Dick, can you tell us when you began at CRS?
I began in June 1968, just before the Democratic Convention in Chicago.
I was hired to be Midwest Regional Director in Chicago. At
the time, there were only four regions; this was the fourth.
What were you doing before you came to CRS?
Immediately before, I was regional director of the Washington D.C. office of the U. S. Small
What kind of work did that entail?
I managed an office that provided financing and management assistance to small businesses
in that region. I came to SBA a couple of years earlier from a career in journalism; I had been
covering SBA for my own publication. At SBA I worked in what was called Lyndon Johnsonís
Poverty Program. It was the economic opportunity loan program nicknamed the minority loan
program to provide loans to businesses that werenít owned by white males. That led me to the
job of regional director of the local office in Washington DC.
What got you interested in CRS?
I heard of it many years earlier actually, and had explored working for the agency when I
was in Washington in the media, but there was nothing available there for me at the time. In 1968
my CRS was looking for someone with experience in race relations and running a federal office.
My name came out of the Civil Service Commission computer. I got a call asking if I was
interested in the job in Atlanta or Chicago. I said I was interested because you always say that
when someone offers you an opportunity, but we were pretty well settled in Washington at the
time. My family had just bought a home in the District of Columbia and we had no thoughts of
moving. So I didnít take this too seriously. I scheduled the interview, but didnít do the usual
preparatory work that I would do if I was seriously interested. Just before the interview Martin
Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and the city went up in smoke. I was in the middle of it
because many of our borrowersí stores were going up in flames. We had a major roll in
responding in the days and weeks after the riots, and all of a sudden the immensity of the work
that had to be done came down on me. I felt that SBA wasnít the best place to be doing it. So I
went to that interview. It was postponed because of the riots, but I went to the interview and
ultimately I was offered a job in Chicago.
How long did you stay there at CRS?
Well I was the Regional Director for fourteen
Why did you leave?
Enough was enough. When I went in, Ramsey Clark, a liberal was the Attorney General.
Lyndon Johnson was President. By the time I arrived in Chicago, and got my certificate of
appointment, it was signed by John Mitchell, President Nixonís conservative Attorney General.
But interestingly, those politics didnít affect us directly for a while. Nixon let the agency
function and grow for about five years before they cut it back. Late4r President Reagan was
there, and I decided it was time to move along. I had never been in a job for as long as three
years before then, so I went back to my ways of moving around.
Can you tell us about a case that typifies your work at CRS?
As Regional Director, my typical work was in supervision and
management. But I did have the opportunity to take cases from time to time. Either I would
choose one, or occasionally, I would be assigned to one. One
case that I developed was a mediation at St. Cloud Reformatory for men in Minnesota. The
agency started a mediation program in 1972. When civil rights protests began moving from the
streets to negotiations tables, there was a need for mediators and CRS was in the vanguard of the
community mediation movement. CRS was established under
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in 1972 moved into mediation. Mediation training was
provided for one mediator and the regional director from each region. We spent two weeks
training in New York and Washington, with former labor mediators who had moved into the
community field through a Ford Foundation-funded program with the American Arbitration
Association. We were trained for two weeks, returned to our offices and the new mediators were
assigned a supervisor out of Washington. Regional Directors were told to find one case to "get
your feet wet.Ē
Now when you say "we,Ē are you saying the Regional Directors were the mediators, or were
the Regional Directors and other people trained to be mediators?
There were two rounds of training. The first was for the mediators in the field. The second
round of training was for the Regional Directors, so theyíd be equipped to do the work as well.
Then mediators were told to identify a case suitable for mediation for themselves. The case I
found and developed lasted for the better part of the year. It was an extraordinary experience.
You donít want to hear it all, but just for the record, I wrote a detailed chapter about
it for the book, "Restorative Justice, _________________, by Galloway and Hudson, published
by Criminal Justice Press in 199_.
I want to say at the outset in discussing this case
that prisons have changed considerably since I did this mediation. Gangs and drugs were not a
major factor in those days. So what we accomplished in the early 1970ís might not be possible
today. Minnesota had a very progressive system which focused on community corrections.
Whenever they could, they would put people in community settings rather than behind bars. So
the people behind bars were the most serious offenders. The youthful ones were at the State
Reformatory for Men in St. Cloud, about 75 miles from the Twin Cities. The background is that
in an effort to change with the times, the reformatory superintendent did some things to recognize
racial differences, and in the process, he inadvertently exacerbated racial tensions within the
institution. St. Cloud had about 450 confined youths. white males predominated. There were
about 25 American Indians, about the same number of African Americans, and five or six
Hispanics. To help compensate for their minority status, the inmates of color were permitted to
organize "cultureĒ groups that had certain privileges. They had outside advisors who came in
and worked with them. They could maintain a cultural organization with an office, telephone
and staff person within the institution; observe ethnic and cultural holidays and conduct a
banquet with outside visitors once a year. This would in some ways compensate for the
Alcoholics Anonymous and Junior Achievement chapters, or other activities in which only white
inmates participated. Everything that moved in that reformatory moved racially. There wasnít
much crossing of lines.
Why did this cause a problem?
At first the culture groups worked fine. Then the white inmates, seeing the esprit,
cohesiveness and sense of community enjoyed by racial minorities, decided that they needed
some organizations. So all of a sudden there was a German culture group, and then there was an
Italian culture group, and they were granted culture group status by the administration. The
German American group was actually a block of inmates devoted to racist activity and they
provoked fights with the black inmates. Rioting broke out on several occasions and some of that
found its way into the Minneapolis newspapers where I learned about it.
I placed a call to the Minnesota Director of Corrections in St.
Paul and suggested that the Community Relations Service might be of assistance. He greeted me
profusely, and the next week I was meeting with him in his office, telling him all the wonderful
things our agency could do. We had a corrections specialist in Washington, we had a mediator in
Dallas, Bob Greenwald, who had just completed a very successful mediation in the Louisiana
The commissioner apologized when I met with him, because his deputy
commissioner, who had oversight of St. Cloud, wasnít present. I told
him that we could assessment conditions at St. Cloud and that we had a training capacity and
mediation capacity and we would be pleased to go on-site and work with them.
He said he was interested and that I would be hearing from his deputy within
the week. But two weeks passed and there was no call. When I called the commissioner he was
surprised, and the next day his deputy phoned to tell me he thought they had the situation at the
reformatory under control. But he called me back two weeks later and said, "Weíve had some
more racial problems. Can you send us a team? I think we need some training.Ē So Jim Freeman, the corrections specialist from our Washington office went in with
Efrain Martinez from my office and they did an assessment. Jim found deplorable conditions
there. Institutional policies and procedures were unclear and management was weak. There
were plans to make major structural and programmatic changes in the institution which Jim felt
the staff was not trained to handle. He felt it would be inappropriate to provide training at this
juncture. Until the policies were sorted out and certain other things happened, training would not
be productive. That was his report.
Stop a second and go backwards and tell me how he went about this
Well, the way he did it (the way it was often done) is the team went on-site. Remember, we
had the commissioner who was at the top in St. Paul and very supportive of our work. Then
came his deputy who was following his instructions with little enthusiasm, and then the
superintendent of St. Cloud and his administrators. The structure beneath that was the
corrections officers. They were union members of the American Federation of State, County and
Municipal Employees (AFSCME). They are the lowest-paid state civil servants and probably
the least educated. This is significant because they are often outwitted by the inmates, who may
not be well educated, but have great street smarts and are very clever. Then you had the
administration and the inmates. The team went in and interviewed
administrators, staff and the counselors. They asked questions and kept their eyes open and
developed some understanding of what was happening there. Jim had worked in the Washington
DC jail system and he knew what to look for.
Did they talk to residents?
They probably did, but I do not recall. This was to assess training needs and the
appropriateness of training. The reason administrators wanted the training was to prepare staff for
a major restructuring of the institution that would segregate the inmates by their job or school
assignments, rather than what they had, which turned out to be largely by race. They did not
isolate inmates racially, but common sense told them that the five Hispanics should be in the
same cellblock. Most of the American Indians stayed out of trouble and were able to live
together in the honor cell house. Blacks were lived in three cellblocks, but most were in one.
whites obviously were scattered throughout.
Okay, so they didnít assess much?
CRS conducted an assessment and found out that it would not be wise at this junction to
make this major change ion the reformatory structure. Staff and inmate morale was low. The
new structure would disperse and in many cases isolate inmates of color. There were policy
issues and underlying management questions which needed resolution before the changes were
made and the training took place.
So what did they recommend?
I donít recall their recommendations, except that the training they wanted would not help
the staff address the underlying problems that were leading to disruptive inmate behavior. So
nothing further happened then. I did not know whether we would hear from then
It was about two or three months after my first meeting with the commissioner that I got another
call from the deputy commissioner in St. Paul. It was a Friday afternoon and I was in a judgeís
office in Cleveland where we were working on that cityís school desegregation case. I received
an urgent message from my office to call the deputy in St. Paul. When I reached him he tried to
sound relaxed and casual as he told me " said, Iíve got a few problems, do you think you can
get out here Monday morning?Ē He told me the reformatory was in "lock up,Ē because there
had been another racial rioting incident.
I went in the following week with Efrain Martinez from my staff and with Bob
Greenwald from Dallas and a young African American program specialist from the Federal
Department of Corrections. We spent a week there doing an
assessment. Thatís really where the story begins about the mediation. I told you about the
inmate groups. We went to see the superintendent and his top staff.
They gave us the run of the place throughout the week the reformatory was in lock up, which is
very dangerous because tensions become very high. But they insisted it was
too dangerous to let the residents out of their cells. The administrators felt they had been very
progressive and fair in their treatment of inmates of color. The administration had disbanded the
German American group because it was clearly there to cause racial problems. The
superintendent also denied permission from inmates who wanted to form a Scottish cultural club.
The administrators supported staff and would not end the lock up.
So we proceeded to interview the inmate groups. Each also had outside advisors.
The Italian American
groupís support came from Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners (LAMP) from the
University of Minnesota law school. LAMP had students who would provide assistance to the
culture group. Every other week, this very attractive young law student in a mini skirt would sit
with her legs crossed while a dozen gawking, very light-haired and light-complected Italians with
names like Smith, and Larson, would sit and listen to her talk about Italian culture or give Italian
lessons. This got them out of their boxes. They werenít making any trouble for anybody, but
they obviously didnít have anything beyond that which bound them together. So we interviewed
the corrections officers. We interviewed each of the ethnic groups, and the leadership of the
groups. Many of them came together and we spoke to white inmates as well. Also the stateís
Ombudsman for Corrections and the director of the St. Cloud Human Rights Commission.
And what were you asking?
We were trying to get a fix on the place. We wanted to know why were they still in lock up.
The guards were saying tensions were too high, that it was too dangerous to end the lock up. But
that was not our perception when we talked to the residents. When we met with the American
Indian group, as I said, they were mostly well behaved within the institution. They avoided
overtures, they said, from the Black Brotherhood Development and Cultural Organization
(BBDCO), to partner with them. They wanted to be left alone.
The BBDCO was another organization within the prison?
Thatís the black group. This is the American Indian group. And they were just concerned
that their people be taken care of and they wanted no part of the violence. There were half a
dozen, 5 or 6 Hispanic inmates, Mexican American, and they too, would align with the American
Indians. They didnít want any part of any violence.
And, in fact, hadnít been part of it earlier?
Probably not. I donít remember, but probably not. There were only a few and they stayed
to themselves. There was a segment of the white population that was overtly racist and would
attack the blacks. The blacks were quick to respond. Keep in mind, virtually everybody in that
place was there for a crime of serious violence. Murder or serious assault. Otherwise you could
get out and work a community program.
And these were teenagers, I gather?
Up into their early 20's
So after you talked to them all what did you decide to do?
Well, then we had to sit down and see what we could come up with.
It was difficult to get in to see the black inmates. They were a Muslim group. I was the "white devil", (which they later called me in their newsletter) who could not be
trusted. They verbally abused me. You know, you expect some of that. The BBDCO said "we
canít end the lock up," and it became apparent to us that they were using the lock up, as
leverage against the institution. Nobody in the reformatory wanted to be in lock up,
but the BBDCO was using it politically. Creating a scare by saying it wasnít safe. It wasnít
clear why they did this, but perhaps it gave them some power. As I
walked out of the room I remember a BBDCO leader pounding on the table and waving his fist at
me and saying, "there ainít going to be no mediation in this place and if there is, itís going to
be in front of television cameras.Ē So that told me that the only question we had to resolve
ultimately would be the openness of mediation to the press.
I had the good fortune some weeks earlier to meet a women named Gwen Davis who ran
the Antioch Minneapolis Communiversity, an affiliate of my alma mater, Antioch college in
Yellow Springs, Ohio. We coincidentally met on an airplane. I remembered that she had told me
that her husband, Syl, worked with prisoners. I called Syl from St. Cloud, told him what I was
doing there and he came out to the institution with Raymond Johnson, an ex-offender, who
regularly worked with the BBDCO.
And were they black?
Yes. They were also teaching courses at St Cloud. When they agreed to support ;the
mediation effort, it gave CRS credibility with the inmates. Eventually the black inmates agreed
to come to the table. There were conditions, but basically everyone finally agreed to come to the
table. I also enlisted the help of T. Williams, the Ombudsman for
And Iím presuming he was white?
No, T. Williams was black. I also had support from Phyllis Janey, director of the St. Cloud
Human Rights Commission who at times would intervene in problems at the reformatory. I also
gained support from groups such as the Minnesota Legal Assistance Program, a reservation
attorney and an Hispanic attorney who occasionally worked with the culture groups. So they all
knew we were there and we kept them advised of what we were doing. Most of them could not
give us much time, but their support was important. Their involvement gave credibility to the
We finally gave our report to the superintendent and we told him we thought the lock up
should end and that an effort should be made to bring people together and start to talk about their
You made this report before you had gotten people to the table, correct?
Oh yes. There had been no meetings, except that everyone had met with us. Along the way
we learned that the corrections officers were angry at the way the place was run and were very
angry at the administration. "If there is a table, itís going to be a three sided table," they told us.
They were upset at unclear policies and inconsistent procedures that made their work more
difficult and endangered their safety. They didnít want mediation, but they didnít have a
better alternative. After listening to their frustrations, I said to the union leaders, "You know, it
sounds as though youíre in prison too.Ē And they felt that way.
What made you decide that getting people to the table was the direction that you wanted to
I could facetiously say that my office sent me out to get a mediation. But it just seemed that
there was a lot of misunderstanding and need for change and I didnít know any better way to get
change than to get everyone involved in the process. It had to come from within the institution.
They didnít want advice from the outside.
So the superintendent accepted our report and said he wanted us to present it to his team
of corrections officers the following morning. What I didnít tell you earlier is that when we
arrived at the institution he had set up what he called his mediation team. These were young
officers, including the three black officers in the institution. Again all men, although there were
a couple of women who worked there.
So when you say officers, do you mean guards?
Guards. Yes, corrections officers. So he had set up this team and we had interviewed its
members as well as the others and they had told us how bad things were and how dangerous it
would be to end the lock up. And these were younger, more progressive members of the staff.
Well, we came back the next morning to give them our report and we walked into the room
where they had asked us to meet with them. It was a conference room. Maps and plans were
spread out on the table. They said, "we appreciate what you are saying, but we think that before
we open up this place we need to reorganize, so that the whole institution will never be together
again. Weíre going to change the dining areas, weíre going to feed in shifts and in different
places, recreation and visiting will be in different places too. People will live together by job,
and by school assignment. This was the original reorganization plan they had on the table when
we first intervened months earlier, a plan to decimate the inmates of color.
They said ,"We feel that this is necessary.Ē I said, "But I thought you told us that you had to wait
for more money from the legislature so you could do the construction and provide the training?Ē
They said, "We think we can manage. We figured it out and we can squeeze through until the
legislature appropriates the money. Itís imperative that we do it now.Ē It became apparent that
we were a threat to them. There was no place for negotiations in their plan. They were
determined that the lock up would not end until the reorganization was in place.
I went back and told the superintendent, "I understand what you are doing and there is no way we
can pursue mediation under these conditions.Ē I wished him well and told him to let me know if
we might be of assistance in the future.
Had you suggested that it would be helpful to get everybody to sit down at the table at that
When we met with him the previous night and met with his mediation team, we suggested
that we engage in a mediation process. But they didn't want that. They had this other plan.
So I called the deputy director in St. Paul and told him we were withdrawing. To my
surprise he urged me not to make a hasty decision. He asked me wait until he could be there in
the morning. He obviously was feeling squeezed by the superintendent on the one hand and the
commissioner on the other. By this time my team had disbanded and only Martinez and I were in
St. Cloud. The next morning when we met with the superintendent and the deputy they said they
wanted mediation to proceed. They agreed to suspend plans for the reorganization and end the
lock up. They said they would not pursue the reorganization until they saw what happened at
mediation. So we started planning for mediation.
We asked the office of the Ombudsman to help us select who would come to the table.
The first question was who would b e at the table. We could not have less then two from any one
party because people needed support. So if you start with the Hispanic group you have to have at
least two. And you needed two from the so-called Italian group. The BBDCO needed six seats at
the table for political reasons within the group which meant there had to be six from the
American Indian group. We ended up with sixteen from the ethnic groups plus sixteen from the
general (white) inmate population, four representatives from each of the four cellblocks. The
culture groups would select their own representatives, the white inmates would hold elections.
The Ombudsmanís office agreed to conduct the cell block elections. The administration and
corrections officers could bring as many as they wanted, which we knew would be fewer than the
So how many people all together were
around the table?
We also agreed that not everybody would sit at the table. Some of
the 32 would participate as observers behind the table, but if they wanted to speak, they could
move up to the table. That gave us workable numbers at the table.
We then conducted the elections which were absolutely wonderful.
The greatest leadership qualities came out in some of these cellblocks.
Young men encouraging their fellow inmates to participate, "This is your chance to have a word,
a say on how this place in run,Ē they implored. We found that the prison
residents wanted more then anything else, to get out of the box, and this election would give
them the chance to get out of their cells. Also, they want to confront "the man." They
were going to sit across the table. They were going to elect their representatives, they were going
to caucus, set up agendas. They all finally came together when we had everything set. They had
the elections, paper ballots, the whole bit. It worked. The place was just running like a top at
this point. There was a high level of anticipation and then the group started working on their
All the groups together?
No, they insisted on doing it separately. There was no trust between them. You maybe
could bring the Indians and the Hispanics together, but every group insisted on working on their
Were you working with them?
Yes, Efrain and I would come back every other week to work with them. Now we had some
problems with Washington because here's the Regional Director having the time of his life,
working on this wonderful case. But I had
enough background in media and the Washington world to know how to handle this. I was able
to get the support from the commissioner, getting a letter when I needed it. We got an editorial
in the Minneapolis Star praising the process, saying maybe this is what's needed. As long as we
had this support, my own director in Washington supported the effort.
