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"My Next Memory Was of the Bomb Blowing up"
Marilyn Butcher, one of the supervisors, said: "You brought it on yourself, Judi"
[...Bari began receiving death threats...]

Did it seem to you that these were coming from lone nuts, or from organizations? How did you guess the source?

JUDI: Some of them were obviously from the Sahara Club, which was an organized right wing hate group. But for most of them, it wasn't clear to me. I didn't have any experience with this. I mean, I've been an organizer for twenty-five years now, and I'd never received death threats like this before or since.

But now in retrospect as I look at it, all the death threats came within a three and a half week period. None before and only one afterwards (which I'll talk about later). It all came during a certain time period, and I now think it was an organized campaign.

At the time, though not knowing the source, I was terrified of the death threats and I tried to turn them in to the local sheriff and asked that they be investigated. I met with Burl Murray and Steve Satterwhite, two Mendocino county deputies, and I showed them the death threats -- I went in carrying the originals with me intending to turn over the originals to them.

But when I showed them the death threats they said, and I quote -- and there are three witnesses -- "We don't have the manpower to investigate. If you turn up dead, then we'll investigate." Steve Satterwhite said that. And when I heard that, I allowed them to xerox the death threats but I wouldn't give them the originals because it was clear to me I wasn't going to get any help from them.

Still very scared, I took the death threats to the Board of Supervisors and complained about the sheriff's lack of response. And Marilyn Butcher, one of the supervisors, said: "You brought it on yourself, Judi." That was the response I got from county officials! So I considered going underground.

We felt that if the people of the United States knew that they were clear-cutting the Redwoods and beating up the activists that they would be appalled
But the thing about Redwood Summer: when we put the call out the call for Redwood Summer, we had no idea the response it was going to get. We expected it to be much smaller; we expected it to be much more manageable. But this hit a chord and it went national, and we were being deluged with . . .

Mississippi Summer in the California Redwoods.

JUDI: And it was simultaneously called "Redwood Summer". We used both. We couldn't decide on the name, so in typical Earth First! fashion, we said we'd call it both and see which one sticks.

But the images of a Mississippi Summer in the California redwoods was the busloads of students of the sixties riding into the south and attempting to change totally the regional moré.

JUDI: We had drawn a parallel: a parallel between the situation we were working in and the early days of the civil rights movement in the south. We felt we really had broad support amongst the general population in the country, but that information was being blocked by what we called the "Redwood Curtain." We felt that if the people of the United States knew that they were clear-cutting the Redwoods and beating up the activists that they would be appalled -- just as the public was appalled when they found out they were beating up black kids in Mississippi.

But because of the stranglehold of the timber companies on our local economy and social structure (which we found parallel to the stranglehold of the racists in Mississippi), as long as the crisis remained local, we didn't think we would be able to stop either the violence against us or the violence against the forest.

We thought if we could bring in people from all over the nation, we could bring national attention to it and people would be appalled. So we very consciously and deliberately modeled it on campaigns of Freedom Summer in Mississippi, including the call for the use of formal non-violence tactics, in order to combat both the violence being done to the forests and to the activists.

That was the image, and I think the image really grabbed people and so we were being deluged with requests to come in. So just from an organizing standpoint, it was very hard to send all the key organizers out of town at the same time.

But it was also because of the campaign to discredit us, that I felt like if I were out of town for two whole weeks, things that would be said unresponded to, and the ground we would lose at home would be too dear a price. There were other people who could do the slide shows, give the talks, and even play the music. I felt I was more needed at home -- for one thing, because I was the individual target of these attacks, and I felt I needed to be there to respond to them. And also, I was trying to build support among the watershed groups ...

Because there was suspicion among the longer-established watershed groups who had worked hard and long interpreting the new deep ecology ethic along their valleys and ridge roads, the suspicion that all these people coming in would mean twenty-year long relationships with straight neighbors down the drain, because of these nomadic and somewhat more feral Earth First!ers.

JUDI: Yes. And I felt I needed to personally be there, because it was my neighborhood, that it had to be somebody who already knew the people in these communities. I felt that the place I needed to be was home.

It was not expected that we would be traveling at all at that time
But I was still going to go to Santa Cruz. And Berkeley. Of this whole tour, I only did two of the cities. But I wasn't traveling with Darryl. Darryl was going to do the whole tour. I was just going to come and do this one gig, and then go back home and work on organizing the watershed groups and continue the meetings with the loggers to try to head off the violence.

Then how does Darryl end up in your car?

JUDI: I told you that I had gone to Dave Kemnitzer's house and spent the night. Darryl had spent the night at Seeds of Peace house. The next morning Darryl came over with Shannon Mar, who's also from Seeds of Peace, and they had come over in Shannon's car. Darryl was traveling with George Shook, who was the banjo player -- the three of us constituted a band. Darryl and Shannon were working on a grant request to pay for some of the food and necessities for the base camps, and Darryl had come over so we could get together and rehearse before we played that night. He had been on the road and I'd been home and we hadn't rehearsed together for awhile. Our intention was to leave for Santa Cruz in the afternoon. The gig down in Santa Cruz was at seven o'clock.

We went into the living room and started playing music together, and we said: "this is silly for us to be rehearsing without the banjo player. Let's go get George and all three of us rehearse together."

So it was completely unplanned. It was not expected that we would be traveling at all at that time -- it's late morning -- and it was certainly not expected that we would be traveling together. On the spur of the moment we said, "Let's go back to Berkeley and get George and all three of us will rehearse together."

So you were not on your way to Santa Cruz?

JUDI: Eventually -- but at that particular moment... We were on our way to Berkeley to pick up George. And I didn't know the streets of Oakland then -- although I certainly do now, as often as I go down there for depositions -- but at any rate, I did not know the streets of Oakland yet, so Shannon volunteered to lead the way in her car and I was going to follow her. And I had asked Darryl to ride with me because I had wanted to work out some of the things that we were going to be doing in the show: who was going to be doing the slide show -- the details of the show. So I had asked him to ride with me rather than Shannon, so he got into my car rather than her car and I began following her.

But it was hard to keep up with her because she drove so fast -- she drove like a bat out of hell; she was a really fast driver -- and I was trying to follow, and we got a couple of blocks from Dave Kemnitzer's house . . . and you know, I have a memory of this, but I have to say I don't totally trust my memory because what happened next was so traumatic that I don't know what is real and what isn't real, but the memory I have is of hitting my brakes: that I was trying to follow her, that she had gone around a corner suddenly, and that there was traffic coming -- something -- I have a memory of hitting my brakes, and then the next memory was of the bomb blowing up.

NEXT: "They Asked Who Did it, and I Said 'Timber'"
Entire Judi Bari interview © New Settler Interview

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Albion Monitor January 13, 1997 (

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