Ignore the Gun
I am writing in response to the cover story of September 12’s issue: “The Unsolved Mysteries of Judi Bari”: I was shocked and dismayed to see the photo of her holding an Uzi on the front cover. Imagine my surprise when I saw this on the street in Berkeley, especially after all of the images of terrorists the whole country has been exposed to in the last week.
Judi Bari was my mother, and so I feel that I can give a better picture of what she was about and what she believed in. Printing that photo was sensationalistic and had very little to do with both the article and the real story of her life and her work. She was a completely nonviolent person, and very dedicated to integrating that philosophy into the environmental movement. This picture was posed by Irv Sutley, who had ulterior motives. She admitted that she had been naive in letting this picture be taken, and always regretted it. It would have been more appropriate had you printed a photo of her speaking at a demonstration, or in front of the Federal Building in Oakland.
Furthermore, there is no “intrigue” in this case; my mother was not a shady person. She was an honest, hardworking, dedicated individual and the only real question lies in the actions of the FBI and the OPD. Why didn’t they ever investigate the bombing? Your article does her no justice, and the photo you printed on the front page does her even less. Furthermore, it was insensitive not only to me, her daughter, a resident of the Bay Area, but also insensitive in light of the terrorist attacks last week. Since you did not print this, I would like to update your readers on the case: We have asked for and have been granted a six-month extension on the case, in light of the events last week. For more information on the case please visit www.judibari.org.
Lisa Bari, Via The Internet
At Least You Read the Story
Your choice to allow the front page picture of Judi Bari (“The Unsolved Mysteries of Judi Bari,” September 12) holding a machine gun, to be printed and distributed throughout the East Bay the day after a terrorist attack on New York and Washington DC, is immoral, dishonest, and an insult to Judi Bari’s memory, work, and teachings. Judi Bari was not a gun-toting terrorist, but your cover practically condemns her of making the bombs that blew her up. You know well that images remain clearly in people’s minds long after the words have faded. Unlike most readers, we did read the whole article by Will Harper. It took reading until the fifth page of the article to get the explanation that this picture was taken as a joke, set up by a probable FBI operative who infiltrated Earth First!.
The article by Will Harper seemed reasonably thoughtful and never came close to even implying that Judi Bari or Earth First! advocated the use of guns. The words did not contradict our knowledge of Earth First! activists as deeply nonviolent people who hang onto the upper branches of old redwood trees through the storms of winter and who endure death threats, assaults, pepper spray, and other types of corporate thuggery to save our threatened forests. But the picture is a lie, and more people will see that picture of Judi in her Earth First! shirt holding that gun than will ever read the fifth page of Will Harper’s article. You might as well have stamped “terrorist” on the forehead of a brave leader whose nonviolent work brought labor and environmental groups together — something much more threatening to corporate destroyers of this earth than a gun could ever be.
The Ecology Center has been advertising the Berkeley Farmers’ Market and other programs in the Express for years, and we have been watching closely to see how the publication would change under New Times management. It disturbs us deeply that you ran this cover and undermined good coverage of an important legal battle for the right to organize against corporate greed and be protected rather than attacked by government agencies. This issue is another telling sign of how you are willing use sensationalist and irresponsible journalism, in this case damaging all nonviolent environmental groups, just to increase your circulation, and thus your advertising dollars. In the process, you have lost ours.
Penny Leff, Berkeley Farmers’ Market Manager,
Martin Bourque, Ecology Center Executive Director
Play It as It Lies
Will Harper’s East Bay Express article (“The Unsolved Mysteries of Judi Bari,” September 12) needs a little fine tuning so that people understand the context of some of the events it describes, most notably the statement that, “As part of his effort to restore his good name, [Irv] Sutley traveled to Los Angeles eleven days before Christmas, in 1994, to take a polygraph test. The lie detector analyst he chose was ex-Secret Service agent Joseph Paolella.”
I have personal knowledge of the following facts because of my participation in them or because of my personal investigation of them:
Sutley did not travel to Los Angeles for the purpose of taking a lie detector test.
