath of the bombing
Cherney learned that his van had been searched immediately after the bombing. He tried to tell how police thought a box of his cassette tapes was something suspicious, and had it blown up in front of TV news cameras by the bomb squad. But defense hearsay objections blocked that. Cherney himself was not there to see it. He had learned of it by watching TV news tapes.

OPD Lt. Sims had testified that some possible tree spikes were found in Cherney's van. Cherney said the objects found were not tree spikes, which would usually be a large nail about 6 inches long. What was in his van were pieces of rebar about 12 to 14 inches long and sharpened at one end. Rebar is metal bar with cross ridges used to reinforce concrete. Cherney said he'd never heard of rebar used to spike trees, and couldn't see any way they could be hammered into a tree.

Q: did you have pieces of rebar in your van?
A: I did. As I was traveling, I encountered a person I've never met since. He gave me some short pieces of rebar as you described. He told me they were used for flattening tires of vehicles. He asked if I wanted them. I live in country, in the woods. Stuff like that can come in handy for hammering into the ground as stakes to keep a tarp over firewood. Or they could be paperweights for tabling. I could probably use them for something. I put them in my van and I forgot that they were there.
Q: Did you ever use them to try to flatten tires?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: Have you ever been around on occasion when that was done?
A: No.
Q: You saw a little piece of pipe exhibited from Sgt. Sitterud's testimony?
A: I did have that in my van.
Q: Was that to make a bomb out of?
A: Goodness no!
Q: Did you have anything in your van or house to make a bomb with?
A: No, and I don't know how to make a bomb.

In the spirit of full disclosure Cherney asked if he could amend his last answer. He said he had duct tape. He also had a stereo in the van, so maybe there would have been some wire in the car. There may have been some alligator clips too. He didn't recall having any light fixtures, and his home had no electricity at that time.

Fighting false charges
Cherney, Bari and their supporters fought the false charges against them. They had press conferences. Their friends built an alliance of environmental and social justice groups, like NOW, Sierra Club, labor groups to support them. They spoke to the press.

When the report came out that the location of the bomb according to the FBI had now been moved back under the front seat, they were going to hold a press conference to show that Judi's injuries were from underneath, and how this exonerated them. On the same day they had that press conference the Oakland police held their own press conference to announce that they had found nails in Bari's home that matched nails taped to the bomb.

There was continuing public controversy over the charges. "We were the first 15 minutes of TV news for a couple of weeks," said Cherney. "It was huge. And newspapers covered it quite a bit. My work was completely altered, and Judi's work as far as organizing Redwood Summer was stopped.

The Lord's Avenger letter put a bizarre twist on the charges. Bari and Cherney firmly believed that somebody from the timber industry had tried to kill them. The letter talked about the only abortion clinic defense the pair had ever attended. Cherney said it was big, it was totally bizarre, and it was a red herring which diverted media coverage away from the timber industry.

Bari and Cherney made their own attempts to investigate the bombing in order to clear themselves of the false charges. On the day of the bombing, while in the Oakland police station, Cherney said he "begged the Oakland police to get off their butts and look for bomber." He urged a congressional investigation. He recently contacted the Mendocino County Sheriff with new evidence. Last August, Cherney and Alicia Littletree went to the U.S. Senate and asked them to investigate the bombing and frame-up attempt. Cherney's efforts with Oakland police led nowhere; they never contacted him or expressed any interest in the leads he provided.

Cherney said there are still today effects on him of the false charges and the failure to investigate. He had received a threatening letter as recently as two weeks ago. He remains afraid, saying: "There's still a bomber out there, someone who tried to kill us. I still fear for that as Judi feared for that to her dying day. It feels like the defendants gave anybody who would do harm to an environmentalist the green light to go out and try it again. I felt as if they were encouraging violence to be done against us without fear of police reprisal."

Cherney was asked to describe how the false charges and the publicity they received continued to have effect on his political work. "There are times that I don't want to travel alone. I take a bodyguard with me. Which increases expenses, travel arrangements, things of that nature. Most times I feel like I can't walk into a timber town, like Fortuna or Scotia or Rio Dell, at least not without putting on some kind of disguise or with a group of people. I don't like to walk alone. Because I feel people hate me, and might want to do me some harm."

