Misery Loves Company
by Judi Bari    22-May-1991

So what does it feel like a year after getting bombed? Well, I'm maimed for life and it still hurts a lot. It hurts to sit, stand or walk, and I get tired easily. I'm profoundly saddened that I can no longer hike in the forest or teach my youngest daughter how to ride her bike. I'm really angry at whoever did this to me, and at the police for making sure not to find him. And I feel like a rape victim, still being blamed for the crime.

But I've also received support from all over the country, and as we have had to deal with the reality of lethal force being used against us, our movement has gotten stronger. We have connections all over now, and I've heard some true stories that you will never read in the mainstream press. The attack on me last year was certainly one of the most brutal in the environmental movement to date. But it was not the only one. Besides well-known examples like the sinking of the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior (a bomb attack that killed a crew member) and the assassination of Chico Mendez, there seems to be a pattern of violence being directed at rural environmentalists.

The most recent example that I know of is Pat Costner, whose house in Eureka Springs, Arkansas was burned to the ground on March 2 of this year. Pat is Director of Research for the Greenpeace Toxics Campaign, and she has testified as an expert witness to successfully stop toxic incineration plants from being built in several places. During the months before the fire there were two there were two separate incidents when two men, described by the locals as "thugs," were seen around Pat's small town, asking about her. When her house burned down, investigators found a gasoline can in what had been her living room, near where her Greenpeace files had been reduced to ashes. yet local authorities did not see cause to investigate, and Greenpeace has called on (ha ha) the FBI for help.

Another even more ominous case of rural violence around the toxics issue occurred last February in Calvert City, Kentucky. Lynn "Bear" Hill was a bulldozer driver for Liquid Waste Disposal Co. (LWD), who was ordered to illegally bury and cover 5000 drums of chemicals. Bothered by his conscience, Bear told the local newspaper about it, but pleaded for anonymity because he feared for his life. This was February 10, 1991. The newspaper editor did not take him seriously enough, and conducted his investigation of the charges in a way that Bear's identity could be deduced. On Feb. 26, Bear Hill was found dead, half in and half out of his pickup truck with his keys in his hand. He was bruised and bloody, and, according to local accounts, "his nose was pushed into his brain." His kitchen was also splattered with blood, but local authorities ruled his death a suicide.

Tennessee has also seen its share of violence against environmentalists, dating back to 1983 when a citizens' group began a campaign to stop the Middlesboro Tanning Co. from dumping toxics into Yellow Creek. When they tried to bring a TV reporter to film the pollution, shots were fired over their heads. A short time later activist Ed Hunter had his windshield shot out while driving to a meeting. Two days later two other group members, Larry Wilson and Gene Hurst, were driving on a rural road when they were attacked by a shotgun blast from a passing car. It shattered Larry's windshield, spraying him with glass and barely missing his head. This group is a good example of how to stand up to violence, because they stuck together and kept up the fight, despite later attacks which included Larry's wife Sheila having her brake lines cut, and somebody killing their dogs. They have succeeded in stopping the poisoning of Yellow Creek, but are still working to get it cleaned up.

One other outrageous use of force against environmentalists took place in Mobile, Arizona on May 7, 1990. Local activists, with help from Greenpeace, were leading a successful campaign to stop the construction of a toxic incinerator. When 400 people showed up for a public hearing, some of the organizers asked that the meeting be moved to a larger hall. County police responded by grabbing them and escorting them out. Once out in the hall, the stun-gunned the activists, knocking them to the floor and immobilizing them before handcuffing them and arresting them. "We weren't even being rude!" said one amazed participant.

I'm sure there's a lot more of this going on than any of us know. Certainly threats and intimidation are becoming common tactics against all kinds of environmentalists. We shouldn't have to take our lives in our hands to stand up against poisoning a creek or over-cutting the forest. But the corporations and police are all too wiling to use excessive force against us.

This article originally appeared in the May 22, 1991 issue of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, from which this transcription was made.

This article also appears in the book Timber Wars and Other Writings, by Judi Bari, copyright © 1992 Judi Bari. All rights reserved. Non-commercial use of any of this material is permitted without prior approval, providing that all copies or reprints show this book title and author as the source.

Commercial copying or reprinting is strictly prohibited without prior written approval of the author.

The latest edition of Timber Wars has 300 pages and can be bought at (or ordered from) any decent bookstore at the cover price of $14.95 for paperback (ISBN 1-56751-026-4) or $29.95 for hardback (ISBN 1-56751-027-2). If your bookstore can't get it, you can order it directly (at an additional cost of $3.00 shipping and handling) from the publisher, Common Courage Press, PO Box 702, Monroe ME 04951. You can also reach them by phone toll-free at 800/497-3207.

The Judi Bari Trust Fund provides for her children, c/o M.E.C., 106 W. Standley St., Ukiah CA 95482. The Redwood Justice Fund supports Bari's and Cherney's lawsuit, P.O. Box 14720, Santa Rosa CA 95402.

· To Jym's EF! Page ·      · To Jym's Eco Page ·