Tuesday, October 6, 2015

About Judi

I met Judi Bari in early 1979 when she came from Baltimore to marry Mike Sweeney and live in Sonoma County, California. Mike was in my "affinity group" formed the year before as part of the Abalone Alliance--a statewide antinuclear coalition that was organizing protests at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near San Luis Obispo. Our group had the silly name of the "Chuckleheads" a name that not all of us embraced and a name that definitely did not apply to Mike Sweeney. Mike had two small children from his first marriage that he often brought to meetings and potlucks. He was serious, quiet and very controlling.

At the time Mike was going with a young woman in our group named Whisper. He dumped her when Judi moved out here, and the women in our group were prepared to not like her out of loyalty to the dumpee who was our friend. When I met Judi I changed my mind. She was funny, smart, creative and most important to me her analysis of what was wrong in the world was not limited to nukes. Most of the people in my affinity group were young and pretty single issue in their analysis. That was hard for me at the time as I was older and often frustrated by what I felt was a limited viewpoint. Judi and I made a good connection on that basis and became friends. Later Judi jokingly commented that she considered changing her name to Shout!! She was definitely not a Whisper!

Judi was a talented musician and organizer but she was also a very good artist--actually more of a cartoonist. When I first met her I was working with another group that was beginning to organize around Bohemian Grove in Sonoma County. A lot of the folks in our group didn't yet understand the significance of this good old boys network in our backyard but Judi did. She contributed some artwork to several of our flyers over the years and it was in the early 1980's--I think 1983--that I went by her house on Primrose Lane in Santa Rosa to pick up some of her work. The usually cheerful and strong Judi that I was used to was very upset and in tears. She told me that she had had a fight with Mike and he had been physically abusive to her. That was the first time she shared such a thing with me and I think it is because I caught her right after it had happened.

We talked a lot after that. The awareness about domestic abuse at that time was a little better than it was in the '60s or '70s but nothing like it is today. I knew of no shelters in our community and doubt that Judi would have gone if there had been one. I offered my home to her and her baby and would offer it several more times over the years. Once she had broken the ice she talked to me about the abuse in her marriage several more times while she lived in Sonoma County. She never took me up on my offer for shelter. She chose to tough it out. She also told me about Mike's involvement in the fire at the old Santa Rosa airport which she claimed she had no part in. I know he was a suspect at the time and I know I'm not the only person she told then and later. Nothing was ever proven.

Judi was also a friend to me. We connected because there was a lot of naiveté in our group and we were often at odds with some of the single issue folks. In fall of 1986 there was a C.A.M.P. helicopter raid in Cazadero with the cops coming down in full military gear, arresting people and taking their marijuana plants. I wrote about it in my column that was a regular feature at the time in the PEACE PRESS. It was censored on the grounds that it was "too controversial". Many of the people in our group did not want to make an issue of this but Judi did. She wrote a letter in my defense that did get printed even though my column never did. Shortly after that someone gave me $1000 to start another paper and that's how the SONOMA COUNTY FREE PRESS began. Judi was one of the people who encouraged me, even contributing her artwork for my Grandma Nudge column.

1986 was also the year that Judi and Mike moved from Sonoma County to Mendocino County. There was a financial settlement from a lawsuit they were involved in and they used it to buy land in Redwood Valley near Ukiah. They planned to build their own house. I had just returned from a trip to Nicaragua when they had a going away party at their house on Primrose. Judi was happy and excited and hadn't talked about abuse in the marriage for awhile so I thought perhaps things had worked out. I didn't think about it again until years later when I talked to a close woman friend of Judi's from Mendocino County. According to this woman the abuse had indeed continued after their move and both were in the process of leaving their abusive marriages at the time of the bombing. A lot of people don't seem to realize that Judi planned to move to Willits in June of 1990 and had already begun moving things. The bombing happened on May 24, one week before she and the girls were leaving Mike in Redwood Valley.

I remained in touch with Judi after her move north. Both of us were still doing organizing work in the Central America support movement as well as other things. Her involvement in the Redwoods actions came later. When she was bombed in 1990 I had someone take over my business and put in several months at the Mendocino Environmental Center mostly dealing with her finances. I also organized her first public appearance in front of FBI headquarters in San Francisco on August 14. I visited Judi at Highland Hospital three days after the bombing and her first words to me were about her fear that Mike would use the bombing as an excuse to get custody of their girls. She was terrified of this. I later visited her at the rehab place in Santa Rosa and at her "safe house" in Cazadero. As far as I know she was not friendly toward Mike during this time.