So when you said "background in the media,Ē it suggests that you placed the editorial or you
As a former newspaper reporter for Sun News, I know how to work with the media.
Feed them information?
No, I didn't feed them information. But what is appropriate, and what I often had my staff
do in high visibility cases, was to offer background briefings to newspaper editors. I routinely
did this when we had a school desegregation case to let the media know what we were doing and
understand how we worked. This helped assure accurate reporting and sometimes resulted in
favorable editorials. Also, the inmates were free to talk to the press. That was one of their rights
It took the inmates weeks to get their agendas completed. Meanwhile, some of the most
constructive and effective leaders were being paroled. Others were having problems and were
put into segregation, which means they were isolated from the general population. A few times
BBCDO charged racism when its leaders were put on segregation and the organization refused to
work with us until they were out. The agenda process started in winter and now we're getting
into spring and summer.
Were you working with the entire group at this point, meaning the entire group of blacks, or
just the two?
The culture groups came together as culture groups, or those who were interested in working
on the agenda.
All the people in the culture group, or those elected to represent the
That's right. Elected or designated because of power plays. But whoever ended up in the
group wrote its agenda. The white inmates were making great progress with their agenda.
When you're talking about agenda...
Each was making up their laundry list of the things they wanted to
bring up at the table.
That translated into their interests?
These were their interests, and they covered the waterfront. They
were very serious ones, primarily from the racial minorities, related to disciplinary actions.
That seemed to be racially oriented?
Yes. Everyone agreed there was a disproportionately large number of blacks going to
detention, there was no question about it. Guards said it was because of the way people behave,
blacks said it was because of racism. This had to be addressed. Issues went all the
way down to whether inmates should have rugs in their cells. Also, whether television sets,
which had to arrive in a new box, could come from a repair shop, where drugs or other
contraband might be smuggled in with it. Censorship of the inmate newspaper. Visiting times
and places. Food, Canteen issues. Scores of items found their way onto the agenda.
Let me now get us to the table. It took a lot of prodding to get the inmate groups to
complete their agendas. The BBDCO didnít really buy in, and they loved the time out of their
cells. They were negotiating, and a coffee cart or donuts would come to the room where they
were putting their agenda together and theyíd be sitting with their feet up doing no work. It
took forever, but with the help of the outside groups, we finally got some agendas together.
One day the Hispanic inmates came to Efrain Martinez and said, "Hey can we trust
that guy Salem?Ē He said, "Ah, what do you mean?" "Heís white, how can you trust him?"
"But what do you have to lose?Ē I was the white devil.
That never changed?
I doubt it. I wouldnít expect it to change in a prison environment and sometimes its true
outside. It is hard to tell how much is real and how much is rhetoric. When Mandela was
negotiating with deKlerk, one of them, because his constituency demands it, stands up and blasts
the other ruthlessly over an unacceptable position or statement. This happens, and then you
figure out how to make it right. They understand what is going on, so they can see their way
through it, and this was happening here. For some of the BBDCO members, I was white and had
to be the enemy. Ok they needed an enemy and I was the target at that point. We finally got the
agendas, and we called a meeting of all of the residents.
Did you contribute to the agendas, or did you just record what they tell you?
No, we took what they said I took their agenda items and then I
rewrote and organized it for clarity. I started with some simple, easy to resolve issues including
those where I knew the inmates would win. Censorship matters, food issues, creature comfort
matters. I put some of the heavy duty ones further down. I wanted them to see they could reach
agreement on some issues. Pretty standard text.
Along the way, the Italian American group could not come up with
anything meaningful for its portion of the agenda. They wanted sick leave for the work program.
That was their issue, sick leave. Thatís all they could think. Their leader said, "We really
donít have anything here,Ē and during the course of the mediation, the Italian Americans
acknowledged they werenít a culture group. They had no issues and they were beginning to
feel awkward. It didnít really manifest itself until later at the table when they basically said,
"Weíre dissolving, because we have no reason to be here.Ē While listening to others at the
table, they came to understand and appreciate the plight of the racial minority groups, and they
didnít want to be there.
Now are you saying you created a black agenda and a white agenda?
No, no. I merged all of the agenda items, but the cultural items were often grouped.
So how do you decide whoís issues go above whoís? Did that ever become an issue?
No it didnít. I started off with easy ones to resolve and then moved along. Those were
mostly creature comforts proposed by the general population.
So now we come to the table. We start talking about some of the
creature comfort issues. One of the first issues, for example, was censorship of the newspaper.
They had a very credible newspaper. Censorship actually violated the state law. So at the first
session, the deputy, the assistant commissioner, and the assistant superintendent agreed this was
something we could work out. Censorship of mail was an issue. The administration agreed, "We
donít have to open all incoming mail. We donít have to read every outgoing letter.Ē Delivery
of books and magazines brought by visitors; it would sometimes take 48 hours to get the package
to the residents. "We can do better,Ē the administrators agreed. We were making progress. Even
though these were relatively minor issues, they began to build credibility into the process.
These were agenda items from the white residents, but that was okay. The inmates of
color were at first untrusting of the process and were laying back, waiting to see what was going
to happen. The Indians were sitting there saying, "Our only issue is that we want a reservation in
the prison.Ē That was the last agenda item because I knew where that was headed.
With each issue, the inmates were articulating their case and doing it well. Then they got
to the problem of hair in the food. This was a wonderful story. This was at a time when a lot of
guys were wearing long hair and that included servers on the food line. The resident negotiators
were complaining bitterly and the corrections officers and administrators were sitting there
contributing little. One of them says, "Yeah, we noticed the problem but we donít know what
to do about it.Ē An inmate leader reached into his pocket, took out a hairnet, and dropped it on
the table. "Would you wear that?Ē a corrections officer asked. The inmate reached over, picked
up the hair net, removed the cellophane wrapper and placed on his head. . Nothing else was said.
He wore the hair net all morning. The matter was resolved.
Canteen items was an issue. What can be sold in the canteen? And then how is the money
spent? Money from the canteen went to a social fund. Some of the profits from the canteen went
back to the inmates, and they didnít trust how it was being used. We were fortunate because the
husband of the head of the St. Cloudís Human Relations Commission managed canteens for the
VA hospital. So he came in as a consultant and would review the operations and confirm that
everything was on the up and up.
What could be sold in the canteen? Hispanic residents wanted salsa. "Well, we canít allow
salsa in the canteen because thatís a weapon,Ē an officer said. "You can throw that in
somebodyís eyes and blind them." "Well, you let us carry our Zippo lighters and you let us buy
lighter fluid,Ē was the response, "and you give us these cans of varnish spray for the arts and
crafts shop. You think thatís not a weapon?" "Ok you can have salsa and other foods." Playboy
magazine was an issue in the canteen. The rugs in the cells. The doors wouldnít close properly
if the rugs werenít set back properly, so they had removed all floor coverings and that created a
fuss. They resolved that issue, but it was not included in the written agreement; nobody wanted
the public knowing that they were negotiating over rugs for the cells. As we solved each issue,
Iíd write it up, bring it back the next time for everyone to approve.
How often were you meeting?
Every other week. We had a problem which almost capsized mediation very early in the
process. Residents got a
hold of a confidential memo that said in two weeks, construction of a new dining room was to
begin as the first step of the reorganization. This was in total violation of our agreement. I had
assured the inmates that this wouldnít happen. I phoned and called the deputy director who
said, "No, this shouldnít be happening. I didnít know that they were going to head that way,
but I guess they plan to.Ē I then phoned the commissioner and said, "It looks like we are going to
have to stop mediation. What Iíd like to do is meet with you and the support team to the
inmates.Ē I rented a room at the Holiday Inn for the next morning and we met there at eight
oíclock. The BBDCO support group from Minneapolis was there. The lawyer for the
Hispanics was there, about seven of us. We met with the commissioner and we told him what
had happened. He was furious.
Now Iíll tell you what was going on. The deputy commissioner was an alcoholic. I
suspected something when I saw him dancing with a young blonde one night at the tower of the
St. Paul Hilton, where I used to stay when I was in St. Paul. I foolishly said hello to him, and he
didnít even acknowledge me. I figured something was going on. Heíd been on health leave a
few times. The Commissioners said, "Iím going to fire him and Iím going to remove the
As we left he said, "I want mediation to continue, so Iím going to remove them. Iím going to
appoint Orville Pung acting deputy and his only job is going to be to supervise this. Iím going
to remove the superintendent and who else do you recommend go?" I said, "Donít remove the
superintendent." Let Orville Pung decide that one. There I was giving him advice, which
seemed to be appropriate at the time. He was so angry he was going to fire half of them. Orville
Pung came in and we continued mediation without a problem. The mediator was finally
controlling the process. Pung, incidentally, went on to become Commissioner of Corrections.
So what happened about this document?
They stopped everything.
Was the document valid at the time?
Yes, there was a document out there. Someone found it. No one denied it. The other piece
of this is the deputy commissioner reportedly had been involved in a hit and run accident in the
St. Cloud area. The incident was hushed up, but they were holding this over his head.
Okay, on with the agenda. Everyone wasnít happy up there, and
I remember scheduling a mediation for the opening day of duck hunting season. Only a fool
plans any business in rural Minnesota on that day. But nobody alerted me.
The mediation was a long and tedious
process. Some of these issues move quickly and easily, but throughout there were tensions.
There was one point
when BBDCO complained that they were being harassed, people were being put in lock up.
They refused to come to the table for a while.
And did you proceed without them?
We did on some issues, with their concurrence. I suggested they send an observer in the
room to sit and watch without participating. I donít remember if they did, but I would not have
proceeded without consent. There was also one incident when a white inmate got so ticked off
that he verbally abused one of the guards. "You donít know what itís like, you s.o.b.Ē The
officers all walked out and we had to wait a half-hour until they came back.
There was a continuing problem at the institution that cut across mediation. The
attorneys from the university could be discourteous and abrasive with the staff when they came to
meet with residents. The officers disliked them. One of the attorneys
caught me one day and said, "We are having trouble gaining entry. They hold us up till the
superintendent is here or his associate is here. Then, they hold us up at the gate, then they donít
escort us downstairs and we are losing an hour every time we visit. We arenít going to stand
for this.Ē I asked them if they had talked to the superintendent about it?" "We shouldnít have
to talk to the superintendent," they said, but they agreed to do so and I said I would work with
them to get the matter resolved.
The legal assistance attorneys were not participating in mediation
at this point, but when we opened the next session that afternoon, one the attorneys and a student
stormed into the room and announced that they were not going to represent the inmates any more
if they were going to be harassed by the staff. "This is an issue which I want resolved here and
now or we arenít coming back to this institutionĒ he said. You can image the response of the
inmates. They then caucused with the legal team behind a locked door for 45 minutes. They
hadnít been there for three weeks and all of a sudden they came in and made this announcement
and caucused across the hall. Eventually they came back and the issue was resolved. I donít
remember the details, but there were assurances given and then they disappeared again.
What were you doing while this was going on?
I was cooling my heels. What can you do when the group caucuses and they donít want
you there? Usually, you wait awhile and give them some time and stick your head in to see if
you can be a positive factor. But they wouldnít let me in. Oh, they were furious. That ended
and we got through that.
We were making progress on the agenda. Finally we got to the culture groups.
Throughout this, there was some wonderful understanding going on.
Let me just back up and talk about one of the other general
issues - visiting hours. There was insufficient space for visitors, but there was no money to
expand the visiting area. The request of the inmates was to have more visiting space. The
administration agreed to include money to expand the visiting area in their next budget
submission to the legislature and they would arrange outside visiting facilities when the weather
permitted. They also said that if the residents would agree to move out quickly and return to
their cells promptly after visits, an additional 15 to 30 minutes would be added to the visiting
day. So they were able to work together on some of these issues and come away with a better
understanding of the problems.
A number of the answers were "we donít have staff to supervise this, that and the other
thing." From the inmates perspective, at shift change they would see double shifts standing
around for 30 minutes with hands in their pockets. Well, the reality was that it was important to
have both shifts present when head counts are taken at shift changes. That requires overlapping.
So again, the best they could do there was to say, "If after your culture group meets, you can get
back to your cell within fifteen minutes, weíll give you an extra fifteen minutes of meeting
time." So they were able to work out some of that. They gave them an inmate staff for their
culture groups, they gave them certain telephone privileges for the culture groups, so they really
got some benefits from that.
So was this going primarily one way, where the inmates are saying, "We want this," and to
the extent that they could comply, the administration would?
The inmates were really effective and
articulate in expressing the problems and helping come up with ideas. They are creative and
intelligent guys, as intelligent as anyone else in the room. They just took another path in their
And the administration was...
Open to anything reasonable. Oh yeah. I think they were all legitimate. They were under
pressure now. Orville Pung was in the room much of time, not always, but much of the time.
They gave more then they had to in some cases, and then the union got upset that they did. So at
the union meeting, they denounced what was going on to some extent, but they hung in there.
More training for staff came out of this, human rights training, civil rights training. When new
staff was hired, inmates from the culture groups would have an opportunity to brief them.
Then they had the hard issues. First, was the disciplinary
procedures. The African American inmates brought in not only an outside advisor, but also a
psychiatrist. The psychiatrist talked about what happens when you deprive inmates, for example,
of showers, or calls home. They used behavior modification, and thatís quite controversial.
Now how did the inmates have connections with the psychiatrist?
An outside support group. Pro bono assistance. A young psychiatrist came up and helped.
Did you facilitate this in anyway?
No, that wasnít necessary in this case. The Ombudsman undertook a study of the
disciplinary procedure, and it was agreed, that his office would review every disciplinary
procedure for racism. A black lieutenant, Westbrook, was put in charge of disciplinary
procedures. Inmates were granted hearings if
racism was alleged. There was some increased understanding of why the black residents were so
loud when they came down the hall after their meetings. Have you ever walked by a black
church on Sunday morning and heard the joyous singing? Well thatís another side of the coin
to the pain, too. Some of this came out at the sessions. The American Indiansí need for
solidarity came out when we talked about their issues. So good things happened.
Meanwhile, guys are getting paroled, guys are locked up, and things are dragging along.
The main issue remaining was the reservation.
The American Indians wanted a reservation within St. Cloud. They knew it would not be
allowed, but in lieu of a reservation, they wanted to be able to provide their own Indian
counselors when an Indian inmate was in trouble. So a guy could be taken from his cell and
counsel his friend or the other inmate. The corrections officers absolutely refused to consider the
matter. They drew their line. "Thatís our job, we are correctional counselors.Ē And the
administration stood with them.
Stood with who?
The guards. Now the Indians, I think, the leadership knew they would not get a break on
their reservation. They knew better. But not because they didn't have an eloquent plea. And the
sad part is that the guards or administrators were unable to come up with a single argument
against the proposal for peer counselors.
So did they get any of their major issues?
Culture group issues, but the American Indians did not get the one thing they said was most
important, well, the two things really. One was the reservation and the other was the Indians
counseling Indians. To me, it sounded like there was great logic to that
issue, but the administration would not budge and that was its concession to the guards, who felt
that the administration was giving away the institution. I didnít even make a serious effort to
intervene, because I know the logic was there and it was so clear. Youíd cry to hear this guy
make his plea. "The Indians are in trouble, no one is going to help them like a brother. Let us
help our brothers.Ē "Ah, forget it. Thatís our job.Ē So they the Indians didnít come back to
the table after that.
The last issue, and we were saving this one, was the Inmate/Staff Advisory Council,
ISAC, that would be established to deal with future problems on any matters unresolved from our
agenda. ISAC would be there, and the question was who would be represented. Everybody
agreed the culture groups should have representation. Nobody felt they shouldnít have special
representation. Every cell block plus culture groups. Thatís when the Italian leader said, not
the Italians. He understood. He'd grown some in that process and there was a lot of that kind of
transformation. An angry Hispanic inmate said to Charlie Davenport, the associate director who
was viewed as compassionate and a friend of the inmate, "You don't even know my birthday.
You don't care about me. You deserted me, you took a promotion to be associate director. You
used to handle programs, now you're associate director. You deserted me. You don't care about
me. You don't even know my birthday." That was a stinger. People saw how they were seen.
So they set up ISAC, and the big controversy was if there is a reorganization of the institution,
will they still permit the inmate groups to come together in culture groups? The answer was yes.
The administration yielded on that critical issue. That was a big concession, but it also was the
So reorganization, per se, was not to be decided by this case mediation, or was it?
No it was not. That wasn't to be decided there. The arguments were made by the inmates
about the need to keep racial groups together, give them support. There was a wonderful article
along the way in the inmate newspaper. It said something to the effect, "at least people are
listening to each other, and that was sort of nice." A little bit of the best side came out of these
kids. Some of them lost patience. Some lost interest, but that you'd expect too.
So we had all the issues there, everything was neatly typed up
and now we're going to have the signing ceremony. I did call the media and tell a reporter what
was happening. So in the morning paper, there would be an article in the Star or the Tribune.
The morning paper said that an agreement has been reached on ten issues and included this and
that, and didn't mention rugs or televisions. We did talk about some other things and the
important things, such as the review of disciplinary procedures. I arrived at the reformatory
found that very few people wanted to bother with the signing ceremony. The administration was
there, but the Indians boycotted it. That meant the Hispanics are boycotting it. Reluctantly, the
blacks sent one guy and one of the support groups was there.
Now why were they boycotting?
The Indians? Because they felt it was useless, they didn't get what they wanted despite the
logic of their argument. Hispanics are their supporters. The Hispanics had only one issue. A
room had been promised them for arts and crafts. They had a kiln which had been donated, and
they wanted a crafts room. It had been promised to them prior to mediation, but somebody
reneged on the promise. I believe there were only three or four Hispanics at St. Cloud at this
time. So nobody came to the signing ceremony, and with as much grandeur as I could muster, I
walked over to the one black in there, out of the eight who were usually there, and his advisor
who was there and he signed. And the whites were there, and they signed, with the
administration and the guards and me as a witness. Then I got a call from the afternoon paper
asking me, "Did it really matter that everybody didn't sign?" The residents had been talking to
the press. I said "Absolutely not, the agreement stands." We actually delayed the signing for two
weeks because of the stateís gubernatorial election. We signed after Election Day. That's
because no governor wants either corrections or mental health in the newspapers. They just don't
want any publicity on those issues at election time. I didn't have to be told that.
