A federal jury yesterday handed Earthfirst! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney a stunning victory in their civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland Police. The jurors found six of the seven defendants guilty of violating Bari and Cherney’s civil rights–first by arresting them and then by conducting searches of their homes and a smear campaign in the press. The jury awarded the pair a total of $4.4 million in damages.
Yesterday’s victory comes more than 12 years after a motion-triggered pipe bomb exploded in Bari’s car while the two were driving in Oakland. They were organizing a major Redwood Summer action that would have brought thousands of activists to California to protest destructive logging practices.
The bomb nearly killed Bari. It fractured her pelvis and crushed her tailbone, leaving her crippled and in constant pain.
Bari and Cherney had both received death threats from timber industry supporters in the months before the bombing and had reported them to local police. But the FBI and Oakland Police did not pursue any of these leads. Instead they quickly arrested Bari and Cherney, saying the pair were victims of their own misfired bomb.
But when the time came to press charges, the District Attorney declined, citing a lack of evidence. The Oakland Police promptly closed their “investigation.” But the FBI continued theirs, telling the media that Judi and Darryl were their only suspects.
Bari and Cherney filed a federal civil rights suit against the FBI and the Oakland Police Department in 1991, a year after the bombing. They accused the two bodies of violating their civil rights in an attempt to discredit Earth First! and its political message. The case finally went to court in April of this year. Bari died of breast cancer in March 1997.
Well, today we are joined on the phone by Darryl Cherney. We tried to reach the FBI for a comment, but the agency is not speaking with the press. They are referring all questions to the Department of Justice, which litigated the case on the FBI’s behalf. The Justice Department refused to come on the air, but said: “[they] are reviewing the opinion and considering [their] next step.”
- Martha Bari, younger sister of Judi Bari.
- Darryl Cherney, Earth First! Activist, plaintiff in civil suit against FBI, and bombing victim.
- Bob Bloom, one of the attorneys representing Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney in their civil suit against the FBI. He worked on the Panther 21 case as well as the cases of Geronimo Pratt and Daruba Bin Wahad, among many, many others.
- Five Billion Turds A Day–Darryl Cherney, White Tribal Music (541/344-8004).