I think that at some point Judi realized that Mike might be involved in her bombing. They both had a lot of information on each other and I don't think Judi believed she could win in a custody suit. I broke away from Judi in the mid 90s when she wouldn't stop publicly accusing Irv Sutley of being an informer for the FBI and of setting her up for the "Tanya" photo. I knew that wasn't true as I had talked to Judi several days after those pictures were taken and she thought it was very funny and planned to use the pose as a cover for their new audio tape. In hindsight, all involved realize the photos were very stupid but Judi never took responsibility for her part in it.

I visited her at her home east of Willits in the winter of 1991 to see her "proof" regarding her allegations against Irv. There wasn't any. Kwazi Nkrumah went with me and they ended up in a shouting match with each over over her refusal to listen to his past experiences with this kind of public infighting. He had worked with the Black Panthers in the '70s and remembered how damaging it could be with fellow activists trading accusations of being FBI informers. In those days people were getting killed from this stuff. My research into the methods of the FBI are that they prefer to use existing splits in the movement to turn people against each other. I wrote several pieces in the FREE PRESS about not feeding into this and asked Judi to stop her accusations against Irv and to try mediation so we could get to the bottom of it ourselves. She didn't and wouldn't.

Judi did not like my breaking with her publicly. I tried to do it with respect for what she had been through and because I truly did care for her. After the bombing Judi surrounded herself with people who never questioned or challenged her. I don't think it was a healthy situation. Some people have accused me of being her "enemy". That isn't true and what those people may not realize is that Judi and I talked several times during this period in an attempt to work it out. In one conversation that lasted over an hour it degenerated at one point into each of us defending a man--in her case Bruce Anderson who had with her encouragement been attacking Kwazi and me in the Anderson Valley Advertiser and me defending Kwazi and what he was trying to tell her. We were upset with each other but I think both of us saw the irony and humor in the fact that we were both "defending our guys". Judi could see the humor even in a situation like that.

When we would end one of these conversations where we could not agree, we always said "Little fingers touching" meaning we were trying to hold onto what had been a good friendship. As the years progressed and her allegations against Irv didn't stop I gave up trying and so did she. I wrote her a couple of letters after I heard about the cancer. In the last one I begged her to tell all she knew before she died. She never did and she never answered my letters.

Judi was a complex person. As stated before she was smart, funny, creative and sophisticated in her political analysis. She also had other qualities that are not so complimentary--just like every other human that walks the earth. I think people who see her as some kind of saint are doing both themselves and her a disservice. I wish people who make icons out of others would simply adapt in themselves those qualities they so admire. Icons can make mistakes and I think in Judi's case her biggest one was her inability to hear or accept any kind of criticism. I think Judi took a big secret to her grave to protect her children and her place in history.

I still admire Judi for the good stuff and for her ability to get people to listen and learn and I think I was (and am) a damn good friend to her. I want this unsolved attempted murder investigated!!!

 Little fingers touching......

 Written for FLATLANDS MAGAZINE by Mary Moore 2/11/00

The Judi Bari Bombing: A Timeline

1978  Mike Sweeney joins Sonoma County affinity group of the Abalone Alliance.

1979  Judi Bari marries Mike, moves to Sonoma County. Joins affinity group.

November 1980  A mysterious fire destroys buildings at the old Naval base in south Santa Rosa that almost kills the caretaker. Mike Sweeney who lived near the base had become a leader in the fight against expansion of the base. The owners suspect Mike of setting the fire but cannot come up with proof. Judi tells people later of Mike's involvement. Charges are never pursued.

Early 1980's  Close friends of Judi's are told of the physical abuse in Judi's marriage. Mary (and others) offer shelter to her and the girls.

December 1988  Photo taken at Bridgewood Motel of Judi as S.L.A. Tanya w/Uzi by Darryl Cherney, Pam Davis, Irv Sutley and Judi Bari. It was intended to be used for an album cover with Judi and Darryl's music called THEY DON'T MAKE HIPPIES LIKE THEY USED TO. The gun was supplied by Irv but all four were excited by the idea and the picture and Judi bragged about it to her friends who were not present. She thought it very funny.

Early 1989 Irv Sutley sends Tanya photo to the AVA as a joke with Pam Davis asking for photo credit. Bruce prints it in April. All involved think its funny.

Late 80's Judi has become close friends with Anna Marie Stenberg. Both are in process of divorcing physically abusive husbands & share their stories.

