Once labeled a terrorist, Cherney reflects
WHEN EARTH FIRST! ACTIVIST DARRYL CHERNEY saw the World Trade Center towers fall, he had a mixed reaction.
"My gut reaction when I was told the news that morning was `There go our civil rights.' And that was a correct assumption. Sept. 11th was George Bush's dream come true. It allowed him to consolidate power, to divert attention from the sagging economy and from his piss-poor presidency. And of course it allowed him to crank up the war machinery and go to war for oil."
Since Cherney grew up in New York his fears were tempered with sorrow.
"When I saw the World Trade Center go down I was watching my hometown burn. I immediately called my mom and dad who live there along with my sister. For the first time in a long time I saw New York City as a place that I was personally attached to. I took it personally as well as politically. I knew someone who died in the trade center: Jeff Hardy, who was part of the New York City Folk Musicians Cooperative that I belong to."
Cherney and the estate of the late Judi Bari recently won a $4.4 million award in a long-running legal battle with the FBI and the Oakland Police Department. A jury determined that law officers violated Cherney and Bari's civil rights when the pair were arrested and charged with illegally transporting an explosive device hours after a pipe bomb exploded in Bari's car as she was driving through Oakland in May 1991.
Noting that "in the past I have been called a terrorist by the FBI and the Oakland police," Cherney said that by broadening the definition of terrorist to include nonviolent activists, the government is casting a net so wide that real terrorists are missed.
"The word terrorism has replaced the word Communism. Back in the '80s if you didn't like someone's politics you called them a Communist. Today you call them a terrorist. It's become a generic term for anybody who disagrees with the federal government or the policies of the big corporations."
Cherney condemned Pacific Lumber Co. President Robert Manne for coming before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors a few months ago and equating logging protestors with terrorists (Manne later disavowed the remark).
"To call nonviolent protesters terrorists is to do the public a disservice because there are real terrorists out there: people who bomb airplanes, people who kidnap people, people who blow up buildings. To be in a leadership position like Manne and try to paint those kind of grotesquely violent people and nature-loving tree sitters with the same brush is to set a terrible example.
"If we're going to defend ourselves against terrorism," Cherney went on, "we need to have a clear idea what it is. A terrorist is not just someone you disagree with."
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