MODULE 7: Copenhagen, Cologne, Caracas, California

Judi Bari (1991)

Earth First had been organizing against the logging of the last of the old-growth forests of California and other parts of the world for years, but when Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney and others organized Redwood Summer in 1990, the struggle for the forests got a big boost. It wasn’t long after this campaign that Judi and Darryl were in Oakland. They got back into their car, and a bomb went off.

There were many suspicious events that made many wonder if the FBI’s Cointelpro was still an ongoing phenomenon. Whoever planted the bomb was never apprehended – though initially the authorities apparently suspected the victims themselves.

Judi and Darryl survived the bombing, but Judi was confined to a wheelchair afterwards, and died a few years later.

“Judi Bari” (based on “Joe Hill” by Earl Robinson)

Right To Work/Right To Die (1991)

Government safety inspectors in the US have a sufficient budget to be able to visit one workplace every 29 years or so. One of the many factories never visited by government inspectors was a Tyson chicken processing plant in the little town of Hamlet, North Carolina.

A fire door was locked, against government regulations. The manager was apparently concerned about employee theft of chickens. When a fire started, the workers couldn’t escape, and 25 of them died from fire and smoke inhalation.

Events like these are officially called “accidents.” In this particular case, the manager was punished – after the fact. But the fact that the government in places like North Carolina (and nationally) doesn’t have a budget for any meaningful regime of workplace inspections means that in a factory like the one in Hamlet, with no union representation, workers have little recourse but to quit or put up with the unsafe working conditions.

“Sometimes I Walk the Aisles”

Stumbling Stones (1992)

Social movements in the 1960’s transformed Germany’s educational system, and ultimately turned the society into one of the more introspective societies you’ll come across. Compared to most countries, Germans have a deep knowledge of their history – particularly the bad parts, like the Nazi period.

But when German reunification happened in 1991 there was a major upsurge in attacks on refugees and other signs of fascist sentiments, and many people in Germany were alarmed. People responded in various ways. The way one artist in Cologne responded was to initiate a project known as Stolpersteine, or Stumbling Stones.

Each stone is a small, silent reminder of German history, containing only simple but powerful bits of information – the name of the person or people who lived at the residence in front of which the stone was placed, what date they were deported to Auschwitz or another concentration camp, and what date they died. Usually these dates are in quick succession.

It’s harder to revise history when such reminders of history are everywhere like that. There are many other countries with a history of things like slavery and genocide that could benefit greatly from a similar art project.


Maastricht Treaty in Copenhagen (1993)

Whether people are fans of the European Union project or not, for most people in Europe there has long been a sense of inevitability about EU expansion, and centralization of power in Brussels. When Denmark seemed to be bucking this trend in 1992, voting against greater centralization of EU power in the form of the Maastricht Treaty, this sent shock waves around Europe. The following year, a slightly amended version of the treaty was put to Danish voters again, and this time it won the referendum.

Many Danes felt like there was something underhanded about the vote being put to them two years in a row like that — until Brussels got the response it wanted. There were already fissures in Danish society, and for at least one night, they became more pronounced. In the restive Norrebro district there were riots – and for the first time since the Second World War, Danish police fired live ammunition into the crowd.

In light of the Brexit vote in the UK, many people in Europe are under the impression that being pro-EU is the progressive position, and being against the EU is a more conservative political orientation. Economic policies that protect local economies have long been considered a progressive position, adopted by progressive governments like Denmark’s for centuries. So whether you’re from a country that generally benefits from intelligent governance, or from a left-behind region in a comparatively unequal country like Britain, which is the progressive position and which is the conservative position is a complicated question.

What seems clear is that the far right parties throughout Europe are benefiting from discontent with the EU, whereas the left is largely unable to form a coherent perspective on the whole thing.

“On the Streets of Copenhagen”

The Death of Eric Mark (1993)

A young man named Eric Mark became one more victim of gun violence in the United States, early on the morning of May 1st, 1993. He was keeping an eye out for cops, standing on the sidewalk as comrades of his were spray-painting political slogans on a vacant building in front of him in the Mission District of San Francisco.

A gang of youth pulled up in a car and robbed Eric and another guy Eric was with. They then pointed the gun at Eric’s comrade. Eric stepped in front of the gun, and the youth holding the gun pulled the trigger.

It’s not a typical example of gun violence in the US.  Eric was a white guy from another part of town, and had no involvement with with the gang war that was going on at the time in the Mission District between two Chicano gangs, the Northerners and the Southerners.  The man Eric tried to protect was Chicano, and Eric may have been hoping that since he was white and not involved with the gang conflict, they might be less likely to shoot him.

If you follow the dots, Eric was a victim of racism.  Not anti-white racism, but anti-Chicano racism — if not for racism and the poverty that often accompanies it, there would be no ghettos and no gangs.  Without gangs, no gang wars.  Without gang wars, no gangsters killing other gang members — or random visitors from the other side of town like Eric Mark.