About two years later, I sat on the panel with one St. Cloud
resident and two administrators at an international corrections association meeting in
Minneapolis. We did a panel on the mediation and that's where I found out that they'd
reorganized the institution. "Yes, the mediation helped, but we really think it was our
I got wondering fifteen years later, and I went back again to St. Cloud,
and that was a wonderful experience. First I met with Commissioner Orville Pung in St. Paul
and he arranged for the superintendent to see me. I drove out to St. Cloud, and as soon as I got
there I was told he had just left for lunch; he stood me up for an hour and a half just like he
always had. He came back and we talked. He said things were going well. He said, "Yes, the inmates-staff council is still meeting. In fact, they're meeting this
afternoon, do you want to go?" So I went down, and they were just starting their meeting. There
was the same psychologist who had been there fifteen years earlier; he was now associate
superintendent. Lt. Westbrook was still in charge of disciplinary actions; he later told me things
were going well. At the meeting, an inmate representative complained about guards shining
flashlights in the eyes of residents at night, and about sheets coming back torn from the laundry,
It all sounded familiar, but now there was a forum to address and discuss things.
Were these mediated at all, or were these agreements self-negotiated?
They were all self-negotiated, but there certainly was a collaborative discussion with the
psychologist who had been there all these years. That was their style anyway. Right after the
mediation closed, the Indians went on boycott and had a sit-in and were put in segregation for a
When you say put in segregation, separated?
Disciplinary action. They put them in a certain area with isolation. The nature of prisons has
changed, and you can't do that through mediation today.
You have gangs, more toughness, you have out-of-state prisoners who come in, you have
drugs, and you can't stop it. So that's my story.
So what can you do today if this sort of thing doesn't work?
Different population groups, different techniques. In Washington State there is a mediation
program that is working in a state prison. They are doing some mediation of inmate disputes, I
don't know how it's working, but they were actually teaching conflict resolution, teaching the
inmates better ways to talk and solve problems. In another program elsewhere, the guards and
staff were given training and conflict resolution skills, and they lived in settings with inmates
where it was safe to do so. They tried to change the culture of the corrections officers. So you
do what you can do, basically.
I think the most difficult thing is finding a way to treat people as human beings. You take
the edge off the prison experience and the edge off the intent of leaders who want to keep a
hostile environment of guards and prisoners at all times. That's humanity. The thing Mandela
did in Robin Island is to get his jailers to love him, and to respect him, and that way he and his
colleagues survived. If you can find ways to make it more humane, it is better. But everything
dictates against it. One of the problems in St. Cloud was that Minnesota had such a good
corrections system that most of the best talent was drawn to the community programs. The worst
assignment would be an institution like St. Cloud. Mostly local people work there. To attract the
person of color from the Twin Cities is very difficult, because who would want to be there and
live in that community? It was basically a white community. There were so many natural
barriers, there has to be an extraordinary effort and the public just doesn't care enough. The
whole plan of today is incarceration and take away the human factors. Who cares? Take away
the television sets and the movies. He committed a crime, lock him up. But if you can get the
staff, you need leadership, in a place where there is leadership, you can do these things. I was
able to do it there, they wanted it in Louisiana because there was interest. But there are a lot of
places where there is not.
You don't think there are places where you could get that now?
Yeah, there probably are. But whether these techniques would work there, I don't know.
Also, CRS was a little unrealistic because I was on the government payroll, as were my people,
so nobody had to worry about who paid us. That's a real factor when you're doing these kinds of
disputes and this kind of work outside of a government setting. Who pays you? You need a
foundation, you need to find out, and instead of haggling or figuring out who gets what, that adds
a dimension that makes it more difficult.
Why did you send
four people up originally? That sounds like a higher number than our other interviewees in the
The first assessment that I did, we sent Jim Freeman from the Washington staff and one field
worker from my region with him. That was about par for the course. I might have even sent
Greenwald up because he was a specialist, too, having done Louisiana. When I went in, I just
figured I needed all the help I could get. Greenwald was available, and that just made me
stronger, I wouldn't have known how to interpret anything up there. The guys could help me, and
then I just winged it after that.
Were you ever able to do anything to
improve your credibility with the blacks?
Oh sure, but they just couldn't acknowledge it. They got good things out of this, just like
everybody else did, and they were intelligent. You don't expect people to trust you because they
are still incarcerated and you are outside. When you leave them, you go and meet with the man
upstairs and they know that. So I don't make any pretenses. I try to gain their trust, but I expect
only limited success. At St. Cloud, mediation was the best thing the residents had going for them
at that point in time. And their trusted outside advisors told them that. That's why they were
ready to discontinue the lock in. If you have no credibility whatsoever, then you might as well
pack it in and leave.
Is there anything else you did to build credibility that you haven't mentioned?
At one point, I brought in Ellis McDougal
as a consultant. He was corrections commissioner in Georgia at the time and a consultant to
CRS. He met with Orville Pung. Being able to bring in that kind of guy is useful. You never
know if that helps or doesn't help the credibility, but I think it does.
I think one thing that was very important was always doing what I said I would do, when I
said I would do it. I found judges appreciated this, amazingly, when we did a court-referred
mediation. If I say I am going to call on Thursday afternoon, then I call on Thursday afternoon.
No postponements, no delays, and they do appreciate that. In this case too, if I said I was going
to do something, I did it.
Was your impartiality ever questioned?
I assume so. I assume when I came in, I was the guy there who cared about race relations and
human rights, so what do I know about the real world. And I'm sure the residents questioned it
much of the time. Not because of what I did, but because I was from the outside and the
superintendent had the key. If absolute trust was required, I never would've gotten near the place.
It's just that what did they have to lose? The African American inmates, whose support I gained,
began to trust me and the process because people they trusted, their lifeline to the outside,
advised them that it was safe to do so.
What did you do to diminish tensions between the parties?
When we entered, tensions were exceedingly high. I could observe no level of trust
whatsoever. The game for inmates was to taunt the corrections officers, who didn't want to be
there in the first place, but had to be there because that was their job. Many of the inmates didn't
resent every counselor, but they wanted to make life for most of them as unhappy as they could,
and they were masters in brinkmanship. There was no trust at those levels, and between inmates
there was no trust between groups. During the course of mediation, when people were talking
and began listening, tensions were eased.
Within the reformatory, the parties at the table had to learn to know each other a little
better. There was some transformation as they listened and there was credibility to what was
being said. Everybody has certain basic needs including being acknowledged and understood.
Those instances that I cited, with the salsa and the hairnet, guards and administrators came to see
that the inmates were bright, at times eloquent. The inmates got a sense and understanding of
why the place was run the way it was. Some of it was unforgivably sloppy and poor. But there
were reasons why there had to be twice as many guards on a given hour, during the head count,
and there were reasons why there wasn't more visiting space. So they were able to understand
each other's problems and that eased tensions.
Did anything happen to humanize the guards?
Less, because the guards didn't involve themselves. They were pretty quiet, and they may
have agreed not to say very much. No one waited for them to say very much, so there was
relatively little input from the corrections counselors. It is hard for me to know the impact of
mediation on them.
Did you find yourself wanting to do
anything to strengthen the parties' capacities to deal with the conflict, or did they pretty much do
They really did that themselves. The great fortune here is that this had time to run it's
course. It didn't happen in two visits. It just took a life of it's own. That administration was very
poorly run and bright inmates helped the administration figure it out. So there really was very
little need. The one time I felt intervention was needed was with the Hispanic inmates. They
were just waiting and waiting for their kiln and their room, and they started with six of them and
two of them went home. In the preliminaries, Martinez met with them to bolster them and
encourage them. With the Indians too, who could relate to them? You really need a person of
color in that setting to maximize your credibility, or to get as close as you can to build something.
Did you two co-mediate the whole time?
Martinez had to leave before we got to the table, or maybe after the first or second session. I
just had to cut him because there were other assignments in the region and Washington told me
to cut back. So there was just no way to keep him involved.
But at that point, you presumably had the credibility to carry it by yourself?
From the administration point of view, they were under the gun from the commissioner.
The deputy was appointed, a guy was pulled out from under them and reassigned, so they had no
choice. They were passively cooperative. The guards would complain. I would hear stories
about the union meetings, and after a few beers they would start complaining that they had given
away the store. But they knew the place was poorly managed and wanted to see some changes.
Were there ever internal conflicts within a group?
Well, there would have been in terms of whether they should continue, get involved, or to
what level. I couldn't read those. They didn't come to my attention. I'm sure there were certainly
conflicts among the African Americans as to whether they were going to get involved at all.
There was never enough cohesiveness among the white general population to call it a group. The
members couldn't form a group. The attacking group just disintegrated, people drifted away.
I think people liked what was going on. They got out of the box, they could sit across the
table from "the man," and some better things were happening. Even if they were only creature
comforts, and weren't the most important things in their lives, by the time we were done they got
some attention to some of their critical issues as well.
Did confidentially ever become an issue, other then the leaks of these documents that we
talked about before?
No, it never became an issue in this at all.
One thing that you mentioned at the beginning was the blacks said they would come to the
table only if the media was there. Obviously, the media wasn't there until the end. How did you
get them to the table?
We agreed that we would tape the sessions, but those tapes could only be used internally, so
they could play them for their own people. Also, they would have to handle the taping. It
became so cumbersome that it lasted about half of one day. It wasn't realistic.
And when you say, "played for their own people," you mean inside the prison?
Yes, within the walls there. The tapes would only be played for their constituents within the
walls. It just became too cumbersome, and again that's face saving. That was designed to help
them save face. They had access to the media, they could place a phone call to the media. They
didn't do it very much. When they did occasionally, we got wonderful press out of it, because
they said things were happening, changes were coming a little bit here and there.
Did you do anything to enforce the agreement beyond that committee who's name I'm now
Yes, that one. Did you do any other long
term planning or any sort of constituency work to try to make sure the changes that were agreed
upon really happened?
Well part of the commission of ISAC was that it would review, it would serve as the
enforcement mechanism if anyone had any complaints. The Ombudsman was also there for that
purpose. I don't remember the wording of the agreement, but that was the enforcement
mechanism built in.
And did it work?
I don't know if anybody ever took a complaint. I think the real answer to that came 15 years
later where the same procedures were still in place and I asked McCray, "Why did you leave
them there?" He said, "Well they worked." Everything that came out of that was their design. I
might have suggested some things or pushed some things in certain directions, but I believe that
all came right from them.
Reading between the lines, it sounds as if
you would deem this mediation a success.
Oh sure. I said it, if you read between the lines and you come back to 15 years later and you
go down there and they are negotiating torn sheets in the laundry...
Did CRS deem this successful? You were regional director so we're
talking about the Washington director. Did they consider this to be successful?
Well, I must say as a regional director, I always try in important cases to bring it to the
director's attention. So a letter was written either to my director or to the attorney general from
the Commissioner of Corrections and we got a favorable editorial, coincidentally. I didn't
promote that, but they gave us a nice boost and I made sure that Washington appreciates that.
Then my boss can send it to his boss, and sometimes it gets to his boss. So that's useful.
What I'd like to do now is go back through the interview schedule and talk in more general
terms, discussing lots of cases, opposed to just one. We might start with
a question about how cases routinely came into your office. Did people most often call you?
Did you most often read things in the newspaper or hear them on the radio or TV and go out after
them? What was more common?
A combination of methods. At one point we went so far as to have United Press news wires
in our offices. Half of it was to be sure if Washington saw something, we knew it first. The
worst thing was to get a call from Washington saying what's happening in Peoria, and we didn't
know, but they had received a call, or something of that sort.
Typically a mediator or a field representative, conciliator (different titles at different times
during the agency's history), would have some geographical responsibility. A regional director
would determine who would be responsible for what geographical regions or areas, and they
would have links into those communities. This might have been done ethnically in some places.
If you had people on your staff who were American Indians or Hispanic in some areas of the
country, sometimes it might be divided that way. For example, it was understood that if there
were issues in Chicago coming out of the Hispanic community, the two or three Hispanic staff
members would handle those. We had a Hispanic in Detroit though, and he was responsible for
Typically, we would get newspapers from the major cities in the region. People would
make periodic phone calls if they thought something might be coming up. People kept their own
"future files" to follow up on events, if they knew something might be happening. We had strong
links to the state NAACP chapters. State chapters of La Raza, and at times, cold calls would
come in from someone who had been referred to us. Sometimes another federal agency would
call with a problem that was not in their domain. It might be the US attorney's office, it might be
a HUD office, EEOC Employment Opportunity Office where they had something unique and
they brought it to our attention. So it could be any combination. But certainly we were alert to
the media. Our people listened to the radios and we had newspapers and when there was a hint
of anything happening we would respond.
Now how we responded would depend in part on what was going on. If we had a very
heavy case load, if we had no travel budget, if we had people out on other assignments, or sick,
or on vacation, then we might discourage a response or hope the problem would go away. These
are the realities, the human elements that come in. Let me add one other thing. Occasionally
another region would alert us to a problem that would overlap, or that they heard about.
Regarding alerts, I should say we would formalize activities at the Community Relation
Service so that there were categories of things that we did and one of them, perhaps the first one,
was alerts. When people were evaluated, we reviewed responsibilities, and how many alerts a
person brought in. After each alert was received, a one page report was written. Just a few
scribbled lines that indicated who called, when they called, what the issue was, and what the
follow up would be.
Explain what an alert is.
An alert is a notice to the Community Relation Service providing information that there was
a matter, a case, that came to our attention that demanded that we take a look at it to see what to
do. Then we would determine what the next step would be. It could be something that we
closed on receipt for any number of reasons. We might not have been
able to respond, it may have been very low priority, but very likely it was out of our jurisdiction.
We would typically refer it to somebody or give some quick phone advice or information.
Or it might move to the next phase, which is obtaining more information and
beginning an assessment. So the alert typically would be something within our jurisdiction and it
would mean some report of some type of problem, conflict, differences, disagreements in a
And you encouraged your staff to go out and get as many of those as they could?
Well not go out, but from behind a desk usually, or receiving phone calls or making phone
calls. It was imperative that we knew what was happening in our regions.
Now how did you do prioritize when you had more on your desk then you could handle?
I should refer you to that article I sent you a year ago, the one I wrote for Peace and Change
Journal on CRSís methodology. *[find and insert relevant section with footnote.] It has the
CRS model, and there I categorize each of these areas. Okay, number one was potential for violence. Assuming it's within our jurisdiction, the
mandate of the agency. Number two, is it likely we can have some impact? How many people
are involved? Another is, who's asking us? Is it a school superintendent, is it the head of the
NAACP, is it a congressman's office, is it the director calling from Washington? This all had a
practical impact on whether we responded or not. That had an impact on how effective we could
be. It had an impact on how important the matter was, and the political consequence to the
agency of responding or not responding, which obviously is a matter that you had to take into
consideration. That wasn't overriding, but it could have some impact. How long had the
problem been persisting? Have we ever been in that matter before? What other efforts had been
undertaken? Was this intractable, or was this something that was new and fresh? Was this
something we had experience in? Do we have a higher expectation of success based on our
experience? Did we have the money to respond? Did we have the personnel to respond? What
were the negatives? Was there someone who didn't want us to respond. Maybe there was a good
reason not to. That might not be pretty always, but there well may be a reason why we should
not respond. I think that probably covers all of the things we considered.
This is a difficult question to answer probably, but what percentage of the cases that got to
be alerts did you actually end up handling at the end?
That is an impossible question to answer. There was one point, for example, where staff
began missing alerts so we adjusted our internal evaluation system to give more credit to
identifying alerts than we had been. We started to do some counting and everybody in the office
had to focus more on alerts. Now there was one person on the staff who probably was our
weakest conciliator. He started grinding out alerts like you wouldn't believe and by the scale we
created, he was the most effective person in the office. Also there were cases when we would
respond to an alert by phone and close it out, make no more of it, only to learn later that you
really helped somebody. At an Ohio NAACP conference one year, a women from Lima, Ohio,
came up to me and said, "Oh, are you Mr. Salem? Mr. McKinney was on your staff and he was
so helpful when we called him. He got us started and sent us some materials and that got our
organization going." This was a case recorded only as an "alertĒ four years earlier. When the
call came in, it was an incipient group that had no real organization, they had difficulty defining
their problem, didnít know where to go. It was not the type of case we would respond to, so
Howard McKinney provided some advice on the phone, perhaps referred her to some local
community leader, and sent her some materials. We never heard from them again, but she
couldn't have been happier. It was very helpful to her. It's hard to gauge effectiveness, even to
measure things that never got beyond the alert stage. The report probably said "I sent her some
materials, discussed the problem, and closed the case.Ē So I don't know, and I don't think
anybody knows, how many such "cases" moved along. Let me add another thing about alerts.
When we would go to meetings or conferences of state organizations we would get a lot of alerts.
You'd meet people and they would tell you they have a problem in their community. You would
take that back to the office and then get back to people later. So that was another heavy source of
On your more major cases, when there isn't a phone call that comes
in, but you are the initiator, who do you decide to talk to first?
Typically it was an aggrieved party who would call. And in all of these cases you have
people who were aggrieved, victims of an injustice, in their perception. So you would typically
talk to that person and obtain information. You would then want to verify what was being said
so you might call the local person in the local leadership who you could trust to get a view of that
person's complaint. Typically, for example, if a parent called about a school problem, you might
go back and check with the local NAACP or urban league or human rights commission, someone
you knew in that community who could give you a good reading with a sympathetic perspective,
who might even know that person. If CRS initiated the calling we would start by calling
somebody in the community we knew and felt we could trust. We would try to get a reading
before contacting the disputing parties.
But you don't go to the person against whom the charges are being made?
You asked me where you start. I'm saying you start with people
who can give you more information.
So you're starting with a person who is neutral?
Not necessarily. For example, someone might call and say we are having this terrible
problem and I might pick up the phone and call the head of the local NAACP who certainly
would not be neutral. He or she would say, "oh yeah, that's a problem and we've been dealing
with that for a long time." They just never thought of bringing it to us for any reason, or maybe
they'd say, "Well, yeah, that's a problem, but that's really an isolated case. They have a new
principal over there and we are working on that." Then we get some sense of whether it is
appropriate for us to intervene or not, based on our scale. Now if the NAACP director said,
"Wow, now this is a real problem and am I glad you called," you probably would respond
differently. Or if the aggrieved person was part of an organization rather than being just a parent
it would influence our response. Was it a committee? A coalition? Is it a new committee or an
established committee? We would ask, "Who have you talked to? What have you done?Ē You
just try to flesh it out a bit.
So when you make this first phone call what kind of questions do you ask?
Take a look at the article I mentioned in Peace and Change Journal. It has a chart in the back
describing the information we seek in the alert and assessment stages.
What you want to do is find out what happened and you start an assessment once you start asking
these questions. I mean, you're in the case from the first phone conversation. You might close it
in a minute, but right then you're in it, so you are doing all those things a
good mediator has to do. The listening, drawing out information, taking good notes. At the
outset you are more likely to be doing this on the phone. What is happening? Who is involved?
