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Why the Bari Trial is Historic

by Nicholas Wilson

report on Judi Bari vs. FBI trial
After the FBI and Oakland Police Department accused Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney of knowingly transporting the bomb that nearly killed them in 1990, there was an outpouring of support from many national environmental, social justice, and progressive groups. In the post 9/11 era, there is a sense of added urgency as more political groups are branded as terrorists while carrying out constitutionally protected activities.

Representatives of several member groups of the Judi Bari Solidarity Coalition gathered outside the Federal Courthouse in Oakland May 2 to speak briefly at a post-court press conference in support of Bari and Cherney's civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland police. They also discussed the larger implications of the suit for civil rights in America. The speakers exemplified a commitment to non-violence and the building of alliances with a wide spectrum of those seeking social and political change.

Following is the list of speakers and a transcription of their words.

Randy Hayes, Founder and President, Rainforest Action Network
Zero is a number that is very clear and understandable. Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney had zero history of violent crime. What they're accused of is a tragedy and a travesty against activists around the world. What they cared about, what they stood for is life on Earth. These are life and death issues that we raise when we try to protect the forest. When we try to protect the urban habitat with breathable air. It's from their hearts that they came. And so we stand together with them in this moment to set history straight that what we stand for is life on earth. There are no jobs on a dead planet. There is no economic development on a dead planet. We are working for future generations.

Gar Smith, Editor, Earth Island Journal
About 12 years ago a terrorist bombing took place right here on the streets of Oakland. Twelve years later, the perpetrators remain unknown, despite the activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which also failed to determine the whereabouts of the anthrax killer, the Lord's Avenger and Chandra Levy. The people who were targeted for assassination are nonviolent activists. Twelve years ago we stood with them, and we stand with them today. Their cause is our cause. Their cause is the cause of democracy. If we as Americans are not free to dissent in the 21st Century, if we're going to see a repeat of the Palmer Raids of the first part of the 20th Century in the form of Ashcroft raids in this century, complete with ethnic stereotyping and racial profiling, we have not advanced as a society. We have to stand up for democracy, for freedom, and for the right to organize and dissent in a free country

Medea Benjamin, Founder Global Exchange
Having recently come back from Afghanistan, I know what terrorism is. And when I heard that Darryl Cherney, Judi Bari and environmentalists are being called terrorists, I'm absolutely appalled by that. Let's be clear about what terrorism is. Terrorism is essentially a profound disrespect for human beings and life on the planet. Let's talk about defenders of the environment. They are just the opposite. They are people who love life and who love this planet. And it's thanks to us as environmentalists that we will have a planet to hopefully pass on to our grandchildren.

We are the protectors of life, and we should get protection from forces like the FBI and the Oakland Police. They should not turn on us to cover up their misdeeds, and that is what's been happening for the last 12 years. We want to know who put that bomb in that car. We want the perpetrators of that crime to be brought to justice, and we want the FBI, instead of attacking the victims, to put their energies into protecting us, the environmentalists, the lovers of life, the lovers of the planet.

So we hope that there will be justice done during this civil case, which is the only way that we have to get back at the FBI for its misdeeds and to turn this around to show Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari as the heroes that they are, and to protect all of us activists for the right we have to dissent against government, to dissent against corporate abuses, and to do the protection we need to do to have life in the future on this planet. Thank you.

John Ryman, rank and file labor activist
You know there's a real irony in this trial being held right now at a time when we see the federal government conducting a so-called war against terrorism, and at the same time what this trial is bringing out is that the same federal government and its agents are covering up an act of terrorism that was carried out against Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney. I just sat up there and listened to a member of the Oakland Police flat out perjure himself and lie on the stand there. You can be guaranteed that when he goes back his boss will pat him on the back and tell him 'well done.' We in the working class movement who have sought to organize throughout the decades and centuries have had to cope with exactly this same thing. So what these brothers and sisters are facing, that's what we've had to face. The real threat that they represented was the idea that working class people and the environmentalists have to unite, that our cause is one and the same. We must reject the idea that you can either have a clean environment or you can have jobs, but you can't have both. That's the same thing as when we were told that you can either have decent wages or you can have jobs, but not both. The real crime was the crime committed not just against these two individuals, but the crime that this bloodsucking, profit-addicted system is carrying out against all of us, driving down our standard of living and destroying life on earth. We must unite to put a stop to it.

Jim Wheaton, Senior Counsel, First Amendment Project
History is being made here today by Darryl and Judi. They are taking on their government and they're going to win. The fight they are fighting is as old as the republic itself. It illustrates again that here in John Ashcroft's America the real terrorism is when your government turns against you, when there's no place to hide because your government wants to silence you.

We're standing in front of what's known as a court of justice. And Darryl and Judi are doing a beautiful job in bringing the system to justice. There's another part of what we'll get here, and you can get it nowhere else but in a court of justice, and that's the truth. Darryl is going to bring the truth out of the darkness and into the light, and show people what our government did to them. And that will be good. They stand in some ways on the shoulders of other giants who've done the same, and they're the torchbearers for truth now, and they'll pass it on to others as well.

It's worth remembering that if we're going to govern ourselves, we need to know what our government is doing. We need to pull them out of the darkness and into the light. This is a struggle as old as the republic, because two hundred years ago one of the people who founded this country said that a people who mean to govern themselves must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives. Because a popular government without popular information or means of acquiring it is but a prelude to a tragedy or to a farce, or perhaps both. Darryl and Judi have already suffered the tragedy, and now we're going to make sure that they don't also have to suffer a farce.

Medea Benjamin connects this lawsuit and curret civil liberties threat
I'd turn that around and say the general violation of civil liberties in this country right now. After rounding up thousands of people because of their ethnicity or their religion, still hundreds of them are being held we don't know where, under no charges at all. This government is trying to get people used to violations of civil liberties under the guise of national security. I think that's what makes this trial all the more important right now. It's saying that we will not allow for the violation of civil liberties, that the civil liberties of Judi and Darryl were violated by the FBI, by the Oakland Police Department, and this is a time that we in this country have to stand up and say there is a reason we have this Constitution in this country, there is a reason we have a Bill of Rights, and that is what we hold on to as the foundations for a democratic society. While we have George Bush and John Ashcroft trying to rip those things to shreds, we are here standing in front of this courthouse and supporting this civil suit, because we say our civil liberties are essential to us as political activists, and we will not see them taken away from us.

The trial in Bari vs. FBI will begin its fifth week on Monday May 6. Plaintiffs will finish presenting their witnesses on Tuesday with videotaped deposition testimony by Judi Bari. The FBI and Oakland Police defendants will begin their case on Wednesday, but it is expected that they will only need two or three days. Many of the defense witnesses, including all of the defendants, have already testified because they were called to the stand by plaintiffs. The judge has ruled that each witness can be called to the stand only once, and defense lawyers were required to question their witnesses immediately following their testimony in the plaintiffs' case. Judge Wilken said she expects that final arguments and jury instruction will take two days. She expects jury deliberations to take about one week. If there are no surprises, therefore, a verdict should be expected about May 22. The twelth anniversary of the car bombing of Bari and Cherney and the expected end of the trial will be celebrated by a rally May 24 outside the courthouse.

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Albion Monitor May 12 2002 (

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