“Song for Eric”

Cordova, Alaska (1993)

Four years after the catastrophic Exxon oil spill, the herring had failed to return. Outraged at Exxon’s lies, and the lies of the oil industry generally about safety and the impact of the spill on aquatic life, the fishing community of Cordova, Alaska rose up. Every seaworthy vessel owned by anyone in the village participated in blockading Prince William Sound for three days and nights.

People knew it would take the authorities three days to get the Coast Guard up from Seattle to deal with such a situation. Before the Coast Guard arrived, the 100 or so boats participating in the blockade ended it.

For three days and nights, oil tankers had circled on either side of the blockade, unable to get in or out of the sound. When the Interior Secretary came to negotiate with people, he had trouble getting to where they were to participate in any negotiations, since every available vessel in the area that might have transported him out there was already participating in the blockade.

The Cordova blockaders agreed to end their action when the Interior Secretary agreed to spend a lot of money on researching the toxicity of oil. This research was done, and as a result of it, more is now officially known about just how toxic oil actually is. (Which the fishing community in Cordova alrady knew.)


Flight 800 (1996)

A commercial airliner full of people came down soon after taking off from New York City. Everyone on board was killed. Dozens of witnesses, including a number of fishermen, clearly saw what appeared to be a surface-to-air missile rising up from the ground, hitting the plane, and causing an explosion, before the plane came down, in pieces.

What occurred next was, to say the least, all extremely suspicious. NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigators never got to see a key piece of the plane, which the FBI held on to – the part where it was hit by a missile. The CIA inexplicably became involved in the case, putting out a propaganda video that supposedly debunked the fishermen and what they saw. In the CIA video they explain that it’s possible to have these sorts of visual hallucinations about surface-to-air missiles, but really it was something else they saw.

But we’re all a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists for even talking about, so go read about something else now.

“Flight 800”

Hugo Chavez (1998)

Hugo Chavez came to prominence in Venezuela by attempting to launch a leftwing military coup against the government there. After serving time in prison for that, he got out of prison, ran for president, and won.

During his short life (he died of cancer in 2013) he would have a seismic impact on the world stage. He’d go on to win every election he ever ran in by a landslide – UN-monitored elections, by the way. He’d institute policies that would lift many of the poorest Venezuelans out of poverty, and Venezuela’s new Bank of the South would help liberate many nations from the debt peonage that so many of them had been suffering from under the policies of the International Monetary Fund.

As with other democratically-elected leftwing governments in Latin America and elsewhere, US leaders from both major parties regularly called Chavez a dictator – despite the obvious lack of a dictatorship. In 2002 some of his opponents launched a coup against him. It succeeded for several days, but the coup-plotters were overwhelmed by the millions of people who poured into the streets, risking their lives to defend their president, who triumphantly returned to power.

“Song for Hugo Chavez”

The Death of David Chain (1998)

In northern California, the conflict between the corporations actively “liquidating their assets” by cutting down the last of the privately-held forests and Earth First took a deadly turn when a logger felled a tree in the direction of an activist named David “Gypsy” Chain, killing him.

“The Death of David Chain”

From Kabul to Khartoum (1998)

In response to twin attacks by Al-Qaeda, the US ups the ante, launching twin attacks of its own. (Al-Qaeda would later up the ante more a few years later.) A school in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan were destroyed in US cruise missile attacks. The pharmaceutical plant was producing essential drugs. Many people would die as a result of the plant’s destruction.

“From Kabul to Khartoum”

Questions/thoughts for further exploration…

Judi Bari (1991)

During the Timber Wars in northern California, the powers-that-be portrayed a situation where it was either jobs or the environment, but not both. Earth First/IWW organizer Judi Bari did more to dispel this myth than anyone.

Right To Work/Right To Die (1991)

In “Right to Work” states like North Carolina there is a higher incidence of workplace accidents. Why is that?

Stolperstein (1992)

What was happening after German reunification that led Gunter Demnig to start his Stolperstein public art project?

On the Streets of Copenhagen (1993)

Opposition to EU expansion is often depicted as being a phenomenon of the right. But who opposed the Maastricht Treaty in Denmark in 1992 and 1993?

Eric Mark (1993)

Each of the thousands of people killed every year in the US by gun violence is a tragedy. Here is one of them, with its own particular peculiarities.

Cordova Blockade (1993)

Another example of civil disobedience getting results.

Flight 800 (1996)

If Flight 800 wasn’t shot down, presumably by accident, then why did so many people see it get shot down? If it was a government cover-up, why did the government want to cover this up, and how did they succeed in doing it?

Hugo Chavez (1998)

He was elected again and again in UN-monitored elections, but US politicians constantly referred to him as a dictator. Why?

The Death of David Chain (1998)

Much was made in the press of the militant tactics of groups like Earth First. But in the course of the Timber Wars it was David “Gypsy” Chain who was killed, not the logger.

From Kabul to Khartoum (1998)

The shock that followed 9/11 in the US would give the impression that Al-Qaeda’s attacks came out of nowhere. Did they?