banner by Martin Travers
BOMBING CASE UPDATE
AUGUST 2000"The Redwood Summer Justice Project is struggling for justice for all of us who have been targeted for our work in defense of our people and the land. I urge everyone to support Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney's historic lawsuit and public education campaign that will finally put the FBI on trial."
-- Leonard Peltier, Leavenworth Prison
Trial Date Set!Just as we'd hoped, at our most recent court date federal district court Judge Claudia Wilken set Bari v. USA for trial on October 1, 2001. Getting a trial date to bring FBI misconduct before a federal jury is a major victory! We've accomplished this near-impossible task based on the strength of the evidence that the FBI and Oakland police conspired to use the 1990 car bomb attack on Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney to attempt to discredit and destroy Earth First!
Although by now we are wary of the government's constant delaying tactics, we expect that the October 2001 date will hold. At an earlier hearing the FBI acknowledged that last year's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling denying immunity for the Oakland Police officers didn't leave any room for further FBI appeals.
In September we'll have another court-ordered hearing on our settlement demands which include the shutting down of Oakland Police's domestic intelligence unit, a release of all FBI and OPD files on Earth First!, and an outside, independent investigation of the bombing, among other things. Assuming the FBI and OPD don't agree to what FBI lawyer Joe Sher characterized as our "demand for unconditional surrender," we'll then move on to trial.
The Case Against Richard HeldBack in October, 1997, Judge Wilken made a key ruling in the case, once and for all settling the defendant officers’ claims of qualified immunity. In that decision Wilken ruled that the agents and officers directly involved in the bombing investigation do not have immunity and can be sued. At the same time she upheld all of our claims of false arrest, illegal search, and the all-important "COINTELPRO" charge: conspiracy to violate Judi and Darryl's First Amendment right to organize for Earth First!
But the ruling was double-edged. In the same decision, Judge Wilken dismissed from the lawsuit agents in the FBI's high command, most importantly Richard W. Held. To dismiss Held, Wilken had to ignore substantial evidence of his direct involvement in our case.
He was Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the San Francisco FBI office, and therefore directly supervised the bombing "investigation" and smear campaign. (The FBI’s own operations manual shows the SAC is personally responsible for “major bombing cases.”) Also, various FBI agents testified that they had given Held a full briefing right after the explosion, directly contradicting Held’s own testimony that he knew nothing about the investigation. Still, inexplicably, Judge Wilken released him from even supervisorial responsibility for wrongdoing, dropping him from the case as a named defendant.
Last month our legal team began the fight to get Richard Held back into the case, asking Judge Wilken to reconsider this ill-advised ruling. To let Held off the hook implies that the FBI's operation against Judi and Darryl was the work of a few rogue officers, rather than business as usual for the same FBI COINTELPRO expert who framed Geronimo ji jaga and Leonard Peltier, who headed up the FBI operation that included the assassination of Puerto Rican independence organizers, and who tried to destroy Earth First! We hope Judge Wilken will have the courage to stand up to the FBI and bring Richard W. Held to justice.
Targets of COINTELPROTo help make the case against Richard W. Held, at a May event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the bombing, Redwood Summer Justice Project (RSJP) brought together individuals and movements that Held had singled out for destruction. Geronimo ji jaga (Black Panther Party), Alicia Rodriguez & Jose Lopez (Puerto Rican Independence movement), Karen Pickett (Earth First!), John Trudell (American Indian Movement), professor Peter Bohmer and RSJP all stood together in solidarity and exchanged specifics of the illegal, sometimes murderous FBI operations against them. (For a general outline of those operations, ask us to send you a copy of America's Secret Police, produced by RSJP in 1998.)
Besides the political importance of this show of unity, the event brought out new information on the work of the FBI.Geronimo ji jaga's release after 27 years, imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, was a landmark moment in the fight against FBI disruption. It was Richard Held who masterminded the attack on the Los Angeles Black Panther Party that ended in Geronimo's imprisonment and the deaths of a number of Panther party members.
"We have a common enemy ... that's the biggest criminal gang in the history of the United States, and it's called the FBI." — Geronimo ji jaga
Geronimo ji jaga photo by Nicholas Wilson
Geronimo vows that the settlement of his civil case against the FBI is only the beginning. He and attorney Johnny Cochran are working to open up hearings not only on the FBI's COINTELPRO operation against the Panthers, but also the CIA's Operation CHAOS and the National Security Agency's mind-control operation (dubbed Operation MINARET) which also targeted the Black Panthers.
Held Broadens the AttackOn the very day of this amazing gathering in Berkeley, the headline story in Puerto Rican newspapers was the FBI's release of over 1 million pages of COINTELPRO documents to the Puerto Rican Senate. Independence leader José Lopez called the files just "the tip of the iceberg." They would leave submerged the FBI's role in the assassination of nearly a dozen Puerto Rican independentistas and the operation initiated by Hoover in 1960 and carried out against proponents of Puerto Rican independence to this day.
In 1975-76, Richard Held's assignment was the Pine Ridge reservation, site of the FBI attack on the American Indian Movement that led to the framing of Leonard Peltier and the deaths of scores of AIM activists. When he left Pine Ridge Held moved to Chicago, where dozens of Puerto Rican activists and their allies were called before Grand Juries. Many were imprisoned for refusing to testify in the secret proceedings.
According to Lopez, in 1978 Held brought together a secret conference of counter-insurgency experts from around the world to plot the destruction of the Puerto Rican independence movement. In 1979, he moved from Chicago to become the head of the FBI in Puerto Rico. There the work of that secret conference was initiated with the incident at Cerro Maravilla, an operation set up by FBI agent/provocateur Alejandro Malave that caused the deaths of Soto and Rosado, two young Puerto Rican men. In the investigation of that incident, the Puerto Rican people discovered and exposed FBI and police files on 155,000 Puerto Ricans -- a stunning 5% of the island's population!
"We have to be strong."
Last September, eleven Puerto Rican political prisoners were released from U.S. prisons in a clemency arrangement by President Clinton. (Six are still incarcerated.) Alicia Rodriguez, freed after 19 years, is the first of those prisoners to come off parole and thus the first to be free to speak out.
Alicia recounted a story of FBI infiltration so deep it took your breath away. In a recent case, Puerto Rican professor José Solis was sentenced to 3½ years in prison after being set up by an FBI agent/provocateur named Rafael Angel Marrero. It came to light that Marrero had been used by the FBI to infiltrate the Puerto Rican independence community in 1989; nine years after Alicia's incarceration this FBI informant married her sister!
The FBI used Marrero not only to violate Alicia's sister and her family, but also to attempt to pit the Rodriguez and Lopez families against each other. These two families are key to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence and to the support for the political prisoners. Even in the face of this insidious psychological torture, these independence leaders have refused to "dance the tune of the FBI," according to Alicia. Despite 24 years of both her family and community being attacked by the FBI, there has been no implosion, no political suicide. "We came out dignified."
Photo of Alicia Rodriguez by Nicholas Wilson
Window Into the FBIJudi Bari and Darryl Cherney’s civil rights lawsuit is our one opportunity to hold the FBI accountable now for their long-standing, often deadly disruption of social justice movements. We ask you to stand with us as we fight for the rights of all activists to work to change the world.
Please contact Redwood Summer Justice Project to join in solidarity organizing around the trial.