You want to know what happened - - the history of the conflict. What are the issues? How long
has it been going on? What has been done to date to resolve the problem? It's probably on any
academic's list, any conflict map. Those sorts of questions are used to assess the situation.
How many people then do you contact by phone before you go
Anywhere from one to a dozen, depending on a variety of circumstances. You might never
get on-site or it may take a while to do so. You usually don't know whether you are going on-site
until you have the information and then can place it in the context of your other priorities, the
budget, your schedule, and your personal factors will inevitably come into it, even though we
don't like to talk about it. You know, if you had a long weekend vacation planned you might try
to put it off for a week. It depends on how critical the situation is.
Are there certain situations where you prefer to talk to people in person rather then on the
phone to do the assessment?
That was not feasible. The assessment, by necessity, has to start on the phone unless
someone walks into your office or you are in their community.
Typically it starts on the phone and at a certain
point it continues on-site if the case warrants it. After talking to the person or people involved in
the matter and making some preliminary judgements, you might give them some initial advice.
I'd suggest you talk to the assistant principal and call me back. If he is unaware that this is
happening in the classroom and this teacher is doing this to your child, here are some things you
might do to move this forward. Here are some people locally you might call, someone we know
we'd refer them to. Or depending on the state of the matter I might call the assistant principal, or
the school superintendent.
Very often when talking to establishment officials I would start at
the top with my Justice Department credentials to get their attention and worry them a bit. They
seldom want the Justice Department to come into their school, police department or community.
Many people with grievances do, but no public official wants anyone from the Justice
Department coming in. So we don't say this is a Community Relations Service mediator
governed by a confidentially clause. We say, "this is the Justice Department.Ē
So, we would have to be careful in determining who to call first and let them know we
are coming in. We wouldn't start with the assistant principal. We might call the
principal or the superintendent of schools and say we've heard there is a problem at the George
Washington School, and there have been some protests, we're wondering if we can be of any
help. We offer our services and ask if we can be of assistance and try to get some information.
I guess everybody would approach it differently, but we try to create some rapport so this
person will be willing to talk to you. You begin to build your
information base, your assessment about whatís happening. Also during this time, you try to
build some trust and get some indication whether they would be receptive to your coming in. Or
you might just say, "weíre coming in.Ē You might say, "weíre coming in for this matter," or
you might say, "Iím going to be in the area anyway, Iíd like to drop by and chat with you about
it when Iím in your city."
When Gerald Ford, unexpectedly acceded to the presidency of the United States, I checked on
Grand Rapids, Michigan - - his home town - - where weíd had little activity. We had one case
there over the years regarding a museum that was unearthing an Indian mound, and there was a
conflict over the bones, whether they go to the museum or the Indian group. Other than that, we
hadn't had a Grand Rapids case in a dozen years. All of a sudden we wanted to know what was
happening in Grand Rapids. So I took my senior mediator and we went to Grand Rapids to meet
with the head of the Human Relations Commission and the head of the NAACP to establish
some relations in the Presidentís home town. That was a practical, political, but also
programmatic response. We never did very much there after that because there wasnít a call to.
When there was a volatile Indian fishing rights dispute in remote northern Wisconsin, we took
information on the phone and Efrain Martinez and Werner Petterson made an initial site visit.
Martinez stayed with the case. It was one of the best he ever did when he was working out of
Chicago. The reservation was in the district of a congressman who was on our Appropriations
Committee. So that made it easier for me to commit our sparse funds for travel to a remote area.
The congressman was essential to CRSís funding and survival, so this was a way to be sure he
was aware of the important work we were doing.
So, getting back to your questions, during the alert stage, we always would talk to people who
were involved on all sides of the conflict and then let them know if we were coming in. Only
rarely would be go on-site without an initial phone assessment.
Is that because violence was happening or you think that itís about
Yes or some other critical reason. For
example, we had a call from rural Ferris State College in Michigan, where they had been
recruiting black students for the first time. The black students were being intimidated by white
students who kept their hunting rifles in their rooms. There was some serious intimidation, and it
was apparent to call that this was a serious matter. The alert came from the state NAACP, I
believe. The handful of black students on campus were being intimidated, their parents were on
campus and the college president had refused to meet with them. C.J. Walker, in our Detroit
office, phoned the President and told him he was coming in. We stayed close to C.J. on the
phone then, because he was new on the job. He just went in there to get the parties talking, to get
something happening. There was no time to fool around there. We had the resources, we had the
person, he was nearby, he got in there, and he got on the job.
Thatís the way we would operate when there was high tension or a
crisis. What he did there, incidentally, was to get the parties talking. He got the president to
meet with the parents.
Why did he refuse?
He would not meet with them because they hadnít made an appointment. It was one of
those things where "If you want to meet, just make an appointment, but donít just show up.Ē Or
"We have this under control, there is no need for a meeting.Ē The main
job of CRS was to get him to meet with them. Not to carry the message of what was happening,
but to get the president to sit down with the parents, hear them out and give them a response.
That was the appropriate role for us. When the president told us he was too busy to meet, C.J.
said, "I only need five minutes of your time,Ē and that five minutes was spent convincing him
and trying to help him understand the necessity of meeting with the parents.
Do you find that itís easier to gain trust if
you meet in person rather than trying to form a relationship over the phone?
Face to face sounds better, but we didnít have a choice. You just have to do it every way.
Sometimes people donít know who you are, what color you are, how old you are, and
sometimes itís better if they donít see you. That way you can talk to them and build rapport.
So I donít have an answer.
Iím thinking of another emergency where we got a call from Flint,
Michigan. This was also C.J.ís territory. He worked out of Detroit. In Flint, Michigan, there
had been a policeman shot and killed by someone believed to be black. Police then rampaged
through the black community, breaking into houses during the night and pulling people out of
their homes. I got on the phone from Chicago late in the afternoon.
C.J. was unable to get into Flint until the next
morning. It turned out that the police chief was on vacation, his assistant chief was in control
and clearly couldnít control what was happening. I called the assistant chief at 4 p.m. and said,
"Mr. Walker is coming to Flint and should be there this evening. If he gets there in time, heíll
call you and let you know heís in town. But heíll definitely call you in the morning.Ē I knew
C.J. wouldnít be there until the morning but I wanted police to think the Justice Department
was on their back that night. I donít know whether it worked or not. This was a case where our
first concern was getting somebody on the scene or at least to have the police chief think
somebody from outside was there observing. Once we confirmed the likelihood of police
violating the rights of citizens in the black community again that night, we did not need a further
assessment to know we had to be there.
Were there ever cases where a party did not want you involved in the case but you went
Can you give an example?
As I said, public officials seldom want the Justice Department to
come in. The school superintendent has a contract coming up in two months, he doesnít want
the Justice Department in there saying to the world that he canít handle his job.
But does he tell you that he doesnít want you in there?
Well, you can read it pretty quickly. He may not say, "stay away," but he conveys the
message. Mayors of big cities seldom want the federal government intervening in local racial
conflicts involving police or schools. They want to believe they have the resources to handle it.
Sheriffs, as you know, are elected at the county level and not subject to the dictates of governors,
state legislatures, congressmen, presidents. Sheriffs run their own fiefdoms in rural areas; they
are often a political force in the county. During one period, we were having trouble gaining
cooperation from sheriffs in Ohio. They did not want CRS involved, and we could make no
headway. Within the year, the Justice Department, unbeknownst to us, indicted about twenty
sheriffs in Ohio, for embezzlement, gambling or some other felonies. Each case was separate.
No wonder they didnít want the Justice Department in their counties, even CRS. Sometimes
people donít want us, but they know that they have to have us, because they have no choice.
We donít need anybodyís permission to intervene.
An untoward police act, people protesting, major protests in the city, the police chief doesnít
have it under full control, the police commissioner or mayor had to do something. Again, he may
not want us, but he knows something has to happen and maybe we can help. So he works with
We worked in Cairo, Illinois, which is closer to Birmingham, Alabama
than Chicago. Nobody in the establishment wanted us, as there was blatant discrimination going
on. The city lost every case in the courts over the years, but they dragged it out. The political
establishment did everything it could to resist change. It was a black/white issue, straight up. At
times there was violence, at times it was more subtle. The public officials often refused to talk to
us. I remember the Chicago office of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission,
wanted to hold a meeting down there, so we worked with them. It was a request they made in
conjunction with local black leaders and I couldnít say no. So we scheduled a meeting, and the
governorís office sent some people in. City officials, the county officials, the sheriffís office
all refused to show up. They knew we were sitting around a table. And there I am, and thereís
the Civil Rights Commission, which also has no enforcement power. The governorís people
flew in on a private plane. But the other chairs were empty because they just wouldnít come.
So no, they didnít want us.
Did you ever manage to get them involved anyway?
One of my last mediation CRS was a voters rights case in Cairo involving some of those
same individuals, a beautiful case because it settled, and that was through the court. The case
had been in the courts for years and finally, when the handwriting was on the wall, the city
agreed to settle and the judge asked CRS to mediate it.
But that was forced by a lawsuit rather than...
Most changes in Cairo, Illinois were forced by lawsuits. The black community had good
legal services from lawyers coming out of Chicago doing pro bono work with the civil rights
groups out of Chicago, and the Land of Lincoln law firm out of St. Louis. But these cases would
hang in the courts for years and years and only when the handwriting was on the wall would the
city would turn around and agree to settle. When the cases went to trial, the city would lose.
So yes there were many times we were not wanted in the community. The other side of
the coin is that many times we were welcomed in the community. Iíd like to give you another
example of a time we got a call from Kellogg community college in Battle Creek. A Hispanic leader phoned and Efrain Martinez took the call. He told us how terrible
things were at the community college. Martinez went on-site. There was a problem here and he
felt we could do some good. He met with this community leader and some students. I
donít remember whether the community leader was a student or not, but then there were some
students and they had what you might say is a traditional list of problems. Admissions of
Hispanics to the community college, curriculum problems, faculty problems, advisors. Then you
get down to other issues like the food, the respect people were receiving and those types of
things. There were maybe eight items on their agenda that needed addressing. Martinez went
over to see the President of this college. He greeted him with open arms and agreed the list of
complaints was valid. He said the group had not approached him and he asked Martinez to
arrange a meeting.
And was it genuine?
Martinez had no reason to think it wasnít. He came back very enthusiastic. So I saw that
report, talked to Martinez and stayed on his back when the case began to drag out. "Whatís
going on?" I asked. I thought you had this thing moving along. Well what happened is the
community leader disappeared. You had a President ready to give the Hispanic students most
everything they wanted and more perhaps. He was responsive, socially responsible. The
students had been motivated by this community organizer from Texas who came up to Battle
Creek, probably on the migrant trail. He suddenly pulled up stakes and returned to Texas. There
was no organization, no cohesiveness, not even serious interest on the part of the students. So
Martinez returned to the school but was unable to pull the student protesters together. It fell
apart. There were changes made because the awareness of the President was heightened, but
there was no Hispanic community organization. It was just one leader who pulled some people
together. He could have pulled off great things if he hung around. So it works that way too.
Going back to the earlier conversation where there were officials who did not want the
Justice Department in there, did you ever start working just with the minority community,
figuring that you could get the officials, the administration to go along later?
A lot would depend on the community where we were working. Many times you get a call
from a smaller community, Xenia, Ohio; Evansville, Indiana or Peoria, Illinois, away from the
big cities, where there were very few resources. When you worked in Chicago or Detroit there
were resources galore and, incidentally, strong mayors never wanted CRS. They played at it,
played with you, but they seldom wanted you there. And they seldom needed you as such, those
communities had resources on every side of the dispute. But you get down to Evansville, and
there werenít that many resources. And when you got to smaller cities yet, say Xenia, and by
the time you show up there, someone from the Justice Department more likely than not a black or
Hispanic, someone they could relate to, theyíd never seen this. I mean they knew it was there,
but here you are. This guy they met at the state NAACP meeting is now in their town to help
them with their problem. Wow. You start working with that group. Yes, you go and see the
school superintendent or the city manager or the police chief too. When the establishment
doesnít want us there? We work with them within the limits of our authority and ethical
questions about what our role is, but I think everyone in CRS recognizes that very often,
especially in smaller communities, youíre dealing with establishment vs. aggrieved
communities that have damn good reasons for their concerns and complaints, and theyíre on the
short end of the stick much of the time. So to help empower them is important and appropriate,
and in many cases the establishment understands this and agrees. If the mayor has a problem in
the community, if he doesnít have a cohesive group to work with across the table, heís not
going to get that problem solved. We will tell him we are working with this group so they can
get an agenda together to bring to you that goes beyond "freedom nowĒ, that specifically says
what they need so that you can address them. This was often seen and accepted and understood,
What about when it wasnít?
Well, a lot of things would happen that I wouldnít know. The field representative who had
a very high sense of justice and was doing something that perhaps went over the line. They
weren't going to come back and tell me exactly what they did to help the community.
Did you hear about it though? Would people call up, city officials or somebody call up?
Not too often. There may be things that were said about an individual or a place or a time
but typically that did not happen. I remember Bob Lamb and I went to see the police chief of
Richmond, California. It was a special project that the CRS Director put
together when police were having problems with Black Panthers in the Ď70s. When police
would try to serve a warrant at a Black Panthers headquarters they risked being turned away by
gunfire. So we had a plan that tried to find
intermediaries in these communities where perhaps someone who was trusted in that community,
could help serve a warrant, so that a routine legal matter could be taken care of without police
being blasted away. And in discussing this with the police chief of Richmond, California it
seemed to work fine. The chief listened to us and he thanked us. He then wrote a scathing letter
to Attorney General John Mitchell expressing surprise that "You would have people like this
working for the Justice Department who would not have police do their required work in a
required manner.Ē So we got complaints that way when they disagreed with what we
But, you know, when we talked about empowerment I mentioned
earlier that Howard McKinney just sent some stuff in the mail or gave some advice over the
phone to someone. That certainly was helping one side of the conflict.
There was another case, for example, involving Reggie Turner who was
the police chief of Cleveland, Ohio, a black who had been a high ranking officer in Detroit.
There were some community problems with the police firearms policy in Cleveland following
some shooting incidents. Our only role there was to provide technical assistance, they didnít
need mediation. There was good communication between the police chief and the black
leadership. What they needed were some good firearms policy models and our organization
pulled together half a dozen of these, got them to all the parties so they could work together, and
that empowered the community, but it also empowered police because locally they just didnít
have what was needed and we could provide them with what they needed to work
Who decides what they need, do you or do they?
We always start with what the group says it needs. It would be nice to sit here and say they
tell us and we respond, but the reality is when you do enough of these for enough years you can
sort of pretty well see whatís needed and whatís happening and you can lead the community
group into knowing what it needs very often. One simple thing is helping a group understand it
needs a good agenda if is going into negotiations, with or without a mediator. That grievances
should be presented in a way that they can be responded to. If the agenda is fire the school
superintendent, or fire the police chief, you know that's not likely to be achievable. You
encourage them to shape an agenda that puts that at the bottom and started with some of the
substantive changes they want to see. So you put the achievable at the other at the top of the
agenda and push "fire the police chiefĒ to the bottom. When they make enough progress at the
top and middle of the agenda, they realize that you donít have to fire the police chief, if heíll
abide by what youíve agreed to up above on the agenda. So thatís empowering, helping the
group understand the negotiation process. And youíre leading the group that way, certainly.
Youíre saying, "I know whatís best for this group in this negotiation.Ē Iíve never seen a
group when we suggest resources that are available that wouldnít be eager to accept them, if
they were serious about resolving problems. Sometimes it was a consultant we identified who
could help them, someone who had resolved a similar problem in another community, or an
expert in policing or schools. We could pay plane fare and honorarium. "Weíll pay this guyís
plane fare to come over to talk to you and sit down with you.Ē
In one case, I brought three Hispanic parents from Chicago into Washington DC to meet with the
Civil Rights Division (CRD) during Chicagoís school desegregation suit. There they had a
chance to meet with the attorneys who were working with the city and putting a plan together.
So they felt they had their voices heard in Washington. That is providing technical assistance --
knowing thatís what the group wanted in that case. It was hard to tell whether anyone was
listening, but the community members felt they had their voices heard. Now thatís another way
of building credibility for ourselves. Before that, trust levels were really low. There was at a big
public meeting and CRD had asked me to go; the US attorney had asked me to go. Nobody else
in the Justice Department wanted to go near it. So what I brought to that public meeting was the
idea that we would pay the fares for three people in your group to go to Washington to talk to the
Civil Rights Division and be sure their voices were heard. There was so much skepticism that
somebody raised their hand from the audience and asked, "Are you going to pay our plane fare
Did you ever get pressure from Washington to stay out of things in Chicago because the
mayor didnít want you intervening there?
No. But I started at CRS in June 1968, and the democratic
convention was in August. This was not a racial matter, primarily, but there were a lot of civil
rights issues and there were marches from downtown Chicago out to the amphitheater where the
convention was that went through black neighborhoods. And police would deter marchers by
throwing out tear gas which would waft into apartments and there were racial overtones. So we
And what did you do?
The guys who responded were on the street, I wasnít doing that. Primarily this was, with
one exception, a black staff; three people from Chicago and one sent in from Washington. What
they did, I suspect, was confront police and alert them to the problem. I donít know whether
they asked them or told them or what they actually said. We were also on the street observing
the horrendous police behaviors. I canít say what everybody did, because I wasnít there, and I
know they werenít telling me, nor were they telling Deputy Attorney General Warren
Christopher when we reported to him at his suite atop of the Hilton. What I do know, is when it
was all over, five or six of us were sitting in the office when the phone rang and it was Roger
Wilkins, the director of CRS. Iíd only been out there about four months; theyíd just opened
the office. I was the regional director. They did not consult Mayor Daley on my appointment,
which federal agencies usually did when they appointed regional directors. Often Mayor Daley
would make the appointments himself. But we did not control the flow of federal funds and he
had no use for us, we were like flies on the wall. Roger said on the phone, "Dick put me on the
speaker.Ē So I pushed the speaker phone button, "I want you guys to know that whatever
happens, you acquitted yourself very well.Ē It turned out that police had complained to the FBI
and the FBI complained to the white House that we were running around telling police what to
do in Chicago. That's how Roger started the conversation, "Dick, did any of your people tell the
police what they should be doing?Ē And I said, "Guys?Ē "No.Ē So who knows what happened
in the heat of things? Thatís the report that came back to the mayor and they wanted us out of
there. It wasnít important enough for them to pursue and the issue died. But at that moment, it
sounded like we were all going to be working somewhere else. So yes, there are times the public
officials let it be known they donít want us around. Very often, if someone would complain to
Washington, the letter would go to my boss and it would go to the Attorney General, as it did in
Richmond, CA. It would come back down to my boss for the AGís signature, heíd send it to
me, so that I would draft the response to the complaint against me, send it back to him, back to
the attorney general, back to the complainer with the AGís signature.
