A special screening at the New York City premiere of the new documentary Who Bombed Judi Bari? will benefit a local bastion of activism damaged by Hurricane Sandy—the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS), on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 17, 8 PM at the Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th Street, in Greenwich Village. The $10 donation will assist the museum, which had its hopes for a grand opening that very day dashed when its displays were immersed in the rising waters of the East River during the Frankenstorm. The 93-minute, award-winning documentary is engaged in a week-long run at the Quad, Nov. 16 through 22. The teaming of Judi Bari‘s story with the MoRUS brings together grassroots ecological struggles from California’s redwoods and Lower Manhattan’s squats and community gardens.
Who Bombed Judi Bari? chronicles a great, unsolved mystery: who, on May 24, 1990, tried to assassinate one of the most prominent environmental organizers of her day. Judi Bari and her eco-cohort, Darryl Cherney, were car-bombed in Oakland that day while on a musical organizing tour for three months of nonviolent direct action called Redwood Summer. The feisty Bari was galvanizing thousands to camp out and protest the clearcutting of Northern California’s giant conifers when the assassination attempt left her clinging to life with a shattered pelvis and spinal damage. Cherney suffered minor injuries in the attack. Despite having been on the receiving end of dozens of death threats, Bari and Cherney were arrested by the FBI and Oakland Police for bombing themselves. The pair went on to sue the authorities for civil rights violations, winning four million dollars in damages—though not before Bari died of cancer, seven years after surviving the bombing. And the bomber meanwhile remains at large.
The mystery of who car-bombed Earth First! and labor organizer Bari may be solved yet, as far as fellow victim-turned-documentary film producer Cherney is concerned. As they prepare for their New York and LA theatrical premieres, his production company is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of the bomber—while it simultaneously vying for an Oscar nod and self-distributing the movie.
Cherney is still in court with the FBI today. Part of the post-trial settlement included attaining the right to analyze evidence should the authorities choose to dispose of it. Of great interest are two bombs, apparently both made by the person(s) who bombed Bari’s car. A bombing two weeks earlier on May 8, 1990 targeted a sawmill and failed to explode properly, leaving the device mostly intact. It is this first bomb, which contained about six feet of duct tape, which has tremendous evidentiary value. The FBI, however, refused to turn the evidence over as agreed, or test it themselves. Two recent federal court rulings obtained by Cherney ordered the FBI to turn over the bomb remnants to an independent laboratory for testing. It is believed that the same person(s) made both bombs because an anonymous letter penned by “the Lord’s Avenger” took credit for them, describing them accurately in detail.
Cherney and director Mary Liz Thomson crafted the documentary out of archival footage of the redwood timber wars of the 1990’s. The colorful footage includes a special Humboldt County live version of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” performed by Bonnie Raitt; a live version of “Shady Grove” by the David Grisman Quintet performing at a tree-sit; rare footage of Woody Harrelson climbing the Golden Gate Bridge as an act of civil disobedience; a tribute to Judi Bari by California Gov. Jerry Brown; and a powerful press conference held by the late, legendary environmentalist, David Brower. The movie is narrated by Judi Bari herself, shot on camera as she told her life story through her deathbed testimony. As she weaves her tale under oath, the movie flashes back and forth to footage of the daring, action-packed, yet often humorous and musical scenes she depicts.
See Darryl Cherney and Mary Liz Thomson speak about the movie and the Judi Bari case on the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade.
See the benefit’s page on Facebook.