"Were efforts you and Judi were making to link up with timber workers, has that possibility continued to be affected by false charges?" asked Cunningham. Cherney replied, "We certainly continued our efforts to organize with the timber industry. That's an issue I'll never give up on. But it was never like before the bombing. It was never as deep again after the bombing. There was mistrust, and there is today. The alliance we were building with people in the timber industry really petered out."

Cherney's cross-exam begins
Now it was the federal defendants' chance to call Darryl Cherney's character and credibility into question.

Joe Sher wasted no time trying to link Cherney to tree-spiking and equipment sabotage.

Sher: Do you agree that monkeywrenching involves unlawful acts of equipment sabotage?
Cherney: That's not the entire definition, but it could include that.
Q: Do you still believe, as you told the L.A. Times, that what makes Earth First! different is they have monkeywrenching as teeth to back up political work?
A: I don't recall specifically making that statement. Sher: Let me show you. (Cherney reads a document.)
A: I don't recall specifically making that remark.
Q: Does it reflect your view?
A: Yes
Q: Is it also true that the tactics used by Earth First! in the timber wars included tree-sitting, logging road blockades and bulldozer dismantling?
A: I don't know of any bulldozer destruction or dismantling. I don't recall any of that happening.
Q: Do you recall Judi Bari making that claim? Cunningham objected to bringing in statements by Bari through this witness with an unmarked, undesignated exhibit. The judge says Sher can show it to Cherney to see if it refreshes his memory.
A: I don't remember this document or that statement by Judi.
Q: Do you recognize her signature on it?
A: It appears to be Judi's signature. Sher: Then we offer it in evidence, your honor. Cunningham objected that Sher had an opportunity to question Bari at her deposition and chose not to. Judge Wilken took it under submission; she would decide later whether to allow the document in evidence.

Q: Let's talk about your poster. You created a poster didn't you?
A: I did.
Q: You created this poster that says Earth Night 1990 -- Go out and do something for the Earth at night. Correct? You put those words on that poster with that image right?
A: That's a portion of the poster, yes.
Q: What's the source of the image?
A: Dave Foreman's book, Ecodefense.
Q: A book you were selling at the time?
A: That's one word for it. I was taking donations for the book.
Q: Did you agree that the people who took down the power lines in Santa Cruz were pretty heroic?
A: That was not my statement.
Q: Were you present when it was made to a reporter from the Press Democrat?
A: I don't believe so.
Q: You attended the Earth First! Round River Rendezvous did you not in 1988?
A: I did.
Q: Did you attend the monkeywrenching workshop that was part of that?
A: I did not
Q: But it was there, did occur?
A: I would agree that something similar to what you're describing occurred.
Q: You organized a regional rendezvous in 1990? Or was it 1989?
A: I don't recall a regional rendezvous in '90. We were doing Redwood Summer in '90.
Q: At your regional rendezvous in 1989 were there not again monkeywrenching workshops?
A: I don't recall monkeywrenching workshops.
Q: How about 1988, at Marble Mountain rendezvous? Did you attend the tree-spiking workshops described in that article? Cunningham objected that Sher is testifying about the content of the article, which can't go into evidence. Sher: who's the author of that article?
A: The author of the article is Judi Bari according to this newspaper.
Q: And that's an excerpt from the Earth First! journal?
A: It appears to be so.
Q: Did you read that article about the rendezvous you organized?
A: I don't recall reading the article. I rarely read the Earth First! Journal, and I didn't organize the workshops at the rendezvous.
Q: You organized the rendezvous?
A: I organized a portion of the rendezvous.

Cherney's music albums
Q: At the same time this was going on you were also putting out music albums?
A: Cassette tapes, yes, of my music.
Q: Is that the cover of one of them?
A: Yes. Most of it anyway.
Q: Does that depict the destruction of power lines?
A: One power pole -- by a beaver.
Q: It was common for you and others to wear animal garb in your activities?
A: Yes.

Cunningham objected that Sher was bringing in exhibits which hadn't been previously shown to the plaintiffs. "Here we go with the poison that we might have anticipated if we'd been shown that that was their intention. I'm sure Darryl can answer the questions, but I think the fact that additional underhanded tactics are being used should be noted. Sher argued that if Cherney testifies contrary to his own images he should expect to be confronted by them as impeachment evidence, which does not have to be disclosed in advance. Cunningham retorted, "This is trial by ambush." But Judge Wilken allowed Sher to continue.