Youíve talked off and on about empowering the low power
groups. Are there any other ways that you do that, that you havenít mentioned already?
I think a large part of our work was empowering, even though weíre doing conflict
management, even though weíre helping communities find peace. Our mandate is to help
communities to resolve problems, differences, and disagreements. The whole thing is
empowerment. Youíre bringing a group together, youíre helping them find ways to come
together. Youíre educating, growing on the experience of the mediator on the scene, and
educating people as to how you behave to get better results, helping them understand that you can
only get so much based on how much power you have. Helping them understand the factors that
go beyond "you.Ē Mediation really was an education process for people
at all levels, from the most sophisticated local leadership to grass roots community members who
were trying to boost up their organizations and get things. It isnít always that way; very often
the groups that we would work with would be very sophisticated. For example, I was working with a group in Minneapolis, and
former Congressman, Bob Frasier, was the new mayor of Minneapolis. Thereís a small
African American community there, and I was drawn in because a special friend of the director
of CRS was a woman who worked for the Urban Coalition out of Washington. She called me
and said "We have a chapter, we have a newer man in Minneapolis, with the Urban Coalition.Ē
(The Urban Coalition was an establishment-oriented public service group that addressed race
relations in urban areas.) "He needs some help.Ē So I went and talked to him, and there were
race problems related to police. You had that new mayor, so it looked like it would be a good
place to make a mark. We had done some good things in that
part of the country over the years. We knew the players, but not well enough. I had not done my
homework well enough. This is one of the disadvantages when youíre shooting in and out of
places, and trying to be all over the place. Especially if youíre the regional director focusing on
a community. But by that time we had a very small staff and we hadnít spent a lot of time in
that part of the country in some years. So what I didnít know is that the
black leadership was rejecting this man who had come in from out of state to head the local
Urban Coalition. There was a very tight knit black leadership group. We knew that, but they
didnít signal us that they were rejecting this guy. We pursued the issue of police community
relations. There were police abuses, not serious violence. There were a lot of complaints, and
they were probably accurate. At first, the police chief would not talk about them. I had
suggested to the mayorís office that he might want to consider sitting down and mediating this
conflict. Along the way, this fellow from the Urban Coalition left his job; they forced him out. I
got a call from the mayor's office that the mayor would like to sit down and talk. I said
"Hallelujah!Ē A big city mayor, relatively big city mayor, is willing to mediate, wow! So I called
one of the black leaders and arranged a meeting with him. When I get to his office it turned out
to be a command performance if you would. Five or six people from the
black community were there, and only one of them was talking. It was clearly a planned
meeting. They had worked out whatever differences they had before I ever got there. And they
said "Dick, we appreciate everything youíve done, but I think weíll take it from here. Why
donít you go back to Chicago, and weíll call you if we need you.Ē So that took care of that.
What had happened, is that they had announced a week or so earlier, and this had gone by me,
that they were going to have public hearings on these police issues. They were going to have a
public debate and the police chiefís chair would be there, even though he refused to participate.
It would be empty. And they knew they would get good publicity. One of the black leaders was
about to run for the city council, and there were a couple of other agendas there. Also the
hearings would heighten awareness in the community of their problem. It was a great strategy.
But they didnít want any mediation at this point, and they let me know in no certain terms. And
they were right, so I went back to Chicago. And they got their publicity and the problems was
mitigated, although probably never fully resolved.
Why do you say they were never resolved?
The same types of cases that the agency has been responding to since I started there in
1968 are still happening today. Police abuse, excessive use of force, improper training of
police, quick pulling of the trigger, racism. You can say things are better, but in some places
theyíre still bad. Chicago, New York, California, theyíre still in the front pages.
But once you go into a city and establish some sort of structure, such as the one you were
talking about yesterday, does that tend to improve things over the long term?
I donít know for sure. I am sure it does in some places. Thatís why I suggest we try to
get a grant to look at some of that. I mean I could think of some good things that have happened,
where you have a police-community conflict, where you get a significant level of response from
the establishment, from the mayorís office basically, and police commissioner, depending on
the structure, and the aggrieved community. Then you come together and you set up some
mechanisms to address the issues. People exchange phone numbers so that anybody can contact
anybody in an emergency, so when thereís a problem you can get to the leadership on the
streets. Whether itís the police leadership or the community leadership. You have monthly
meetings of the leadership to discuss issues. You have improved training, you review the police
firearms policy and you make changes in it. You do human rights training, human relations for
whatever thatís worth sometimes itís worth a lot, sometimes less. You build this into the
orientation for new police officers. You address personnel complaints about assignments, hiring,
and promotions. So these things would be written in. You come up with an agreement with half
a dozen components to it, whether it was formal or informal mediation. Youíve involved the
business leadership, perhaps, or other socially concerned business leaders, civic leaders, the black
community, the white community, whoever the parties are. I donít know how enduring those
have been in places over the years. It takes some enlightenment.
Yesterday, I mentioned that case in St. Cloud. Itís not very often you
go back fifteen years later, find the parties have changed and yet, the agreement still goes on. So
yes, that worked. In Columbus, someone would have to go back and look where we had Pat
Glenn help set that system up with police and the community. I imagine that there are settings
that youíve heard about during the course of these interviews, in schools or communities, where
conditions havenít changed measurably. That Bad River Reservation that I mentioned up in
Northern Wisconsin was extraordinary. You had Indians on a Reservation. Some of that land
was owned by white resort owners who rented it out for hunting and fishing. Then, you had
Indian Rights, which limited how much hunting and fishing could go on. There was a real threat
to those resort owners, so the bumper stickers in the area would read, "Spear an Indian, not a
fish.Ē You had a white, and rural community around that broader Indian Reservation area. There
had been no communications across lines. Iíve got some
letters about that work. Martinez and Petterson opened up communications between the Indian
leaders and the county commissioner, local folks, where they had never talked before. I have
letters from the heart, thanking Martinez for the work he did to bring them together, and as a
result of that, things must be better up there. People were communicating. Whether it reverts, I
doubt that it all reverts, but you need another glance everywhere, to explore this.
Did parties ever ask you to do something that you were unable to
Iím sure that they did. But, I think people really understood the limits of what we could
do. I think it didnít take parties long to realize that we couldnít come in and end abuses, that
this had to come through them and the courts.
We would discuss the options. Youíre probably going to get better answers on that question
from the people who are in the field day in and day out, rather than a regional director.
Sometimes, staff would do things that they shouldnít do. Certainly during Wounded Knee,
people were asking us to smuggle things in. Sometimes we would, staff would do that because
we thought it would help out in the long run. Thatís how you deal with trust, thatís how you
get people to talk to you, bringing food into Wounded Knee. Sometimes you couldnít do it.
But you had to do it at Wounded Knee, where it was important that they had some gasoline so
responsible leaders could move their motor vehicles between these bunkers where armed people
were, so they could communicate with them and control the shooting. So we knew when they
were siphoning gas from the tanks of our cars, thatís how it was going to be used. So we
didnít fight it. We just tried not to get caught on the road with out gas on the way back, which
would happen from time to time. So youíre there -- you couldnít do it, and you shouldnít
have done it, but you did it because you knew in the end it was going to be helpful.
Weíve been talking directly about empowerment, but talking around the issue of neutrality,
Neutrality is strictly theoretical. There is
no neutrality. You canít be neutral where you have vast injustices.
Do you portray yourself as neutral when you talk to the groups?
No one expects you to portray yourself as neutral if you come into a situation where
everybody knows there are inequities. Itís not necessary if you can project yourself as
objective, understanding, and empathic. We were called upon to help communities resolve
problems, and empowering is part of that. You could do that legitimately and appropriately
without violating your objectivity or impartiality. You bend and you lean, but I think everybody
So that never became a major issue?
Sure, it became a major issue. People were concerned with who we were. You walk into a
police chiefís office after an officer shot a 14 year old fleeing from a 7-Eleven, and the kid
didnít have a gun. Whoís impartial when you walk in from the Justice Department or
Community Relations Service? Whoís impartial, especially if youíre black? I am not, but I
might have been with a partner who was. Or, Iím immediately speaking about concerns being
expressed in the minority communities, or the liberal communities. The police chief knows
heís got a problem. He knows that the cop who shot that kid had more arrests in the last year,
meets the statistics better than anyone on the force. He also knows that heís got a problem. So
I want him to see me as part of the solution and show him how we can help him. Heís got
protest group problems, his job and police force are being threatened by this, so I let him know I
can do something to help him with that. The first thing I need to do is let him know I understand
his problem and what heís going through.
The police chief of Detroit said, "You know, if I discipline those two guys, Iím going to
have a strike. It might be that every illegally parked car is going to be ticketed in this city, or a
slowdown of some sort. I will not be able to control this police force if I discipline those two
men the way Iím being asked to,Ē I need to demonstrate an understanding. I canít be the
angry community member coming in. I have to support the community in another way, and they
have to understand that, and they do. They donít ask me or my mediator to leave town. Iím
using first person in a lot of this, but Iím really speaking for the process that we would use.
Some of which is my own experience, and some of which I know from living with the people
who did this.
This direction the conversation is taking reminds me of a conversation we had with Ozell
Sutton, who talked about when they would call the Regional Administrator in. There were
several cases that he talked about when the field officers would start on a case, and at some point,
they called him saying, "Ozell we need you.Ē Or, he would decide that it was appropriate for him
to go in because the situation seemed to warrant somebody from higher up in the organization.
How did you make that determination that you personally were needed?
How would I decide to personally go onto the scene? I mentioned earlier, we went into the
city because we were breaking new ground in the Presidentís home city, and I wanted to know
what was happening. Itís not that I didnít trust who was going in, but I had the time available.
It might have been an ego matter or it might have been to give support. Because we had two
people rather than one, we had more ability to do things. Or it might be because I wanted a
presence, or it might be because I was looking for a connection. I donít even know what
motivates us. But number one, because I felt I added value to the response. Number two, I
would go in if it was a very high visibility matter, where I wanted to personally involve myself. I
love field work, like every Regional Director does, and we wanted to be out in the field
sometimes. I could select my cases, so thatís why I went to Kent State and thatís why I
personally undertook some other cases. Sometimes, I would get a request from a field
representative who saw value in my participating, and I would seldom say no. Sometimes I was
in a supervisory or management role. Perhaps somebody was working in the city and was
reporting all kinds of good things happening, and it was a major city. So after eight months, I
would go in and verify that. It was a management problem if you had a person spending too
much time in one place. I wanted to talk to some of the principals to be sure of what was
happening there. It would depend.
We also had outlying field offices and I would periodically go to visit a field worker and
go on-site and they would want to put their best foot forward. Sometimes I created tension and I
wasnít wanted on the scene, but sometimes I was, it just depended.
There was always racial tension with a
white Regional Director dealing in race relations issues. I had to recognize that. You pay a price
for that, and one of the prices is there is tension that exists between your own staff of civil rights
or race relations workers. Should they have hired a black or Hispanic for my job? Well, they
didnít. I was available and someone who was black decided I was the best person for that job.
But, you should know that there were four or five people in that office when I was hired who felt
that they shouldíve had a crack at that job. One of the prices we pay is having some tension
within their own organization. So you have to earn your stripes, if you will, in many ways.
Some of us did and some of us didnít. Some of us did with some staff, and some didnít with
What about the outside world? Was your race an issue when you
went into the field?
Sure, race was an issue for anyone who
went into the field and interacted with other races. Itís a fact of life. Factors that influence that
were, were you new on a scene, how did you compose yourself, what were the tension levels,
who were you meeting with locally, who were you with from your own staff, who invited you in,
who was there from the community? All of these things could be factors in how you were
treated. Like mediation of any kind, your job was to build trust. You had to build trust. If you
didnít, you couldnít work effectively. Some will say "If you canít build trust, get out of there
and go home.Ē Well, you canít always get out of there.
What do you do?
You do the best you can. You canít tell in advance how it will work out.
If you were dealing with a black/white situation, did you try to get a
black staff person involved? Did you try to match the race of the mediator to the problem?
Yes, depending on the problem and the circumstances. Iíve given you some examples
where that was not the case, but some people came over the years and theyíve been working in
this office for many years and have built constituencies. So there was a black member of my
staff in Chicago who had a lot of rapport. He would go to the NAACP state meetings, which was
appropriate, he was a senior person. He would get calls, sometimes directly from them. They
would call him, not me. That was appropriate too, because they knew him and he had been there
Can you recall any examples when you served as a scapegoat, or
when you helped another party save face?
Yes. Thereís one story which comes out of Wounded Knee. At Wounded Knee the
American Indian Movement had taken over the historic village of Wounded Knee, within the
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and the feds had set up headquarters in the town of Pine Ridge.
There was basically a sort of battle ground and there was a truce period before talks started and
there was a DMZ. The demilitarized zone was agreed to, where no one would go and there
would be a cease fire. It was agreed the talks would start and CRS was moving in and out
between the parties, even though we were feds and nobody fully trusted us. We were trying to
serve as intermediaries and help get talks started, among our many roles there.
It was agreed that at noon on a certain date, the American Indian
Movement leaders would set up a teepee in the demilitarized zone, in that no manís land near
the federal road block, and that the feds would come in and we would begin to have negotiations
in this big teepee. It was very ceremonial and very public. The press wouldnít be in there, but
theyíd be outside. Indian time was typically late. The AIM leaders would be up late at night.
They would have a spiritual ceremony. They would be late starting the next dayís activities by
any clock that was set outside their own needs. Iíd told this to Kent Frizzell, who was
Solicitor General for the Department of Interior, who was the head US official. I told him to wait
until I radioed him before his team came through the road block to negotiate. I spent the night in
Wounded Knee and planned to come out with the leaders who were carrying and setting up the
teepee. I would radio his office and let him know when to come in so that weíd all come
together. That morning, we were late, as usual. There had been a shooting incident during the
night; nobody was hurt, but it had people up late. At about 1150 in the morning, the AIM leaders
were walking up the road with the teepee to the DMZ. All of a sudden this helicopter lands at the
road block, and there is Kent Frizzell and his assistant. There were about 50 reporters at the road
block. Also at the road block were other federal police types, who were keeping people apart and
keeping people from passing through. So Iím walking with AIM up the road with about 150
yards to go and Stan Holder, one of the AIM leaders turns to me and angrily asks, "What are
they doing here?Ē I said, "Wait a second, let me see.Ē I went running up to the roadblock and
there was Kent Frizzell and I said, "I thought you were going to wait until I radioed you that we
were ready.Ē He said, "Weíre going to do this one on white manís time, not Indian time.Ē He
was setting a hard line to start the negotiations.
So I said, "Look, there were real problems. I donít know if youíre aware of it, but last
night there was a violation of the cease fire and it was because some of your BIA people, early at
sunup, they decided to have breakfast. So they drove over the hill, set up a blanket, took out
their rations, and had breakfast on the wrong side of the line. That was a violation and caused a
lot of consternation. People were up running around. I had to send a man up who was with me,
Bert Greenspan, to see what was going on and report back.Ē I said, "Thatís one reason
everyoneís late.Ē Well, no one had told Kent about this incident. They were covering
themselves. He said, "Alright, weíll go back, but you tell them weíre going to back in a half
hour and weíre going to meet on time or thereís not going to be any talks.Ē So I ran back
down the hill to Holder, and I told him it was a mistake. "I must have screwed up,Ē I said. "I
gave them the wrong time. They thought they were supposed to be here at noon.Ē He said,
"Alright, but you tell them not to do it again because if they do it again, weíre going back.
Thereís not going to be any talks.Ē I ran back up the hill to Kent I went. I said, "Well, he says
okay, a half hourís fine.Ē They left and came back 45 minutes later, after I radioed them, and
we had our talks and everything was okay. So that was serving as the scapegoat.
So that is a way to build trust?
Well, you give everybody an excuse; you cover both sides. You leave yourself exposed, but
you know they want you there, so nobodyís going to call you on it. It lets everybody save face
Changing gears, going back to the
assessment phase, how do you go about identifying what issues are key? Is this something that
you leave to the parties, or is this something that the mediator will play a strong role in doing?
Well, itís politically correct to say you leave it to the parties to define the issues, and in fact
you do. But you see things. Youíre traveling around, and when you get to Evansville or Xenia
or Springfield, youíve seen the situation in other places and you hear certain things, and all of
that directs your questions to certain points. The state of the group, how serious the violations
are, what kind of sources of support they have, all these factors tend to alert you. That doesnít
mean that an individual without an organization canít bring about great change. I mean, I told
you about this community worker who wasnít even from Battle Creek, who was bringing about
major change at a small community college but thatís the exception. So during your
assessment, you look for certain things: what resources are in the community, how supportive are
they? Things that would key in the mediator in doing the assessment, and making it more
efficient to determine whether or not mediation or further intervention would have significant
results. So yes, the parties would define the issues, but sometimes you would point out other
issues that were important to them, that they just hadnít really thought about in the context of
this particular problem. A jail suicide is what theyíre complaining about, but there may be
underlying issues in police/community relations that led up to this. "Why donít you believe
them when they tell you this was a suicide?Ē Thereís a lack of trust. So what engendered that
lack of trust are the issues you may want to look at.
Did you find yourself helping each side understand the issues from
the perspectives of the other side?
Yes, and that was probably one of our primary tasks. Where you could, you brought the
parties together and facilitated their communicated. But very often, you found that you
couldnít, or that in the interim you had to help explain to one side or the other what was
happening and why. It often lacked credibility coming from a third party, so that was not the
preferred way to work. What you would try to convey to parties was the importance of sitting
down with the other side. You needed to communicate that to them without saying how they
should then proceed. We never told somebody you shouldnít stop demonstrating. We never
told somebody you shouldnít stop enforcing the law, but we did say you ought to sit down and
So you urged people to sit down at the same time that they were
I wouldnít even say sit down; I would say communicate, open communications. You could
never place conditions. Someone can demand, "Iíll only negotiate when they stop
demonstrating,Ē and you can carry that message. "They say they will only negotiate if you stop
demonstrating,Ē and the answer usually will be, "Hell no.Ē So you go back and forth this way,
but you would never tell someone what they should or shouldnít be doing. Someone might
advise, "You can always start demonstrating again tomorrow. Youíre options are still open.Ē
And they would decide what the risks were or werenít. They would know that. Usually people
would know. More importantly, you would advise the group if they didnít have the background
to make sound choices. You had to be very careful that you werenít telling them to stop
building their power base, but as I mentioned in the case in Minneapolis, the group was very wise
and they knew what they should or shouldnít be doing. Typically, community groups would
know what was in their best interests, whether to stop or not. We would not advise them. We
would just help them understand their options and also sometimes encourage them to bring in
resources from their own community who could advise them. So we might point to people in
their community they might want to be talking to, or even from another community, to help them
make sound decisions. But our goal was to get people talking.