Spring 1989 Pam Davis solicits Irv at Judi's request to kill Mike Sweeney. Irv tells Toni Novak and Elden McFarland. Pam solicits Irv three more times. Irv refuses but keeps this information quiet until 1995. After this comes out Judi admits it on a 5/30/95 KZYX radio interview but says it was only a joke.

1989 ARGUS letter sent to the Ukiah police department accusing Judi of sending pot through the mail and engaging in training in automatic weapons and offering to assist police in exposing her. 

April 1990 FBI "Bomb school" course given at College of the Redwoods.

May 24, 1990 Judi and Darryl are bombed and the FBI immediately accuses them of being responsible. Also FBI is on the scene within minutes.

May 29, 1990 LORD'S AVENGER letter sent to Mike Geniella at the SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT in Ukiah. It appears to be written by a Christian fascist and gives details of the bomb placed in Judi's car. The writer admits to planting the bomb.

June 6, 1990 ZORO letter sent to Mike Geniella at the PRESS DEMOCRAT and District Attorney Chris Carpenter for Alameda county. It accuses Darryl of being the bomber.

June 9, 1990 Photo of Judi with Uzi appears in the PRESS DEMOCRAT. The article says that a police informant sent a copy of the photo to the Ukiah police chief about one year before the bombing. Judi later accuses Irv of doing this. Irv denies it.

August 14, 1990 At Judi's request Mary organizes the FBI protest in San Francisco which is Judi's first public appearance after the bombing.

May 1991 Steve Talbot's documentary WHO BOMBED JUDI BARI airs on KQED T.V. He puts out several theories including involvement by Irv Sutley, Steve ? who was an independent timber owner, Bill Staley an anti abortion zealot and Mike Sweeney. Judi objects to the part about Mike and makes Talbot put in a tailer at the end saying she does not think her ex would be the bomber. Both Irv and Mike deny the charges in the documentary and Judi has a public fight with Steve Talbot in the press. Ironically it was Judi who first told Steve Talbot about Mike and the Santa Rosa airport bombing. 

Spring 1991 In an article in THE PAPER Judi states that the Argus letter was meant to set her up for arrest. She accuses Sutley of writing the Argus letter and conspiring with the FBI to set up the Tanya photo. She is not forthcoming with any evidence to back this up. Irv and friends begin efforts toward mediation which Judi refuses. Pam & Mike also had access to the Tanya pic. 

Spring/Summer 1991 Several attempts at mediation occur within the Peace and Freedom party due to fallout of Judi's charges against Irv. Darlene Comingore makes one attempt to bring mediation but is stopped by Judi.

August 1991 Kwazi writes in the SONOMA COUNTY FREE PRESS pleading for the movement not to rush to judgment against any alleged informants and for Judi to stop accusations without proof. He cautions activists to be vigilant in looking out for CoIntelPro type tactics including misinformation campaigns and factions being pitted against one another.

October 1991 Bruce Anderson (who is very close to Judi at this point) begins a series of attacks in the ANDERSON VALLEY ADVERTISER (AVA) on Kwazi Nkrumah. The attacks are racial in nature and have nothing to do with what Kwazi said, did or wore.

Winter 1991 Anderson continues to print articles in the AVA ridiculing Mary, Kwazi and other members of the activist movement. They respond and a year long fight begins. Mary learns from Judi that Bruce has confused Kwazi with another black man (Biko Lamumba from Uhuru House) when they both spoke at the Earth First! rally in Ft. Bragg after the bombing.

Winter 1991 Kwazi meets with Tanya Brannan to discuss a controversial civil disobedience action that was poorly planned by her and others. They argue and Tanya accuses Kwasi of being a male chauvinist and Kwazi accuses Tanya of being a left liberal. Tanya later accuses Kwazi of calling her a "white liberal bitch" which she eventually takes back. This episode ends Mary Moore's long personal relationship with Tanya. (see FREE PRESS-April, 1991)

Winter 1991 Mary sets up a meeting with Judi to meet Kwazi at her home in Willits in hopes of a reconciliation after the Tanya/Kwazi flap. It goes badly and Kwazi yells and Judi cries. Mary stays with Judi for two hours after the argument and Judi shows her the evidence against Irv which is only circumstantial at best. Mary asks Judi to write to Bruce to end the attacks on Kwazi. Judi says she will but never does. This hurts relationship between Judi and Mary although they do stay in touch occasionally by phone. (see FREE PRESS--April, 1991)

February 5, 1992 Bruce Anderson prints a letter by Mary not intended for publication and without her permission about her relationship with Kwazi. Mary suspects that it came to him through Tanya but doesn't know for sure.