Sher shows Cherney another of his album covers and asks him to say what is on the cover.
Cherney: That's a cartoon of two people walking away from a burning bulldozer with a gas can in one hand and a monkey wrench in the other. They're wearing Earth First! t-shirts.
Q: Who do the figures represent?
A: Myself and I believe Judi Bari, who played fiddle on the album.
Q: The album was they don't make hippies like they used to?
A: They Sure Don't Make Hippies Like They Used To.
Q: And it contained songs like "Spike a Tree for Jesus" and "This Monkeywrench of Mine?"
A: Yes.
Q: After you renounced tree spiking you continued to sing "Spike a Tree for Jesus"?
A: Yes.
Q: You continued to sing the "Ballad of the Lonesome Tree-Spiker?"
A: No.
Q: You gave that one up?
A: Yes.

Q: Your decision to renounce tree spiking was controversial in Earth First! wasn't it?
A: Yes.
Q: You described it as a radical change in your previous policy didn't you? (Sher shows Cherney a document, the tree-spiking renunciation press release that he, Bari and others in their regional group sent to the media and to other Earth First! groups.)
A: That sentence in incomplete.
Q: And you also told others in Earth First! that the renunciation is not irrevocable?
A: I did say that, or write it.
Q: And you also wrote that you would not condemn tree spiking.
A: That is a portion of the sentence.
Q: Your announcement referred only to tree-spiking being renounced?
A: To the best of my memory, yes.
Q: And you said that equipment sabotage is a time-honored tradition among industrialists?
A: Among industrial workers. Yes, I probably did say that. I'm sure I signed onto that press release. I don't recall whether I wrote it. (Sher shows him the document again.)
A: This is a press release that went out with my name among others.
Q: You were one of the principle press spokespeople in Humboldt County at that time?
A: Yes.
Q: You participated in the drafting of this press release?
A: I don't remember if I participated in the drafting of that particular press release.

Spikes or rebar?
Q: You had in your van some spikes, didn't you? Cunningham objected to Sher calling the objects spikes. Sher: Rebar, then?
A: Yes.
Q: It was sharpened at one end?
A: To the best of my recollection.
Q: You had the little pipe with ends on it?
A: Yes, you might call them ends.
Q: Are they depicted in Ecodefense, those two items together?
A: I think so.
Q: Described as?
A: I think as implements for spiking roads.
Q: And that's what you were told they were when they were given to you
A: Yes.
Q: You had all those things in your van on May 24?
A: Those things were in my van, under the passenger seat.

Sher turned the questioning back to tree-spiking and the debate it caused within Earth First!.
Q: Do you recall an interview you did with Steve Talbot in 1991?
A: Yes.
Q: Do you recall telling him there was still debate in Earth First! over tree spiking?
A: I don't recall telling him that, but there was debate still.
Q: Some people in EF thought you'd sold out?
A: That word could be used.
Q: People who disagreed with you continued to use the Earth First! logo?
A: I would imagine they did.
Q: There was no one to tell them they couldn't, was there?
A: People can use it as long as they subscribe to biocentrism, no compromise in defense of Mother Earth, and put the Earth first.
Q: But no one had the authority to tell them not to use the logo?
A: There were people who could talk to them and ask them not to use the Earth First! logo for a variety of reasons.

Sher: Did you tell Steve Talbot you thought sabotage was a legitimate means of defending the Earth?
A: I don't recall telling him that, but I believe that.
Q: You told Talbot that following the bombing you had achieved a new kind of notoriety.
A: I don't recall it, I'm not denying it.
Q: You said that as a result you've been rendered more effective by the louder voice that you now have.
A: I don't know that I agree with that statement, and if I said it show me. (Sher shows a document.)
A: That is a precise quote taken out of context.
Q: You said those words to Talbot in 1991?
A: According to the document I did. I'm not disputing it.

Q: You testified that Judi Bari was the center of your life at that time?
A: I wouldn't say that.
Q: You had romantic relationship with her?
A: Yes.
Q: And a working relationship with her?
A: Yes.
Q: You spent all the time you could with her?
A: We spent one or two days a week together. She was not the center of my life.

Oakland cross-examines
Then it was Maria Bee's turn to cross-examine Cherney for the Oakland defendants. Bee: You told us about the 60 Minutes tape. Had you heard others in Earth First! make a similar statement?
A: Yes. I think Dave Foreman was the only one.
Q: You also said that people in the timber industry used those statements against you.
A: Yes.
Q: You take responsibility for your statements?
A: Yes.
Q: Did the fact that the timber industry publicized it hurt Forests Forever?
A: Yes.
Q: So you're responsible for the downfall of Forests Forever? (laughter in audience)
A: I never thought about it that way.
Q: But you concede that your statements hurt the initiative?
A: Probably.

