chapter  1
32 Pages

Introduction

On 24 May 1990, as Earth First! members Judi Bari and Daryl Cherney drove Bari's Subaru station wagon through downtown Oakland, a pipe bomb exploded beneath the driver's seat, injuring both environmental activists. Bari, who was driving, had her spine dislocated and her pelvis shattered, while Cherney, who was riding along in the front passenger seat, received lacerations on his face and injuries to his eye. As emergency paramedics and fire personnel worked to assist Bari and Cherney, members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) domestic terrorism squad swooped in and, in concert with the local police, took control of the investigation. As members of Earth First!, a radical environmental organization, Bari and Cherney were placed under immediate scrutiny and suspicion. The police quickly obtained a search warrant against the activists by asserting in an affidavit submitted to a judge that they were "members of a violent terrorist group involved in the manufacture and placing of explosive devices." Upon being released from the hospital the day of the bombing, Cherney was taken into custody and charged with possession and transportation of explosives. The next day Bari was arrested in her hospital bed where she lay flitting in and out of consciousness. The mass media picked up the story, transmitting the police's assertion that the bomb belonged to Bari and Cherney and that it detonated inadvertently (Bishop 1990; Taylor and Diringer 1990; Congbalay 1990). Two months later, lacking any credible evidence, these charges were dropped. The FBI assured the victims that it would pursue the case, but no arrests have ever been made. Six years later, after a vertiginous whirl of civil litigation, Bari learned that before the bombing, she and Cherney were being investigated by the FBI as suspected terrorists (Helvarg 1994, 331-334; Cole and Dempsey 2002,56-60).1