In the historic civil rights lawsuit of two Earth First! organizers against the FBI and Oakland Police Dept., jury selection is complete and the first witnesses began taking the stand on Wednesday, April 10, 2002. Opening remarks were made by the plaintiffs on Tuesday afternoon, with the defense making its opening remarks Wednesday morning. The jury is a diverse group that well represents the mixed culture of the Bay Area. Judi Bari's 21-year-old daughter Lisa Bari, who has been in the courtroom all week, commented, "It seems like they will be fair and impartial. I think we have a good chance for justice."
The trial comes after more than a decade of aggressive defense motions and delay tactics as the stonewalling FBI attempted to gain immunity from prosecution. But the courts have repeatedly upheld the merits of the case and ruled that it could go forward with its charges of false arrest, illegal search and seizure, and violation of First Amendment rights by falsely associating the plaintiffs with terrorism. Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were victims of a car-bomb attack in 1990 in which the FBI accused them of carrying the bomb. But no charges were ever filed, despite a national smear campaign in the media against the two and their lawful cause. It was a classic frame-up attempt in the long history of COINTELPRO "disrupt and neutralize" tactics. The lawsuit attempts to clear the plaintiffs name and expose FBI actions against lawful political movements. Stay tuned!
At noon, April 8th, 2002, Earth First! held a support rally in front of the courthouse. Speakers and performers included acclaimed author and activist Starhawk, Leonard Peltier Defense Committee spokesperson Linda SixFeathers, musician and activist Alice diMicele, and Judi Bari's oldest daughter Lisa Bari, who was nine when her mother was the victim of the motion triggered bomb.
The district attorney eventually dropped all charges due to lack of evidence, but the FBI utterly failed to investigate the bombing any further. A year after the bombing, Bari and Cherney filed a civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland Police; the defendants, however filed appeals and other motions every step of the way, delaying the trial for 10 years. Meanwhile, Bari died from breast cancer in 1997. The trial finally opens on April 8, 2002, before Judge Claudia Wilken at the U.S. District Court in Oakland. It was originally scheduled to begin on October 1, 2001, but was postponed at the request of the plaintiffs – due to the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent pro-FBI public opinion.
The plaintiffs are suing the FBI and Oakland Police under the 1st, 4th, and 5th amendments for conspiracy, false arrest, unlawful search and seizure, interfering with their right to organize politically, and denying equal protection of the law in allowing the real assassins to go free. Evidence suggests that authorities falsified evidence, lied to the media and the courts, conspired to frame and demonize Judi Bari and Earth First! for political reasons, blamed the victims in spite of clear evidence of their innocence, targeted nonviolent environmentalists in a sham investigation of the bombing, ignored evidence pointing to the real bombers, and covered up their own wrongdoing.