Sutley did not chose Joseph Paolella. I did.
Sutley was in Los Angeles for a Peace and Freedom Party state central committee meeting.
I had earlier left the convention. After I left, PFP voted by one vote (had I not left it would have been a tie and would have died right there) on a motion by Bill Callison, to have Sutley investigated on Bari’s charge that he was an agent.
When Sutley called to let me know what happened, he was really emotionally distraught and upset. Having known Sutley since I was fifteen years old, and having the greatest of admiration for him, and also because I am loyal to friends in distress, I took charge of the situation, told Irv to make arrangements to stay over after the weekend, and that I would arrange for him to have a polygraph test to clear his name.
For all the usual reasons that people are freaked out about polygraphs who have never taken one before, e.g., they’ve read all the usual horror stories and nonsense about how supposedly unreliable they are (polygraphs aren’t unreliable, just some of the examiners who don’t know what they’re doing), Sutley was freaked. I assured him that Joe was one of the best and that if he wasn’t guilty there was nothing to worry about.
I set up a date with Joe and the three of us discussed the case and formulated the questions. As expected, Sutley came out truthful on the seminal questions and had normal reactions on the control questions, indicating that it was a reliable result and not what we call an “inconclusive test.”
I then sent out a press release about the results, which as you can imagine caused quite a stir.
Jan Tucker (PI-10143), Toluca Lake
Uh, did I miss something in this article (“The Unsolved Mysteries of Judi Bari,” September 12)? How does the fact that DNA from two envelopes match suggest that Irv Sutley might be the bomber? Where’s the evidence in the article that Sutley wrote either one of them? That Bari said that he was the only one who could’ve provided the photo? Didn’t Sweeney have access to Bari’s house and thus the photo? How does Sutley’s father come into it? Why mention obtaining a fork with Sutley’s DNA on it and then not tell us whether it was tested and what the results were?
I read the article because I was interested in Don Foster’s analysis, which gets only a dismissive mention. His analysis of Primary Colors was brilliant. Did the author of this piece bother to read it?
The article is a wretched, wretched mess. The author and his editor should find another line of work.
Carol Martin, Via The Internet
Your Free Weekly Cauldron
I opened the Express last Friday to find a cauldron of speculation, innuendo, cop-baiting, and personal attacks stirred together into “The Unsolved Mysteries of Judi Bari” (September 12). That article is a contribution to the government’s drive against political and democratic rights, now accelerating in the wake of the bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Author Will Harper provides snippets of “investigations” by conspiracy buffs, associates, and former friends of Bari; speculation about conversations that may have taken place; more speculation about political opinions said to be held by Bari and others; allegations concerning the identities of police informers; and much, much more.
He floats this whole titillating scene on the eve of a critical trial. Bari and Darryl Cherney’s civil suit against the FBI and Oakland police will soon go to court and pose this central question: Did government agents organize a COINTELPRO-style campaign of intimidation and disruption against organizations and individuals engaged in legal political activity to preserve the North Coast redwood forests?
Harper challenges the legitimacy of Bari’s ten-year-long fight for the truth and for some sort of restitution. His article becomes part of the government’s campaign to exonerate itself.
Furthermore, Harper relies on the kind of allegations and charges that have marked cop and government operations for decades. His methods should be rejected in their entirety.
Right now the US government is taking advantage of the bombings in New York and Washington DC to win public support for expanded police spying; computer and wiretapping; use of secret evidence and unnamed informers; and preventive detention, as well as the death penalty and assassinations of political opponents. It becomes even more important to working people throughout the United States, and to anyone who cares about justice, that Bari and Cherney’s legal team obtains thorough and honest answers from government agents in an open courtroom.
Jim Altenberg, Via the Internet
Last week’s cover story (“The Unsolved Mysteries of Judi Bari,” September 12) misidentified Brian Willson as a former Beach Boy. The Brian Willson that Judi Bari was referring to is a peace activist who had both his legs severed by a train during a protest.