You said a minute ago you could not always get people to talk. What would stop you from
getting people talking?
At times you could not get people talking. Someone was adamant. "I wonít talk to them.Ē
And again I come in, a mediator comes in, and doesnít know the whole history. "I will not talk
to them. Those people donít listen,Ē or, "He doesnít listen.Ē Sometimes it was a matter of
timing. I mentioned Kent State, where a new president came in and his contract had
just been signed, the ink was still wet. He was not about to engage in a losing situation, which it
would have been, had he met with the protesters. They requested the meeting; I forwarded that
message; he agreed; and then withdrew his agreement. Sometimes a group canít get its act
together and isnít ready to meet. Sometimes, if youíre dealing with
coalitions, youíve got many views within a coalition and theyíre not going to tell you about
that. When I first started this job in 1969, there was a union building trades conflict in
Chicago. There was a lot of discrimination against racial minorities trying to break into the
construction trades. There was a major building trades confrontation in Chicago, major protests.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson was there. At that time, it was Operation Push. Push was blocking
construction sites using the Black P-Stone Nation, an infamous street gang, to provide the bodies
for demonstrations at major construction sites. During the incipient stages of this conflict, I went
directly to Art Fletcher by phone. He was the assistant Secretary of State for Labor under Nixon
and he was black. I talked to him and he said, "Iíll make available to you Horace Menasco who
is my deputy. He will come out and meet with the black coalition and tell them what their rights
are under the law and what they can do.Ē It was a very generous contribution he was ready to
make. I felt great and so I took this back to Clark Roberts who was my deputy then and asked
him to arrange a meeting for us with the black leadership. The meeting that he arranged was
with C.T. Vivian who was a prominent civil rights leader in Chicago at the time and chief
spokesperson in the building trades protest. Clark sent a message over that we wanted to meet
with the leadership to proffer this offer from Washington and it took a full two weeks to get a
response. Finally, we got the meeting and it was in a church basement and there were CT Vivian
and about five guys with red berets sitting there from the Black P-Stone Nation. None of them
uttered a word, and I told him all of these things that Menasco was offering; documents and a
presentation and the law, and they listened and said thank you, and it took another two weeks
until they said yes. This was related to levels of trust, their own strategies, what they wanted to
do. They were not ready to meet with anybody at that time. Ultimately, they said yes. Menasco
came in and held a very large meeting, almost a public meeting. He made his presentation and
the conflict went on and ultimately was resolved. It was very political. But there, people would
not meet except on their terms, when they were ready.
Did you ever slow parties down who did
want to meet? Did you ever decide that they were not ready yet and you didnít want to bring
them together yet?
I donít think so. Iím thinking of the Skokie-Nazi conflict where parties would not meet.
They would not meet; they would not acknowledge each other. It was so bad that the ACLU
could not get a response to a request from the village of Skokie for a parade permit for their
client the neo-Nazis. And we had to serve as the intermediary and go to Skokie because the city
officials were told not to communicate with the neo-Nazis in any way. So we all of a sudden
became this intermediary and the only ones who were talking to all the parties. They would not
meet and we knew that. We would never ask them to meet.
So how did CRS end up being the intermediary on that one?
Well thatís another tangent weíre going into. I wrote a case
study about the Skokie-Nazi conflict for Mediation Journal in about 1983. This was a group of
neo-Nazis who were demonstrating regularly in the Marquette Park in Chicago and they were
vile and intemperate in their language. It was a white neighborhood in an area where there was
black housing. The whites viewed it as encroachment on their neighborhood. These were largely
Eastern European families whose homes were their lives, and their savings. They would make
their weekly mortgage payments at the local S&L, building their equity in their homes. Now
they saw all this being threatened as blacks moved in block by block. So while these
homeowners would not accept the values being espoused by the neo-Nazis in Marquette Park, as
soon as their homes were threatened, they felt really threatened and they were sort of glad about
that storefront neo Nazi office in their neighborhood. Every so often, the neo-Nazi group would
step out of their area and go into a Chicago area which was black and there would be some
violence. Then every so often, a black leader seeking some recognition, not the main line
leaders, but some young mavericks, would want to march into Marquette Park area and then
there would be some violence. There was police action, nothing heavy, but enough to cause
major publicity and stone throwing type incidents.
But after one of those incidents, the city passed an ordinance. The Chicago Park District
refused to permit any group to demonstrate in Marquette Park with 75 or more people unless it
had a permit. The neo-Nazis never had a membership of 75, but their leafletting drew large
crowds so they were told to get a permit. The neo-Nazis refused to apply for permits and
ultimately were banned from Marquette Park. They then wrote letters to about 75 suburbs in the
region threatening to come to the suburbs. Most of suburban officials discard letters, but Skokie,
which has a large Jewish population, including many concentration camps survivors, warned the
neo-Nazis to stay out and that started an engagement.
Skokie passed some ordinances, which later were stricken down, banning Nazis from
demonstrating there. It became a cause for neo-Nazis throughout the nation. The ACLU
accepted them as a client and it hurt the ACLU considerably. There were fine legal scholars at
Northwestern and elsewhere who supported the ban. Then there was state legislation introduced,
banning neo-Nazi marches anywhere. The neo-Nazis were really a rag-a-tag band of Keystone
cop-type guys when they came out in their uniforms and wooden shields. Their vile language
and hate messages inflamed the Jewish community and many others as well. It appeared there
would be a demonstration in Skokie so Werner Petterson went into that case to advise Skokie
officials on matters related to policing and handling demonstration crowds. If you had a handful
of Nazis saying they were coming to Skokie, you were going to have tens of thousands of people
from all over the country planning to come to Skokie to counter-demonstrate.
So on the one hand, we worked with
city officials and the police. I joined them in some of these meetings on techniques for
minimizing the likelihood of violence, as the Skokie police had no experience in this. We got
Commander Jim Reardon from the Chicago Police Department to help us. He had worked the
Democratic Convention years earlier. He talked to them about crowd control. We
visited with the state police and discussed what support they were giving and how.
We met with the leadership of the Jewish community to talk about ways to
minimize confrontations by planning their counter-demonstration at least a mile away from the
neo-Nazi site to discourage people from interacting. Then, maybe a small delegation would walk
over there with their candles or something in silent protest. All of this sounded good, but there
was going to be thousands of angry people.
The momentum was building. Conditions were inflamed by
newspaper headlines about the determined neo-Nazis. A newspaper reporter told me that a travel
agent in his home town of Los Angeles had booked 2000 charter seats to Skokie. President
Carter had a political rally at a Skokie high school prior to his election some years earlier and tied
up traffic in the village for hours one evening, so you can imagine what would happen. Then you
had the Burlington, Vermont veterans of foreign wars saying they would pitch tents in Skokie.
You had people from Europe who said theyíd be there and then you had the controversial
Jewish Defense League saying, "There will be blood in the streets of Skokie,Ē and putting ads in
the Jewish Forward media saying, "Send us $50, Send a Jew to Skokie.Ē
It was obviously going to be a catastrophe and everybody saw
this and nobody wanted it. And there we were, the only ones meeting with all of the parties. So
it was just natural to turn it to mediation. We were under constraints from the ACLU attorneys.
They understood who we were, but they didnít have much respect for anyone who did not
declare their position. But they needed us. We met Frank Colin, the Neo-Nazi head, just to talk
to him, and we worked with Eugene Dubow who headed the Chicago office of American Jewish
Committee and was coordinating counter-demonstration work greater Chicago area. He was very
supportive of what we were doing. We tried to get Chicago Park District to consider opening up
its park to prevent serious problems in Skokie, but they wouldnít talk to us.
Somebody came up with the idea to have a counter demonstration scheduled at the Federal Plaza
in downtown Chicago a couple of days before the planned Skokie march. This way, if there was
a cancellation, there would be face saving done by giving Collin a site to demonstrate. Well, out
of the blue, the head of the Federal General Services Administration in Washington, who
happened to be Jewish, issued a statement that they were going to block this. He was unaware
that the ACLU for years had protected peopleís rights to demonstrate in Chicago parks and on
the Federal Plaza, so he had a losing cause. I called my boss in Washington, who had to call over
to this guy to tell him to back off, that this was a safety valve, so they backed off. I knew if they
opened up the park district, that would help. I asked Gene Dubow to call somebody in the
Jewish leadership. I asked, "Canít you get them to talk to somebody in the mayorís office and
get them to open up that park for just a day until this matter is resolved in court? The word came
back that, "We donít negotiate with Nazis, we donít talk with Nazis, but how is Salem
Illinois Governor Thompson said he was going to come to Skokie for the counter-demonstration
and that was inflaming things further. He was going to be there at the demonstration. Also, I
kept my own Congressman Abner Mikva, who represented Skokie as well, appraised of
developments so he would be aware and alerted to what we were doing and could advise the
administration not to do anything foolish, which people tended to do in these kinds of things.
Then Colin issued a very strong press release. "We are going to Skokie no matter what.Ē
But itís a two page statement and mediators tend to look at the bottom, not the top of statements
and at the end of the statement after saying at the top, "We are going to protect our first
amendment rights, we donít want blood shed but we are prepared for what may happen, he ends
by saying, "The only thing that will keep it out of Skokie is that (1) Chicago gives us access to
Marquette Park; (2) Skokie withdraws its ordinances and (3), the state legislature withdraws its
proposed legislation to ban our demonstrations.
There was a little note in a gossip column in the Chicago Sun Times saying that there was
contention in the Neo-Nazi group as to whether they should go to Skokie or not. They were also
trying to get support from other neo-Naziís in other parts of the country. I had received a call from a state senator from a predominantly Jewish District in the
north part of Chicago. He asked if I could come over to his house Sunday morning to meet with
him and a colleague. This was a private meeting to get a message to Colin that unless he
withdrew from Skokie, they were going to pass the ordinance that would ban him from all over
the state. The Senator and the legislator with him were obviously under pressure from their
constituents to keep Colin out of Skokie. I also found out from another legislator that if Colin
did not go to Skokie, the state legislation would never pass. It was very controversial, and would
likely be stricken down by the courts as a First Amendment violation. Meanwhile, the Skokie
ordinances and the ban from the Chicago Park District were moving through the federal courts
and it appeared they would be overruled on appeal.
So I called the ACLU and arranged a meeting with Colin in their office. My
understanding with the attorneys was that we would not tell any lies to Collin. I said, "Frank, I
know you want three things to prove you have your first amendment rights. Suppose you got two
of them, would that do it?Ē He was silent for a moment and said that maybe even one would do.
I fell off my chair and his lawyer fell of the chair. So we went back to work and I called the park
district, the public relations man. He didnít call me back, but within minutes I received a call
from the office of the general council for the park district. I asked if I could meet with him in
his office. He said, "No, let me come over to your place.Ē After getting no response from the
park district for weeks, suddenly their top lawyer comes running over to my office. They must
be ready for something.
What I wanted was to get the park district to let Colin demonstrate in the park for one day. Give
them their one day in July that they originally wanted and this is going to remove all the pressure
in Skokie. There would be no demonstration there. And of course everybody was under pressure
now. Nobody was saying who was talking to whom, but they were petrified out in Skokie.
Youíre going to have tons of people coming into the area that will never hold them. They are
going to be trampling bushes, houses, and people. Everybody knew the Neo-Nazis probably
would never get there, but they were frightened nonetheless.
When the park district attorney arrived, we started with some small talk. I mentioned that one of
the problems with using lawyers in community mediation is the issue of their fees. He agreed
that fees and demands for damages could be a problem. He recalled that the Hari Krishnas
wanted to bring an elephant in a Chicago Park and then sued for damages when their permit was
denied. So much for the small talk. We started talking seriously. He said the park district would
not compromise, the case was in the courts and would be decided there. "We arenít going to
back off on this thing. We are going to win in the courts.Ē Then, he told me how "We offered
them the other parks in the city, but they donít want any part of them. They could go to Lincoln
Park without any license or permit, but they wonít take that.Ē I assured him they were intent on
going to Marquette Park, in their own neighborhood. It was safe for them. The he said, "All they
have to do is sign a permit to get into Marquette Park. I asked why they refused to sign. "Well,
the permit is needed only if you have 75 or more, and they claim they donít have 75. But they
pamphlet the place and they attract a crowd and we have to count those people.Ē I listened and
made notes on a big yellow pad and we talked for about 30 minutes. I had two or three pages of
notes on my yellow pad, but I was at a loss. I couldnít figure where he was headed. Then he
said, "Well, what do you think?Ē I tapped my pen on the yellow pad and I said, "I think the
answerís right here.Ē He said, "Good and he darts across the room and shakes my hand and
says, "But remember, no damage and no fees,Ē and then he left. So I knew I had something
there, but I didnít know what it was.
I picked up the phone and called the ACLU attorney and said "Tell me about this rule of
75.Ē He said, "Oh thatís a lot of bologna. They always count the crowd. Itís just an excuse
they use, but these guys arenít going to sign it.Ē Okay, so at least now I knew what it was. I
called the park district attorney him back and said, "Look, why do you have to count the crowd?
There are going to be so many media people there anyway you are going to get more then 75. I
checked this out, theyíre not going agree not to pamphlet the place. Maybe they wonít, but no
one is going to control the numbers there anyway.Ē He said, "Well, we might do that.Ē I
checked back with the ACLU and a few calls later we had a deal.
The ACLU and park district had been fighting court battles for years over banning controversial
groups from the Chicago parks. The ACLU would invariably win. The park district would pay a
hefty fine and the same thing would happen the following year. There was no way those parties
could sit down together. So, I drafted a letter to Collin citing his demand for his First
Amendment rights, and noted that the park district had agreed not to apply the rule of 75 on July
7 which meant he would not need a permit to demonstrate on that day. With his other concerns
moving through the courts, I encouraged him to abandon his planned demonstration in Skokie. I
said if you go to Skokie, there clearly will a threat to people and property that cannot be
controlled. I also noted that his First Amendment rights were being protected.
I signed the letter, but I first had the draft approved by the attorneys. The park district attorney
initialed it. I had the letter typed and someone in my office hand delivered it to the Neo-Nazi
headquarters. I had sent a copy of the letter to the clerk of Federal Judge George Leighton who
was handling the park district case. I never spoke to the judge because it is improper to intervene
in a court case, but I wanted the judge to know what was going on, because he had a ruling on the
following Tuesday and this was Friday. We were a week away from Skokie.
Well on that day Frank Colin was coming back
from the East coast where he had tried to recruit neo-Nazi support from his North Carolina
colleagues. He was due back that night. There had been some turmoil in the Neo-Nazi office that
I had learned about from Doug Kneeled of the New York Times who was covering the story.
Reporters can be a wonderful source of information, and they know how to protect
confidentiality. Doug told me that he knew there was a conflict among the neo-Nazis about
whether they would go to Skokie and they had scheduled a press conference for that night. At
the press conference they held up my letter in front of the cameras and said, "We have an offer to
go to Marquette Park.Ē Colin returned half way through the press conference, picked up the
letter and said, "We are going to Skokie.Ē
I stayed late in my office that evening and called Colin after the
10 p.m. news. He called back about 10:30 and said, in his usual stiff voice, "This is Frank Colin,
You called?Ē He spoke in the very officious manner that he always had. I always try to break
that barrier, "Oh hi Frank, Dick here. How was your trip?Ē He said, "It was really very nice.
The scenery this time of year on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is just beautiful.Ē I was amazed. I
finally broke through. Heís a guy who probably had no warmth in his life, he was
disenfranchised from him parents, one of whom was half Jewish. He was a misfit in society, he
lived with misfits, and all of a sudden he responded with some warmth. I said, "What are you
going to do about that letter?Ē He said, "Well, Iíll study it and get back to you.Ē
The following day the newspapers reported that the park district made an offer, and there was an
immediate denial by Arnie Matanky, the head of Public Relations. We have no offer, we are not
speaking to them, we are not offering them anything.Ē But on Tuesday, Judge Leighton ordered
the park district to permit the neo-Nazis into Marquette Park on July 7. As a result they canceled
They did have a demonstration on the Federal Plaza, but it was a sham. Police delayed
their arrival, took the batteries out of their loud speaker system then gave them a replacement
which went dead. People threw eggs and rocks. Marquette Park was a boisterous demonstration,
but comparatively uneventful. Police were everywhere and counter demonstrations were
prohibited. The rhetoric was about sending Jews to gas chambers and blacks to Africa. Nobody
went to Skokie.
About how many of the people who were counter protestors who were going to go to Skokie
went to Marquette Park?
There was a Jewish delegation that went down and they marched into the park for about an
hour. It was a token demonstration and fortunately nothing happened to them. It was a short
sleeved crowd and a warm July day and it was a non event. Colin was arrested a few years later.
He was working as a hospital orderly and was accused of abusing two 15 year old boys and was
jailed and thatís the last I heard.
When you brought parties together when tensions were high, what did you do to try to facilitate
I would let them talk and do a lot of listening. Sometimes counsel parties if somebody got
very angry. Sometimes you would say something like "I canít tell anybody what to say, or how
to behave, but I just want to emphasize that when we use certain language it makes it difficult to
communicate and make progress, so Iíll ask you to just keep that in mind.Ē That wasnít often.
No, I would never tell anybody how to talk to anybody. It might come up. I think people
understood what the ramifications of their behaviors were and they had to play it out when they
were together. Usually, by the time you get to the table the anger has been expressed sufficiently
so that the level of anger expressed at the table is mitigated a bit.
So did you ever have any ground rules before you started?
Youíre talking about formal mediation now when you talk about
ground rules. Yes, there would be, but they didnít come into play very much because, in all of
these cases that we are talking about, a lot of them were not formal mediation so you wouldnít
have ground rules. Sure, ground rules are when we talk to each other with respect and try to do
this or that, but we didnít make a big point of it. There werenít that many formal mediation.
Some of them might have lasted a long time. I can think of strategies, but I canít really think of
too many instances where this occurred.
Do you teach people how to listen?
Well you model behavior. I have counseled people to "try to listen and let them know you
care,Ē but I donít lecture them. I think if people arenít listening, they pay the price and they
learn that way.
So when one side says, "No I wonít sit down with them, they wonít listen,Ē you donít go
to the other side and say, you need to listen?
No, no, thatís not my role. Iím not saying I wouldnít do that, but I didnít experience
If one side said that they wouldnít meet with the other side, did you let it lie?
No, I would respect their decision, but I certainly would explore further. I might ask why,
and I might not get an answer. It might be rational or might not be. There are times when you
shouldnít sit down with another party, and I respect that. Either party may not be able to do it
for political reasons, or to strengthen their position, they may need time, they may have an
internal problem within their constituency. I may not be able to be seen by the public meeting
with this group. My contract may be up next week. Sometimes I will counsel people to wait
until doing things, to consider that, but no, I would not push them. I would explore with them
why and let it rest with them. I also know the dynamics of a conflict changes and people change
Now you said quite a bit earlier that your main goal would be to get people talking, to get
people together. Then just recently you said you
only did 6 or so formal mediators. So presumably most of your stuff is what you call "informal
mediation.Ē How is that different than formal mediation?