Q: At the hospital, you said there was an OPD uniformed officer there at the door right?
A: Yes.
Q: And he said he was there to protect you and to keep you from leaving.
A: Words that effect, yes.
Q: Plainclothes officers came to see you?
A: To the best of my memory I recall two people in plainclothes coming down. My head was still ringing hard. I was blind in one eye.
Q: The officer asked you if you would come to the station?
A: I don't recall his exact words. It seemed to me he was directing me to come down to the station. Bee: Reading from your deposition. 'Q: what's the next thing that happened? A: Next thing I remember is some men, at least one of whom identified himself as an Oakland police officer -- they may have both been; I remember two -- asking me if I would come down to the Oakland police station. Or wherever they were taking me."
Q: You told the officers that you wanted to report the incident to police?
A: Yes.
Q: When you were brought to the Homicide section you were not in handcuffs?
A: No.
Q: You weren't in restraints of any sort?
A: I was in locked police car with two large men on either side of me.

Cherney said that the officer guarding him said that "he was preventing me from leaving." Right around 3AM, he was told that he would be booked.

Her voice dripping with sarchasm, attorney Bee apparently tried to imply to the multi-ethnic jury that there were racist overtones :
Q: You related Redwood Summer to Mississippi Freedom Summer. Are you equating the indignities done to Black people in the South with what was done to the trees?
A: I think the destruction of the forest ecosystems causes tremendous harm worldwide to people of all races.
Q: So you'd call it the same?
A: I wouldn't call it the same. I'd say it's the same system. Pushing ecosystems and people aside for greed.

As the cross-examination ended, Cherney was asked about their plans the night before the bombing. At about 11PM, he said, it was decided that Judi would stay at Kemnitzer's place, and he would stay there at Seeds of Peace house.

Repair and rebut
Now it was Cunningham's turn to question Cherney again, to try to clarify issues raised by the cross-examination and repair any damage done. Under the rules he was limited to those issues.

Cunningham: Was there any consideration given by people organizing Redwood Summer that a problem might arise by associating it with Mississippi?
Cherney: Judi and I discussed it, yes.
Q: Was there anticipation that people might feel offended by the association, by Mississippi being co-opted by the campaign you wanted to run?
A: We had discussions to make sure we didn't do that. For starters, we wanted to honor what happened in the South. Twenty to thirty years later, we reminded people about what had happened, conjured up the memory. We included African Americans. Two African American men jointly wrote an op-ed to the Press Democrat. And also what those people did in the sixties was to be honored not only for why they did what they did but also the infrastructure they built.
Q: Did you feel that black people's struggle was being somehow ripped off?
A: No we felt people's struggle for civil rights was very important to this nation's history and we wanted to expand that to include equal rights for all species.
Q: Why'd you change the name from Mississippi Summer in the Redwoods?
A: We wanted to invoke history when we started the campaign by reminding people of that time-honored tradition that had taken place 30 years earlier. Then we wanted to establish our own identity. We wanted to allow ourselves to be part of that tradition by honoring it and by expanding on it.
Q: Was nonviolence a part of that tradition?
A: Yes, and it was something that we adopted and emphasized.

Cherney next clarified the confusion of the night of May 24-25. No one said he was under arrest, even when they took him to the jail for booking. The officer standing over him in the hall said he was both guarding and protecting Cherney.

Q: Now, in your interview with Talbot, was there something in the text you wanted to add?
A: Yes, I meant that our reputations had been damaged by the false charges, but in certain circles we'd been given a louder voice to perhaps help to compensate partially for the great damage that had been done. I certainly did not say that we were more effective because of the false charges against us.

Q: Ms. Bee asked you about 60 Minutes, and statements used against you and Forests Forever by the timber industry. Were there other statements of that nature that you made that were used against you?
A: Not that I recall.
Q: Your statements that have been thrown up in your face here included a couple of quotations from this Earth First! document, a memo from Cherney and Bari. What is that document?
A: That's a document that I wrote most of addressed to all the Earth First! contact groups listed in the back of the EF journal explaining the upcoming renunciation of tree spiking. There appears to be a small portion of an article on the bottom of it. I have to say that I don't recall whether it was the third page or not.
Q: Do you recall the nonviolence code was attached to it when it was sent out?
A: Yes. The memo refers to the flyer referring to Mississippi Summer in the California Redwoods. Those flyers as a rule all contained the nonviolence code.
Q: So is the document Mr. Sher brought in complete?
A: No there's a portion omitted from the bottom of it.