April 1992 SONOMA COUNTY FREE PRESS comes out with a special edition called OBSTACLES TO MOVEMENT BUILDING with letters from Mary, Tanya, Judi and Kwazi as well as a lot of reactions to the AVA from northcoast activists.

May 1992 Mary receives an anonymous death threat on her answering machine.

May 1992 Kwazi punches Bruce Anderson at a Peace & Freedom event in Santa Rosa. The PRESS DEMOCRAT writes an article about the altercation with quotes from both Kwazi and Bruce.

March 1993 Judi splits with Bruce Anderson over a sexist cartoon he was going to print in the AVA. She hijacked it on the way to the printer.

Winter 1993/1994 COVERT ACTION QUARTERLY prints an article by Ward Churchill in which he brings up again Judi's charges against Irv Sutley as truth. Mary and Irv send replies which are printed.

May 1994 Mary arranges with Betty Ball for a mediation at the MEC between some of the principals in the split. It looks like a go until at the last minute Judi puts pressure on Betty and the meeting is called off with no explanation. June 1994 Judi and Bruce Anderson attack Anna Marie Stenberg on Judi's show on KZYX. Anna Marie (another old friend of Judi's) has also split with her over Judi's insistence of her version of who did the bombing.

June/July 1994 The S.C. FREE PRESS once again devotes a lot of space to the ongoing movement split because of recent developments.

July 7, 1994 Bruce Haldane and Annie Esposito write objecting to the FREE PRESS June issue. Mary writes them a long letter explaining yet again the need for mediation and asks them to meet with Irv and others. Later in the summer they agree and a meeting is held at Toni & Elden's house. Anna Marie comes down from Ft. Bragg. Mary and Irv also attend. They remain closed to anything but Judi's version of events.

December 1994 After being urged to do so by friends Irv Sutley takes and passes a polygraph test in Los Angeles with Joseph Paoella. The results are published in the FREE PRESS and elsewhere.

Late 1994 Mary arranges a meeting between Irv Sutley and longtime activists Larry Harper and Woody Schwartz. Both Larry and Woody have believed Judi's charges against Irv but unlike others are willing to listen to Irv's side. Yet another plea for third party mediation is given by Irv and Mary. 

January 1995 TIMBER WARS, a collection of Judi's writings is published and the charges against Irv are brought up once again.

May 28, 1995 Bleys Rose writes for the PRESS DEMOCRAT about the split in the activist movement over the Bari/Sutley issue. For the first time Irv comes forth with the 1989 solicitation by Judi to kill Mike and the results of Irv's polygraph test. All hell breaks loose. Judi promises to bring evidence against Irv to a PRESS DEMOCRAT editorial meeting. She changes her mind saying the paper isn't serious. Again there are pleas for Judi to meet with Irv for mediation and again she refuses.

March 1996 Darryl Cherney renews the charges in the NEW SETTLER INTERVIEW about Irv Sutley. Mary and Beth Bosk carry on a correspondence but Beth will not print Irv's side of the story. More pleas for mediation by Mary.

November 2, 1996 Judi announces she has breast cancer. Mary writes her a personal letter of sympathy and asks her to retract her charges for history.

March 2, 1997 Judi dies after the cancer goes to her liver.

March 1997 Mary writes an open letter to Judi about all this. The lessons are there for anyone who cares to look.

February 1999 Ed Gehrman publishes an article in FLATLANDS magazine and the SONOMA COUNTY FREE PRESS after the culmination of three years of research. Along the way he enlists the help of Don Foster, a well recognized scholar and "textual analyst" who picked Mike Sweeney out of seven blind samples of writing sent to him. His analysis is also published along with Ed's article. Bruce Anderson takes a strong position in the AVA challenging Mike. Tanya Brannan, Nick Wilson and Darryl Cherney go ballistic and among other things accuse Mary of "hating Judi" (not true!!!) .The story is ignored by the PRESS DEMOCRAT and most other media outlets. Mary contacts Eric Brazil of the SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, who finally writes an article.

March 18, 1999 Mary goes on KSRO's Pat Thurston show after Pat does her homework on all the background of this case. Pat invites both Tanya and Darryl to come on with Mary. Neither return her phone calls but after the show both contact her and object. They say they will go on a future show. 

March 1999 Pat Thurston has Bruce Anderson on her show to talk about the Bari case. She again invites Tanya and Darryl. They refuse to go on with Bruce.

May 24, 1999 A coalition of journalists bring a petition to Mendocino District Attorney Norm Vroman asking him to open an investigation into the Bari case due to evidence and suspicion that the bomb was set in Mendocino County.