CRS defined mediation and had a series of activities. There was conciliation, there was
pre-mediation, and there was mediation and follow-up. It was quite structured. In formal
mediation, you have an agenda, you have ground rules, you have parties agreeing to all of this.
That was highly structured. Much of what we did never reached that level. Yet you had the
same behaviors in bringing parties together and getting them talking around a table. Now was
Skokie a mediation? Sure it was, but not by this formal standard. Parties wouldnít come
around the table. So you did Mediation things and the definitions become blurred, but I donít
want to get hung up on that. There were formal mediation that I did and there were informal
mediation, or conciliations, call them what you want.
Did the venue of the meeting ever matter? Were you careful with
the choice of location?
We took it into consideration, but it often didnít matter. Sometimes it was the most
comfortable place. I never knew that to be a serious factor. The Illinois voting rights case we
met in the courtroom because that was the most convenient, but once they were in Chicago we
met up in our office. Obviously in Skokie you couldnít do certain things in that formal setting.
With St. Cloud you met in the prison. Prisoners are prisoners. You canít get away from that.
Were there ever situations where you got people to the table but
they werenít negotiating in good faith?
When you find out you have to address it. Iím trying to keep the theoretical from the
practical and actual. There are times when people come together and they arenít going to
negotiate in good faith, but they have to come together. I certainly think there are cases where
people had their mind made up and couldnít bring themselves to change it and had no intention
to. Again, I donít know if thatís not in good faith, I think for example that at Kent State, with
the trusties and the University being very conservative and not yielding an inch and having no
compassion, sympathy, or empathy for the protestors that they were not going to budge an inch
unless they were forced to. So there you have low trust levels, and unwillingness to change.
What youíre hoping is that when people come around the table and hear each other out,
they will move off of their intractable positions. But again, the politics have to actually permit
people to change. If youíre dealing with nations, or high institutions perhaps for political
reasons they canít change. If youíre dealing with people across the table who arenít bound
that way, they can make some concessions and some changes. Sometimes they can do it and
save face. But you can get a school superintendent to make some changes that are totally
unacceptable to him for political reasons. His board would never accept it and his public would
never accept it. Yet there are changes that he might make after listening, just as he does other
things he is asked to do, that are just as important to the community, that he could do without
risk. So that when he came in that room, he wasnít going to yield an inch, but as he listened he
found out that he could. I think that comes into play. So it really depends on the political
constraints on the establishment party and also on the community party.
In the building trades the group couldnít move, wouldnít meet,
because trust levels were so low. But there was something going on in that coalition, in the
building trades coalition, that prevented them from moving forward. That had to be worked out
internally without outside intervention or interference. They had to work out their own power
struggle internally before they could move forward.
When you say without outside interference, does that mean without CRS assistance too?
You bet. There is a limit. You may be able to help, but you may not. If you are lucky
someone will say to you, "You are just going to have to give us time on this.Ē After a while you
learn. When you make a call, and no one responds to you, you know something is going on.
People behave in certain ways and you come to recognize it just from having done it. You are
calling somebody and they always return your call and now all of a sudden you donít get a call
back. That was true with the St. Cloud situation. I knew something was going on up there that
had to be worked out.
So coming back to
the table, when one side makes a demand or a request that the other side absolutely isnít going
to budge on, what do you, as a mediator, do?
Try to find out why, try to keep the conversation going. I mentioned the case where the
American Indians wanted a peer counseling at the reformatory in St. Cloud, and it was clear a
wall was put up and it was not retractable at that point in time. So some dynamic is going to
have to change, but on that day, that week it wasnít going to happen, and there was nothing that
I could do. Now, we could have taken a break and I might have gone over to talk to somebody,
but it was pretty clear that the union had taken its stand and was in control. They were quiet the
entire mediation. For 6 months they really had few demands and I knew they were very angry
that the administration was yielding on so many points. Then all of a sudden, this is their stand.
We are the counselors and nobody else , no inmate, is going to do counseling. The fact that it
was better for the inmates had nothing to do with it. The administration knew they couldnít
pass that line and they didnít. It was clear to me. Probably clear to the inmates that they
wouldnít accept it. There was no need for me to go over to somebody and say, "whatís going
on? Canít you open up?Ē There might be other cases where Iíd sit with somebody, but not
Would you go over to the other side and say, look I think youíre
going to have to drop this demand?
Now they are going to have to decide that. They have to know the consequences of hanging
in there. Again, in that case, there was nothing in the balance. Iím going to give you another
example of one of my favorite stories. We were negotiating the Cairo, Illinois, voters rights case
which had been languishing for years until the city finally decided to get it resolved. The
negotiators were two attorneys from Carbondale, Illinois who had been retained by the city to
handle this for them. They werenít from that community. And there were two civil rights
lawyers from the Land of Lincoln Law Firm in St. Louis. We had several meetings in the
courthouse and they had done some communicating and we finally got the matter resolved. They
agreed that instead of at large voting there would be by district voting, so there could be, for the
first time in history, black representation on the city council. They decided how to divide the city
and they decided how to pick the mayor and everything was done. Boy, I thought, we were done.
We had the final meeting in the courthouse. It was an old courthouse in St. Louis, a big
old building. We were meeting in the jury room and reviewing the final details of the settlement.
They had just come back from gain their clientsí consent to these details. The primary election
was going to be held in September and the general election in November. At the election in
November they would vote for the new city council. Just as it looked like everything was set,
Herb Eastman, a very soft spoken civil rights lawyer, looked across the table at his fellow
lawyers and said, "I donít see why we have to wait until September for the primary and the
general election in November. Why canít we have the primary in August and elect the city
council in September?Ē Hereís a case that had been unresolved for twenty years and he wanted
to move it up a month! Jack Freirich. the lead lawyer for the city, was about 6'4'í and weighed
about 250 pounds. He stood up, pounded his fist on the table and his face turned red as he said,
"What! You want me to go back to my client after we have finally convinced them to resolve
this and ask them to move the primary one month?Ē I could see the whole deal falling apart.
Herb Eastman cowered and said nothing. I was with Gus Gaynett, my co-mediator, and Gus
turned red and said, "What are you guys doing?Ē I said, "Wait a second.Ē I pointed to Herb and
Harvey Grossman, who was his colleague (Harvey is now the general council for the ACLU in
Chicago) and asked them to step outside into the courtroom for a minute. Jack Freirich was just
beside himself. He said, "Damn! I donít know what these guys are doing. Ē I let him vent. He
was going to vent whatever I tried to do. So he vented and I listened. "Yes, I understand, I can
see why, I donít know, Iíll tell you what Jack, just wait here a minute will you?Ē Gus waited
with them and I walked out to the courtroom. I walked over to Herb and asked Whatís going
on?Ē He said, "Itís okay. We can go back now?Ē I asked, "What do you mean we can go back
now?Ē He said, "You know Hattie (one of the six plaintiffs) is 85 years old. She has never been
able to vote for a black city councilman in her entire life. Sheís getting old and I thought I
owed it to her to make this happen just as soon as possible.Ē I gave it a try. We can go back
now. So we went back in and the cityís lawyers didnít know what was going to happen.
Harvey and Herb sat down quietly and I said, "Herb?Ē and he said, "We can continue with the
original election date. It is okay.Ē We very cautiously proceeded and soon had wrapped up that
agreement. As we left the lawyers looked at me and said, "Youíre terrific. I donít know what
you did, but youíre a genius.Ē I had done nothing but just go with the flow.
And know when to break them up.
Well, yes. It would have happened even if I didnít break them up. Herb would have
backed off eventually. I donít know what would have happened, but we find ourselves in the
middle and take credit for all these wonderful things.
Do you use caucuses a lot to try to diffuse situations?
In community conflicts youíre doing a lot of meeting with the parties separately, often
before they come together.
What other techniques do you use if youíre in a mediation,
formally or informally, if you have parties together and things start getting hot. What do you do
to cool things back down?
Well, you might take a break at any time. Whatever form itís taking. It depends on what
the level of rhetoric is. Iím getting partly theoretical because I canít think of a lot of situations
where I was in mediation where it got so hot that people were endangered. You try to let them
vent and keep it from going too far. Take a break and come back. Just in my experience I
havenít used the caucus a whole lot. I didnít have a need for that, I guess, or maybe my
mediation never got that hot.
Other than Wounded Knee, which I want to
talk about tomorrow, were you ever in situations where there was a serious potential for
At the table you mean?
Either at the table or in the community.
Oh, well in a lot of CRS-type cases there is potential for violence in the community, sure. If
the conflict is unresolved, it can result in a protest where there is a potential for violence.
So what do you do to try to reduce that potential?
You get people talking and hoping that they see some light at the end of the tunnel. Most
people donít want to be in violent situations because someone can get hurt, including them.
Most people are looking for ways out and they use the potential of violence to bring it to the
brink and they hope they donít have to jump.
Changing gears completely again, weíve talked on and off about giving technical assistance
to parties. Youíve talked quite a bit about what you would do with the minority parties, but did
you bring technical assistance for the majority parties, the authority figures?
There was less of a need, but yes, we would put them in touch with counterparts and other
communities who had experienced the same things. Sometimes you would do that for your own
credibility, but sometimes they would have useful advice for their colleagues. Sometimes you
would provide a police chief with firearms policies from other cities, sometimes you would bring
a consultant to a police department from another cityís police department. That was very
popular. I mentioned that I did that at the Minnesota reformatory. I brought in a corrections
commissioner from another state. Sometimes we provide training for either party. Youíd work
with police or youíd help people put training programs together that would bring the minority
community into the training process with police.
And what about technical assistance for the minority community?
Sometimes it was advice based on your experience elsewhere, sometimes it was paper based
on things they could be doing or things other communities generated elsewhere. Sometimes it
was people, bring in a consultant to work with them. Sometimes it was putting them in touch
with people from other communities. That was typically what the technical assistance was
comprised of. And sometimes training. I guess you could call the types of things you just do in
your day-to-day work technical assistance, even though it wouldnít be labeled that. Itís
helping them sort out their organizational matters when youíve developed a relationship that
enables you to do that.
Were you ever asked to do things that
stepped over the line of what you thought you could do as a third party that got to be more
straight forward advocacy?
Sure. People always wanted me to be advocating for them and you often couldnít, but you
did it in other ways that people understood. That didnít mean they wouldnít ask you to, or
give you a hard time, tease you, or bait you. Sure.
And what did you do?
Did you ever feel you needed to strike a balance between helping the parties reach a
settlement on the one hand and equity on the other?
There was often a tension, but as I stated earlier, a party could only get what it had the power
to get, so that they might not receive equity. They might get half a loaf and thatís because they
had to come back another day for the rest of it depending on their state of organization, their
persistence, how much they cared about an issue, and the circumstances around them. So there
might have been a school district, as I gave an example earlier, where parents wanted something,
but they didnít have the power to get it. The first step is to get them around the table. It might
be the first time they ever sat down with the local officials and negotiated with them. They are
getting empowered that way, through the process. Itís self empowering if you would, but they
will only come away with part of what they wanted. You get what you can get.
Were there instances where you saw them agree to less then you thought they could get?
Boy thatís tough. Sometimes youíd counsel people, push them to ask for something a
little bit more perhaps if you saw that, but this is almost theoretical again. You donít know
where those lines are going to be drawn. When we went into St. Cloud I never would have
dreamed that one issue by American Indian inmates would be to have inmate-to-inmate
counseling. Clearly it was a sound proposal. I could not predict how far they could have pushed
that issue. If it had come up the first week maybe they could have gotten it because the
administration had to make some concessions and the guards werenít that angry. Maybe Iím
the reason they didnít get that because I put it toward the bottom of the agenda. I donít know.
Nor do I know that everything thatís requested is reasonable, I canít make those judgements. I
donít make the assumption that because a teacher is Hispanic or white or black that the students
are going to be better off, or worse off. Yes, I know you need certain things for a well rounded
education for everybody, but I wonít carry it that far.
Did you ever have a problem retaining your
objectivity when you were involved in a conflict?
I probably did, but I do not remember it happening. If it happened it was not often. Maybe
if my skin was a different color, or my experience was a little different Iíd have more difficulty
maintaining my objectivity, but I canít remember a case where I lost my objectivity.
What about the Nazis?
No, that was not a problem. I never took them that seriously as a threat to anything. I tried
to be empathic. I had no sympathy for them or what they were doing, but it never prevented me,
I think, from doing my work objectively. That doesnít mean I didnít try to advocate a just
resolution by helping to empower a racial minority group by, for example, helping it to prepare
for a negotiation when they wanted that kind of counsel and if I thought it appropriate.
Would you work this hard to help the Nazis?
I doubt it. That was an exceptional case. I think you obviously lean and bend with who you
are, and people in CRS are compassionate and have a high sense of justice and an outrage at
injustice, so thatís going to effect your behavior. And yet you have to find that middle ground,
if thatís what it is where you can work. If you canít work in the middle, you have to do other
kinds of work to fill your needs.
Aside from Skokie was your impartially ever challenged?
Oh Iím sure. I donít remember.
To your face? Were you accused?
Not in a formal mediation, but I canít imagine that over the years and all the things I
interacted with that someone wouldnít say, You arenít fair, youíre not impartial.Ē But that
happened often. It may well have happened more with my staff, but we fought those things out
internally. Thatís natural, I think. Everybody had a high sense of justice and we were all torn
by the need to bring about justice and to have the group get what it could, maximize its gains.
Feelings that there were different ways in CRS to do that?
Oh, Iím sure that people behaved differently, that some were more
advocates and did things behind the scenes that were not appropriate by the book, but nobody
would criticize them for doing those unless it was seen as going beyond some point. But you
take those risks. We really were advocates for justice through negotiation and we were able to do
a lot of things to help people achieve greater justice.
So did you have staff meetings within CRS where everybody would get together and talk
about how to handle something?
Not enough. People didnít want to always talk about it, but we did have staff meetings and
talk about cases and what not. It was less formal than that much most of the time.
Did you debrief after cases?
Yeah, very often, not always.
Anything more you can tell us about maintaining objectivity and
Well, what I want to emphasize is the extraordinary difficulty for mediators who have any
sense of justice to come into a community conflict where racial, or civil rights issues are involved
and remain objective when they see clear violations of peopleís rights. Weíve already said
there is no need to be neutral, but yet you want to be seen as objective and impartial by the
parties, certainly by the establishment party who is accused of perpetrating this violation of
rights. This is very hard, especially for younger, newer mediators. But with the passage of time
and by being Mediation in our behaviors, we tend to assume less, listen more carefully and
empathetically, get a better understanding of where parties are. It becomes easier and more
natural to be able to understand where a police chief, a mayor, or a school superintendent is
coming from. Thereís not always malice as you sometimes tend to feel coming into a situation,
where there has been abuse of a youth in a school or by police. By understanding the broader
dimension of what that the police officer is facing, what that police chief or school
superintendent is facing, without excusing the behavior, but understanding it better and their
dilemma, wishing it hadnít happened. That makes it a bit easier to be objective and at least
project yourself with greater objectivity.
Do you want to talk any more about empathy? I know that it is a
topic that has concerned you considerably in the past.
Well, it hasnít concerned me, but itís been paramount because my view is what we wrote
in our textbook, what we found, what we learned, what we know is how you listen and the ability
to listen is extremely important. That means listening, not only to obtain information, but with
empathy. To reflect back to the other party is critical. Itís critical in dealing with any emotional
situation and virtually every civil rights conflict we entered a strong emotional component:
anger, rage, disappointment, hurt, fear. To be able to listen with empathy, reflecting back to the
party that you understand what they are saying and how they feel about it, not being critical,
suspending judgment, not interrupting and those types of behaviors, all learnable skills, are
absolutely critical to be consistently effective in this work. I remember John Chase telling me,
when he was the regional director in Philadelphia, of a public housing case where the tenants
were protesting over the construction of a highway through their neighborhood. The community
got very little satisfaction in this case, but later one of the community leaders came up to John
and thanked him, saying, "Since this problem began, you were the only one who listened to what
we had to say.Ē I sort of caught that when John told me that story. So I started collecting stories
like this. I have some other instances where mediators have gotten feedback from parties who
really didnít get a whole lot out of the mediation, or did, coming back and saying "At least you
listened.Ē Typically, a mediator in a standard conflict is the only one
who is going to sit and listen to the whole story. This obviously builds trust, which is critical,
and the most important component for the mediator. It opens up a party to talk more, so you get
the information that you need because information is what you need in any negotiation.
Empathic listening is the most important skill a mediator brings to this work.
You talked off and
on about bringing in resources that CRS knew about and also community resources. How did
you identify resources that you werenít previously aware of? Community resources for
Well during the course of the assessment you would identify the power points in a
community, who they were and how to reach them. I remember when we were in Indianapolis,
working on school desegregation, there was a banker who was also a big figure in the
Indianapolis 500 race, and headed the Indiana Bank in Indianapolis. He was known to be active
socially and so we gravitated toward him once we learned of him and his interest and clout in the
community. You know that the Eli Lilly Foundation is down in Indianapolis so you try to find
out what the interest is there. You learn from people in the community as part of your
assessment what resources are there. When you do your assessment, one of the questions you are
asking is, whatís the history of this conflict, who are the parties, who else has been involved,
and sometimes it will surface that way. People have set up committees to work on a problem and
may have some people to do that. Former public officials, leading business people, you ask
around and you move in those directions.
Did confidentiality ever get to be a big issue?
No. Seldom was it a big issue.
What kind of assurances did you make to the parties about
You would make it clear, if they didnít know already from having worked with you before,
that anything they tell you would be held in confidence. Very often we would make entry into a case by a phone call from a person in the
minority or church community. While conducting the assessment, we would call the
establishment party and tell them we had heard there was this problem. "Oh, where did you hear
that?Ē And youíd invent language, or pet phrases and just talk generally, but you would not
reveal who alerted you to the problem. When asked, "Who have you talked to about this,Ē You
might respond, "Well, a number of people.Ē You try not to say who you spoke with or met with
if you think it will create a problem. Sometime we would plan an on-site visit to start late in the
day when the offices are closed. We would call ahead and tell the city office we would be
arriving Tuesday night and would like to meet with them first thing Wednesday morning. Then
on Tuesday night you could meet with the community people who may not be available during
the day anyway because theyíre at their jobs. Youíre up until two in the morning or until
midnight working. And then at 8 in the morning when you see the city official you say, I got in
last night and had a chance to speak with some of the people in the community who are
concerned a bout the problem. That way, you didnít violate protocol by not seeing him first,
especially if itís a mayor. Sometimes it was important to see an official first, but if it wasnít
critical, then you try it the other way and you get the community perspective of the problem
before you meet with the public official.