Cunningham moved to admit the document in evidence, subject to having the missing portion, a newspaper clipping, added to it. Sher objected, saying the missing portion went into taboo subject matter. The judge allowed the document in evidence without the clipping.

Cunningham: Now Mr. Sher asked you about the freedom that you found to use the name EF when you first got started and that other people presumably have to use that name. Is that a fair statement that it's fair game for anyone who wants to use it?
A: No.
Q: Is there a way that the movement has of at least attempting to control or prevent a perversion of the name or a perversion of the cause, the slogan, by those out to harm that cause?
A: Yes.
Q: What do you do?
A: I do talk to people
Q: If they won't talk?
A: It depends what the incursion is. If someone wants to only protect half an area we feel needs to be protected, someone from Earth First! might contact media say this person is not representing Earth First! principles. We might go to the person and say please stop using the name Earth First! Have a meeting and consense this person doesn't represent us, then write a letter to Earth First! Journal saying so.

Q: Have you had to do that?
A: We've asked people to leave base camp. One fellow we asked to leave because he was treating his girlfriend badly.
Q: Have people been asked to leave because they were perverting the idea of EF?
A: I don't know that that's happened much. Not many people want to use the name Earth First! unless they are part of the movement.
Q: What about people who put out fake press releases?
A: I believe that was a member of timber industry. Someone could put out letter with Sierra Club letterhead and people can believe what they want to believe. We sent out a press release saying those were fake.

Q: Were you accused by other people in Earth First! of selling out EF when you renounced tree spiking?
A: There was a wide base of support for renunciation of tree spiking. I recall a number of letters trickling in. Some might have said we were selling out or compromising. I recall something to that effect. It wasn't that pervasive.

Q: Mr. Sher confronted you with a couple of drawings from your albums?
A: Yes. Those albums were tape recordings of my songs. One album was called "They Sure Don't Make Hippies Like They Used To," and one was called "Timber." The picture of a beaver gnawing down a power pole, a beaver that had had its habitat destroyed. If a beaver could think like that, a beaver might do something like that. We were making a point. Wildlife habitat and the natural world was being destroyed. Those were cartoons designed to shock people into awareness. The song "He Looked a Whole Lot Like Jesus" was about an FBI agent who infiltrated Earth First! One song was about the Arizona power lines.

Surprise ending
The time had come for a planned surprise ending to Cherney's testimony. Bari and Cherney had routinely used music and satirical songs to underscore their points at every public appearance. They had sung not only at meetings, rallies and demonstrations in the woods. They had sung to the California Board of Forestry, to county governing boards, and at various other official hearings. Why should federal court be different?

Cunningham asked Cherney if he could sing a song if the judge allowed it. Cherney said he could. Cunningham handed Cherney a small guitar brought to the courtroom for the occasion. There was jocular banter about whether the judge would sing along. Sher objected, saying, "Your honor do we really need to do this?" There was the sound of "yes" from the audience. Judge Wilken smiled. Members of the jury smiled. The defense objected based on relevance. The judge resolved the objection by ruling that Cherney could play one of the songs Sher asked him about.

Cherney said if he was limited to those he would choose "Spike a Tree for Jesus" because it's short. While he tuned the guitar the jury waited in anticipation, many with little smiles. Finally Cherney began to sing.

Spike a Tree for Jesus
By Darryl Cherney

Well some say the Romans killed Jesus
Some say that it was the Jews
Some say that it was King Herod
Some say 'twas me and you

But when I think of the cross he was nailed to
And the tree that was logged for the wood
I realized it was loggers killed Jesus
And it's time that we got them back good

So spike a tree for Jesus
Spike a tree for Jesus
Jesus will love you, you know
Spike a tree for Jesus
Spike a tree for Jesus
Someday to heaven you'll go

Now the logger who cut that old tree down
He was going along with the mob
When asked why he did it he answered
"I was only just doing my job

"I don't care what they do with the timber
"As long as they pay me my price
"They can make a frame for a picture
They can make a cross to hang Christ

(repeat chorus)

Now as Jesus he hung on that cross there
It was not something he liked
His last words were father I'd not be here
If all of the trees had been spiked

So spike a tree for Jesus
Spike a tree for Jesus
Jesus will love you, you know
Spike a tree for Jesus
Spike a tree for Jesus
Someday to heaven you'll go,
and Jesus will love you, you know.

