So they took out Dave Foreman (Dave Foreman became inactive at the very least, and now, no longer associates with Earth First!), and instead of Earth First! dying, this new incarnation of it pops up in northern California that's calling for national mass actions, that's gaining a level of credibility that was never gained by the more isolationist tactics of the Arizona group -- because I was combining Dave's ecological ideas with my leftist mass organizing background, and moving Earth First! away from the discrediting things.
Renouncing tree spiking
was a tremendous step for Earth First! When I was working for California Yurts, I was working in a prefab carpentry factory where we used large saws -- nowhere's near as large as a sawmill -- but my working conditions were similar enough. (And before then, I had worked industrial jobs; I had worked in big factories where I had seen accidents. I was on a shift when somebody's arm was sucked into a machine and ripped off.) I really had a sense of industrial accidents, and I really identified with the mill workers in that manner.
When George Alexander was nearly decapitated working a shift at the Cloverdale mill, I was just getting interested in Earth First! and it kind of backed me off, because of this tree spiking thing. (Not that it was an Earth First! spike, but Earth First! continued to advocate tree spiking, and would not even make a sympathetic statement about George Alexander)
But I liked Earth First! so much. Their spirit. The music was wonderful. Earth First! was the only one that would put their bodies between the chainsaws and the trees. What I saw of Earth First! was not a terrorist group, were not people uncaring about other humans. They were loving, wonderful, progressive people.
And so I sung the tree spiking songs with Darryl, and I put it all aside in my mind. But as I began to work more and more with the timber workers, they brought it up; they didn't let me forget it. They didn't let me ignore it. And eventually, at their urging (and once I had got enough sway within Earth First! to have this much influence to do it) I led northern California and southern Oregon into publicly denouncing tree spiking.
Now the workers could ally with us. Even workers who supported us before, had to be very quiet about it because of tree spiking. This really opened up the alliance between us. If we could disassociate from tree spiking (even advocating other forms of monkeywrenching -- which are quite different: those are attacks on machines, as opposed to something that could target a person), it would give Earth First! a lot more opportunity to expand its base. And Redwood Summer was a very conscious and deliberate expansion of our base and a coalition action.
We'd never initiated violence, but we were too macho to call ourselves "non-violent" before that. Now we openly embraced non-violence, we openly rejected tree spiking, and now the peace movement could ally with us. Now Seeds of Peace, now what was left of the Acorn Alliance -- the long-term peace activists in our communities could now comfortably ally with Earth First! And we could call for national actions and spread this message in that way.
That was a threat to them for several reasons: for now Foreman's ideas were being spread, not only to a broader audience, but to an audience that included blue collar workers. One of the ways they limit the influence of the environmental movement is by keeping us ghettoized to professionals and privileged people, even though environmentalism is very much in the interest of blue collar workers. They're the ones who bear the brunt of the destruction of the earth. The Wise Use movement seeks to portray environmentalists as espresso-sucking pavement dwellers...
But now you are describing yourself as a very relevant target for timber, the FBI .
JUDI: And that's what I'm trying to say: that the activities that I was doing, the FBI tried to misdirect, isolate and discredit by having us -- Earth First! -- be this elitist, crazy, threat to society. And here, they thought they had knocked out Earth First! in Arizona, and we rise up in California in a different incarnation in which we have much more credibility and much more possibility for forging these alliances. So I was a threat to the FBI's attempt to discredit Earth First!, because I was leading Earth First! away from the discrediting tactics.
I think that my activities
came at the intersection
of those two campaigns: the timber industry's campaign
to stop this activism against them,
and the FBI's campaign to isolate and discredit Earth First!
And I was the target of this: I was absolutely the target.
That's demonstrated not just by the arrest and by whose seat the bomb was under, but also by the fact, for example, that only my house was raided for the Lord's Avenger letter. I was the specific target of this campaign, because my efforts were countering their efforts to isolate and discredit Earth First! So, if they could portray me as a terrorist, me in particular who was the principal advocate of these non-violent tactics, then they could take out Earth First!
Whether or not they planted the bomb, if they could portray you in this light.
JUDI: Right. And I think that they misjudged -- that's the other thing -- because I'm not going to say these tactics haven't been done. Look what just happened to Leroy Jackson a year ago (the Native American forest activist who was murdered). But they haven't done this kind of thing to white people, and in this racist culture, I think they could have gotten away with it if I were Black or Indian or Brown. I think they misjudged. I think they misjudged who I was; I think they misjudged the support for our ideas. And I think it backfired in a lot of ways, and now they are trying to cover up for it.
But it did happen to Karen Silkwood.
JUDI: But Karen Silkwood wasn't arrested, she wasn't blamed for killing herself. The last time this has happened in the United States, that I know of, is the Civil Rights Movement, is Mississippi Summer -- when activists were bombed (and in their case killed) and then blamed for the bomb. Their cases have never been resolved, as I suspect would have happened with mine. And I have this vision of Richard Held sitting around going: "All right, she wants Mississippi Summer, lets give her Mississippi Summer."
But there is one exception to the fact that white people are not treated as badly as other races in this country, and that's labor. The one place where white people have been treated the same is labor organizers. In the coal mines, they aerial bombed strikers in the 1920s. The history of the Wobblies is the best known, with the history of the lynchings. Karen Silkwood was a labor organizer.
To link two parts of this story together: after Timber Wars is published, and the back page ad occurs in the Nation, all of sudden I'm getting requests for interviews from radio stations all over the country, and reviews -- but no calls from the Press Democrat; they're not interested in reviewing the book. KPFA doesn't want to interview me. Interestingly, it's been blacked out within this range [laughs] I guess it's like the Super Bowl where they don't put it on TV within a certain area of the bowl.
But radio stations in Canada and Detroit and Arkansas, North Dakota, Washington D.C., they're calling. And last week I got a call from Washington, D.C. Dave Burnham. He identified himself to me as a freelance journalist. He was the New York Times reporter that Karen Silkwood was going to meet -- she was going to deliver documents to him when she was run off the road and killed. He identified himself to me as the reporter she was going to meet, and I responded: "Oh, so I suppose you want me to deliver you some documents."
What he said
was that he was writing a book about the Justice Department and the FBI as part of the Justice Department, and the tremendous level of corruption and violation of people's rights that goes on within that department, and he was looking for a horror story to start a chapter with, and somebody had referred him to me -- because the descriptions of the bombing were on the back page of the Nation. He had called me up to ask me about it, and I said: "If you want horror stories, we've got horror stories," and I told him some of the basic things about the case. |
He was particularly interested in the bogus investigation that took place: the violation of a broad range of people's rights. I talked to him about that for a little while, about some of the evidence, and the bomb school, and the photographs, and when I finished he said: "Boy, they really did a job on you. Up until this moment, I just thought you were some kook who blew herself up with her own bomb." And this is the person Karen Silkwood was going to meet!
Of course, he's from the east coast, and I was on the front page of the New York Times (the parent paper of the Press Democrat) for having bombed myself. But you don't see the New York Times printing any of this new stuff, nor the Washington Post . And you know, if you ask most people what they know about Earth First! they'll say two things: tree spiking, blowing themselves up with their own bomb. That's what's they've done to this movement to discredit it, and I think that a lot of us, with wishful thinking, try to pretend that they haven't been successful. Because locally, here, where we live in these small rural communities, where we know each other, even my worst enemies know I didn't bomb myself. Jerry Philbrick knows I didn't bomb myself -- though I don't think of Jerry as an enemy... Bobby Simpson knows I didn't bomb myself.
Albion Monitor January 13, 1997 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)