Reaction in the jury ranged from sustained grins -- even after the song had ended -- to an unhappy frown on the face of one juror, who seemed to have taken offense at the irreverent use of the name Jesus. Some of Cherney's supporters worried he had shot himself in the foot, and wondered why he chose to sing that song. Cherney said he had planned to sing one of two songs, either his trademark anthem "Who Bombed Judi Bari?" or "You Can't Clearcut Your Way to Heaven." The guitar was already in his hands when the judge decided to limit his choices to the songs Sher had mentioned. He had long ago quit singing one of the three songs, and he didn't write another of them. That left him the choice of Spike a Tree for Jesus or nothing. Cherney said he had vowed that he would not evade difficult questions and issues, and would accept responsibility for his words and deeds. So, although he realized it might hurt him, he chose to sing the song rather than weasel out.

Cunningham had one more issue: Counsel asked you if Judi was the center of your life at the time of bombing and false charges, and you said no?
Cherney: Yes, I said no.
Q: What was at the center of your life?
A: Protecting the redwood forest. Recording music. Singing songs. Trying to make the world a better place. Trying to make myself a better person.

Sher took another crack at Cherney: Mr. Cunningham asked you about nonviolence. Do you recall telling Mr. Talbot that keeping Redwood Summer nonviolent was an experiment for EF?
Cherney: You'll have to show me. Cherney reads aloud: "This was an experiment for Earth First! because of its reputation for advocating sabotage."

Cunningham again: Mr. Sher asked you about nonviolence. In your mind was nonviolence limited just to Redwood Summer?
Cherney: Earth First! had had a nonviolence code at all the actions I'd ever been involved in, all over country, Wyoming to Texas to California. But this was the first time we'd had it in writing, the first time we made people sign a pledge. This was the first really big time that people were saying tree spiking was wrong. And in a big way that we don't want to have anything to do with equipment sabotage. Not that any equipment sabotage ever occurred, mind you, but we wanted to make it clear. We were also experimenting in that we were joining with other groups like Seeds of Peace and IWW. Forming a coalition this big constituted an experiment on a lot of levels.

Q: Was there an experimental aspect not to spike trees or do sabotage in your area?
A: No, to my knowledge sabotage and tree spiking had never existed in that area, by anybody.
Q: In recalling the interview, were you speaking for Earth First! everywhere?
A: As I recall, looking at that transcript -- first of all, I don't remember my exact words in that interview -- but I think I was talking about Earth First! nationally.
Q: Was Earth First! nationally affected by the promulgation of the nonviolence code?
A: Yes.
Q: Was that something that you took on, you and Judi took on, along with the other aspects of that work at that time to try to quote unquote reform or refashion the approach that Earth First! would have?
A: We put forth our two cents. But a lot of people embraced ideas we put forth. Like the summerlong campaign with nonviolence code attached.
Q: Are you trying to evade some truth about a secret violent criminal arm of EF while front people like you and Judi piously proclaim nonviolence? Objection: beyond the scope of cross-examination. Sustained. Cherney was barred from answering.

It was Sher's turn again: Read to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury what you actually said to Mr. Talbot. Cherney reads aloud: "We, Judi Bari, myself and all Earth First! people were making an extremely concerted effort to keep Redwood Summer nonviolent. Not just in word but in deed. And this was an experiment for Earth First! because of its reputation for advocating sabotage. And I still think by the way as a sidenote that sabotage is a legitimate means of protest. But for Redwood Summer it was essential that we keep things nonviolent."

Cunningham: Do you have further explanation you'd like to make of that statement?
Cherney: Just that no sabotage in defense of the environment in the name of Earth First! had ever occurred in our area. So the rhetoric, the suggestions of sabotage were all part of that anxiety and angst we were feeling about how our life support systems were being destroyed. But it didn't actually manifest in any sabotage occurring.

Cherney was done. Judge Wilken told him "You're excused you may step down." "I'm free to leave?" Cherney quipped."You're free to leave," said the judge with a smile.

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Albion Monitor May 12 2002 (

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