What makes it important to see the public official first?
Just a protocol matter. It would be more important if the public official triggered the
request. If you felt he or she would be offended if you didnít see him or her first, then it was
important to. But you get a better rounded view of the problem as perceived by the aggrieved
community. If you would see them first, then your meeting is more productive with the school
superintendent or whomever.
How did you deal
with the media?
Well I dealt a little more boldly than many CRS people because I was a former reporter and
editor. So I tried to use the media positively when I could to help the case or the agency.
Typically we would have to be cautious with the media. What I would try to do, when I didnít
want to engage with the media, but the case had visibility, would be to have a prepared brief
comment and say no more. I counseled my staff to do the same.
At the end of each day or how often?
Sometimes when you arrived in a community. If the media knew you were coming,
reporters might be waiting for you or the would call you in your office. Again you reach into
your box of stock phrases and know what to say, such as, "Weíve been invited,Ē and again you
donít say who invited. "Weíve been invited to come in and talk to people involved in the
school issue that has been so widely publicized in the community. When we heard about it we
called some of the individuals locally involved in the problem to see if we can be of assistance.Ē
"What are you going to do here?Ē "Weíre going to see if we can be of assistance.Ē "Do you
thinkÖ?Ē "I donít know, we just arrived and we just donít know.Ē You just stop talking and
get out of there. Or in the break of a mediation, "The parties have met and weíve talked for four
hours today and we will resume tomorrow. Weíve made good progress in exploring the
issues.Ē And youíd say no more. "Are you optimistic?Ē You might say, "Our people are
listening to each other.Ē You try to do something to focus positively on the parties and get out of
there. Often in mediation, you work out a press policy with the parties.
They might want to make a statement or they may want the mediator to do it for them.
Now, the most important rule to me was that the parties involved in the conflict often
were seeking recognition and heightening public awareness of the conflict no matter what side
they were on, and they donít want the mediator hogging all of the newspaper space. So if you
stay out of the story, it leaves room for coverage of the parties and they want their voices out
there, they want their names in the paper. So I tried to not get in the way of that.
How often did the parties say things to the press that would have been better not said?
I donít know. It happened, but I canít make that judgment for a party because maybe I
didnít like it, but from their end it may have been important.
What about violating confidentiality?
Well, when we went into formal mediation we would address the
press issue and it might be that all statements will be made by the mediator, by representatives of
each party, or we will jointly put out a statement after each session. Very often they would say
why donít you talk of that and then when the agreement is announced, if there is one, have the
parties step out from the background. You donít want to be taking their space. Itís their
victory, itís not yours and itís easy to want to be there.
You mentioned yesterday that reporters are often a good source of information...
Oh, good reporters and good newspapers know whatís going on. When I was in Chicago
doing the Skokie/Nazi case, I learned the dimension of the problem at one point when Larry
Green, who was a Chicago reporter for the Los Angles Times, told me that two thousand people
had chartered seats through a travel agency to come to Skokie. That was real. People had
already reserved seats on the plane and were ready, or had put their money down, and you begin
to multiply that by the potential problem and that was important information. Or, when Doug
Kneeland of the New York Times told me that he had heard of some dissension within the ranks
with the Neo-Nazis, over whether they wanted to go to Skokie or find a way out of it. Reporters
can go in and ask questions that other people canít. Itís impossible for me to go in and ask
them things that he could. So, as sources we would trade information and he would respect my
need for confidentiality. He was also there when I wanted to be identified when the case was
over; it didnít do any harm to get a little bit of recognition at that point its part of helping the
agency get some visibility, too. That seldom happened in CRS because of the confidentiality and
the fear of individuals without experience working with the media. A lot of the staff just shied
away from of the press. They stayed away from the press and wouldnít talk to them. So to me,
the most important thing other then protecting confidentiality was not being seen as taking
media space away from the parties.
I used the media strategically during the Skokie-Nazi case at the
height of the conflict when it appeared that in two weeks tens of thousands of people were going
to be converging on Skokie. We were in negotiations and I was confident the protest in Skokie
would not occur. I arranged a story through a friend who was a lawyer for the Chicago Sun
Times. He had called the managing editor and said I would give them an exclusive interview.
They one of their star reporters to my office and I gave her a story that ultimately read "A Justice
Department official who was trying to mediate a settlement in the Skokie case is confident the
matter would be settled without a demonstration at Skokie.Ē That sort of set a tone that
encouraged the parties to work for a solution and also discouraged people from coming into
Now why did you think that was going to help, as opposed to inflame things further?
To say there's going to be a settlement?
Yeah, I could see where the Nazis had gotten up to that point with that statement.
Well, then an alternative would be found that would satisfy them. They did want a
settlement, but they didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't either at that point. Not only
did it ease tensions of people who thought there were going to be real problems in Skokie, but
the people involved in negotiations gave a positive twist to that too.
But I gather it was a rare occurrence; you didn't usually do things like that.
Correct. That was a rare occurrence. There typically wasn't a need or opportunity and it was
seldom appropriate. It also entailed some risk.
How did you determine when you should end your involvement in a
We tried to set goals going in as to what we would do. If it was formal mediation it was sort
of easy. You knew when it was over. You knew when you had achieved or wasn't likely to
when you wore out your welcome, or ability to positively impact the situation. We went in and
said this is what we're going to try to achieve. We wrote a brief activity report each day and that
helped guide us.
Were most of your cases done in one trip, where you went in, did
the whole thing and left, or were there situations where you would go in for a couple days and go
home for a couple weeks and go back?
I mentioned that the St. Cloud mediation lasted almost six months, almost every other week
for six months at the reformatory. That was unusual. In a school desegregation case, we would
sometimes open an office. We opened an office in Dayton just to work on that matter. Or assign
somebody to Cleveland, who worked 90% of the time on that school desegregation case. When
we didnít have an office, such as in Lansing, Michigan, the mediator would travel back and
forth, working with parties and meeting with them. Many cases involved single trips of a just a
few days, but once we opened a case whether or not we would return was open-ended. Although
we set goals at the outset, we might change them during the course of our work.
How many people did you have working out of your office?
When I arrived in 1968 there were seven of us. One was stationed in St. Louis, one in Gary,
one in Cincinnati and the rest were in Chicago. We expanded to Cleveland, and Milwaukee,
Kansas City, Louisville, and then the regions were reconfigured. But at one point I had about
thirty people in the hiring chain when they cut us back. In the Nixon years they turned on us and
cut us way back, so it went back down to smaller numbers I found when I first arrived.
When you were moving to leave a case,
what sort of structures, if any, did you try to set up to continue the work that you were doing after
you were gone?
Depending on the nature of the case, weíd try to set up some structure. For example, one
or committees might be set up in the community that would continue in force long after CRS was
gone. In the case of a police-community conflict, it might a leadership committee that would
meet monthly to keep communications open and to address any alleged violations of agreements
that had been reached. CRS was unable to enforce these agreements so we would set up local
"enforcement mechanismsĒ to do that. If someone came back to us, we might re-enter, but
usually, if you had success in the case, there was some mechanism locally. I don't mean a formal
mediated agreement, it just could be a negotiated agreement that the parties were going to do
Was there any implicit threat that the larger
Justice Department might do something if the agreement wasn't adhered to?
No, but we often felt it necessary to be sure that members of the community were aware of
their rights and knew who in the federal government to call if they wanted to move in that
direction. This was especially in smaller communities where people were at tremendous
disadvantages for legal and other resources. But, that does not mean we were not perceived as
having some clout. We might call a U.S. Attorney's office, and say we've had a complaint and we
think somebody from the F.B.I. ought to go in and investigate it. Or we might encourage
somebody in the community to call the U. S. Attorney. That was appropriate. We were
never supposed to share confidential information.
Did CRS take any continuing responsibility for implementing an
Typically not, but we would stick with school desegregation cases for a long time. What
would happen is when a federal judge was considering issuing a school desegregation order, we
would visit the judge, explain what our agency was doing, and what role we might serve. Some
said, "Thank you, we'll call you if we need you," and other judges would write us into the order
as a resource to the parties. Some orders were general; others gave us very specific tasks. These
orders gave us license to work with the parties, monitor developments and keep the judge
appraised of what was happening.
What other kinds of cases did you get court referrals for?
In our region we set up a pilot project with Seventh Federal Circuit, which I wrote about in
the book by "___Ē by Louthen(?) and Pinkele, published by Iowa State Univ. Press. My chapter
reports on several cases we mediated for the court. We had a number of prison cases. Judges
receive a tremendous number of complaints from prisoners and a few judges asked us to mediate
them. Werner Petterson was in Waupan State Prison in Wisconsin where he mediated a series of
complaints for a judge. Those complaints were filed in the Eastern district and the Western
district, the two federal districts in Wisconsin. One judge was antagonistic toward these cases
and wasnít interested in our services. The other judge was very much interested in them and
used us. I did a voting rights case in Cairo, Illinois with Gus Gaynett. We made our services
known and other judges would call on us. Jesse Taylor did a prison case related to racially
segregated housing in Cook county jail and another one related to the cityís discrimination
against the black neighborhoods of Clarksdale, Indiana.
How did you measure the success of an
Well, you are always trying to project your successes in a bureaucracy. Information is
always needed for budget purposes, annual reports, monthly reports, you are always expected to
put your best foot forward. People need achievements, you'd always want to go up to a higher
level. To a Congressman, a constituent, anything would support the agency's needs because you
need to get money, you need to budget, you need to get staff. So at times we didnít think of
how you measured success, we just thought of what our best foot forward was. At times we were
trying to show how many dollars were saved in mediated case, rather then a court case.
How do you do that?
With great imagination. You say, "here's how many hours were spent on this case and here
is what it would have cost had this case been litigated.Ē You make some estimates and say
hundreds of thousands of dollars were saved because this case was handled this way rather than
I think, in reality, the test of success is whether or not the parties involved in the case would
invite you back if they have another conflict. That's an issue that I gave some thought to later
when I was writing about it, when I did that article for Peace and Change, 'How Do You Measure
Success?' My primary answer was, would the parties want you back if there was another case?
Then you know you were successful, because not every case will settle or should settle. Every
dispute should not be resolved. I told you about the Minneapolis proposed mediation that fell
through and the community was stronger because of it. They wouldn't let it go to mediation.
They were able to heighten awareness in the community and have better results in the end, better
outcomes. Sometimes you run into people afterwards and find out how successful it was because
you did something they remembered. It can't simply be a head count of how many cases you
won, because that becomes a game too. You do know, though, that in many cases there were
very few resources available to the communities and you were there for them. You point to them
in directions, you brought in assistance.
We used to do a survey each year for the attorney general, an assessment of the potential
for violence and for disruption in communities around the country. We would do an assessment
of major areas in our region where there was a potential for racial violence. The reality was we
could never really predict anything. We could say tensions are high and there is a real danger of
violence if this situation is not addressed, but nobody could really predict if violence would
happen or not. Also, you can't say that there was no violence because of our presence. I'd like to
think that because we were at Wounded Knee there was less violence. But how can we be
Failures I often know immediately. Some things didn't work. To measure success, I
would stick to the question, "Would the parties want you back to work with them again?Ē Do
they feel you did everything that could be done? That's part of success. There were an
extraordinary number of things CRS mediators did that clearly helped people's lives and made
important contributions. No matter what spin we put on it, how we perceive it, how we put
ourselves in the picture, there can be no doubt that many conflicts were addressed with tensions
mitigated, people counseled and progress made.
You mentioned a minute ago that some things just aren't appropriate for mediation. What
kind of cases would those be?
Where the parties aren't going to have a fair shake at the table. When I say mediation, I
mean formally sitting down and talking. I don't mean conciliation, I mean formally sitting down
at a table. There might be cases from the communities' perspective where they really need to do
more to gain more strength to come to the table with enough power to get what they need. With
the establishment there can be cases where the public officials can't afford to be seen in a
negotiating posture with the community for political reasons.
In either of those cases, the case where the community needs more
power, or the authority group doesn't want to come to the table, who makes that decision, them or
Them. I never make that decision. If we see something is a problem, we won't propose a
certain action. If you know there's a municipal election coming up in a month, and this is a
critical election issue, you would not likely suggest that people come to a mediation table where
there will be visibility in the community at that point. You might do something else and then
after the election take a fresh look at it.
If you felt like coming to the table would undermine valuable
protest activity, but the group who was protesting seemed okay with it, would you go ahead?
Oh sure. You work with the group. I mean, you do a reality check like you do in any
mediation. Typically though, community groups have smarts and they have good counsel. You
can always help them with that too, by putting them in touch with people who can give them
guidance. People sometimes say that mediation stifles the protest activity. In my experience I've
found that to be theoretical and not real. You're usually dealing with pretty astute people who
have been fighting in a battle for survival and now want to take the next step. They will ask, and
they are prepared to make their own decisions. Now, sometimes they may not see the advantage
of coming to the table, because they get locked in on a given issue on which they feel they can't
prevail. "We can never do anything with that mayor, that chief, with that superintendent."
How did the changing nature of the Civil
Rights Movement affect your work?
When I joined the agency in 1968 there weren't many people talking. They were protesting,
they were breaking windows. We were going back and forth between parties in volatile
situations, such as a protest where the law was being violated because somebody didn't have a
permit and yet they were going to march down the street and what not. We were helping mitigate
tensions and do things that would help minimize the likelihood of violence. Explaining to people
what was happening to one party, why the other was this way. It was important to meet together,
and getting them to meet was a big thing - just opening communications.
After a while, the dynamic changed and people started talking. There was greater verbal
communication across tables rather than through protests, marches, and violence. That was the
time when we learned the skills of mediation. CRS learned to mediate and started blazing trails
in this field and developing a body of knowledge through our experiences. We did more of this
type of mediation than any other entity, and we were the first major body of mediation after
Next, the protest broadened, so instead of black/white it was Hispanic/black/white and
American Indian and Asian, and women and disabled. In the black communities, this was often
perceived as diluting the resources available for African American. Similarly with Hispanics.
The broadening of the federal governmentís response to civil rights abuses was rejected by
many civil rights groups focusing on race related issues. They felt it was an intentional dilution
of resources intended to deal with race-related discrimination.
Did CRS handle that kind of case?
CRS maintained that its mission was race related and should remain that way, and it never
changed. To this day it hasn't changed. It doesn't get involved in the disabled, doesn't get
involved in aging. What it does do, is respond from time to time to extraordinarily heightened
crisis where it makes sense for public, social, or political reasons, to become involved. Kent
State is one example. That was a heightened conflict of national interest. It would not have been
appropriate to tell the Special Assistant to the President of the United States that we don't do
student campus conflicts. Fighting over scraps is what it comes to. Until there are more
resources, you are going to have these problems. But the agency has always hued the line on race
So if mediation wasn't the original intention of CRS in handling civil rights issues that came
up, what was the original intent and how was CRS intended to go in and work with them?
CRS was established in 1964, under Title 10, a very short title under the Civil Rights Acts.
It's role was to assist communities that were having racial or ethnic conflicts. To help
communities with racial and ethnic disputes, differences, and disagreements to keep the peace.
Now did CRS start acting in this preventive way early on or is this something that came in
CRS was a small agency. It used consultants around the country before it had field offices
and they tended to respond to the highest crises. As a result they went to the most volatile
situations. So they were on the bridge in Selma and in those types of situations they were there.
Iím sure Ozell told you on his tape, they were in Memphis when Martin Luther King, Jr., was
killed. They were there in a whole variety of ways. There were those who were working with
the police, there were those who were working with the striking sanitation workers, some with
other city officials, so you had a lot of people there.
You talked a little about the violence or
tension assessment in different communities. When you found that there were tensions, or there
were tendencies towards violence, would someone from CRS be sent to reduce that in a
You mean when we did annual assessments of racial tensions in certain communities. I
think this was probably a political ploy originally, where a frightened Republican administrator
probably turned to the director of CRS and said, "Whereís racial violence going to break out?"
We'd then come back with a report that said whatís needed here are more jobs, or more money
from the Labor Department to take care of this problem. We would do an assessment, Iíd call
my staff together and weíd look at the region and the areas we should cover. The staff knew the
region and would conduct the assessments. That doesnít mean that because tensions were high
over a public housing issue in Chicago that we were working on that case. Sometimes the staff
would build it up to alert Washington how bad things were in the Chicago low income
community that relies on public housing. We could never really predict what was going to
happen. We could just say tensions are high, people are worried about a potential for violence.
How is civil rights mediation different from other kinds of
I think one thing different is that we would meet separately with the parties upon
intervention. To be efficient and effective, it was imperative that you did careful assessment.
Sometimes you would not do that in the mediation, and even in civil rights formal mediation it
might not be necessary. But when you went out in the field to do conciliation or respond to
community conflict, before you reach the formal stage, it was important to do an assessment to
find out what was going on. That means talking to a lot of people, gathering a lot of information,
and then deciding whether we belong here and what can we do here? Should we stay? If so,
what are our goals, how are we going to get it done, what resources will it take? In community
mediation, you have to understand the nature of systems if youíre going to be effective. How
do governments work, coalitions, other organizations, school districts some of those things I
mentioned earlier. You donít want to have a mediation two weeks before an election. You
have to learn the nature of coalitions and how they function, how decisions are made in coalitions
and how decisions are made in establishments and what the differences are. So, I think it takes a
broader range of knowledge and skills in this field.
There are a number of conflict theorists
who suggest that identity conflicts are a) the hardest to resolve, or b) cannot be mediated at all.
They say identity conflicts require a needs-based process, rather than interest-based negotiation
That's clearly accurate because they are difficult, un-mediateable, but you donít mediate the
conflict, you mediate the dispute or related problems. You mediate something thatís going on.
You donít mediate Christianity vs. Islamic Law for example, but the problem of how the
parties can live and work peacefully in the same environment. Youíre trying to change attitudes
along the way, but youíre dealing with behaviors over a specific issue.
So you mediate the specific issue, not the underlying identity.
You do what you can do, but be realistic. Youíre there because of a problem and
everybody has rights to things and people can accept that, and they understand that. You try to
show people what they have in common. Minimize the differences. Get them to hear things they
havenít heard before, and to understand where others are coming from. Hopefully, you get
some attitude adjustment along the way. Whether itís partial or total transformation or none at
all is another matter.
The line that got missed when we turned the tape over that I thought was important is that
you donít resolve the whole identity issue.
I really havenít thought that through fully. Iíve seen attitudinal changes in South Africa
where Iíve worked just as I have seen it in this country during school desegregation disputes.
Does that mean the identity crisis, or the identity problem, is gone? No, just some people have
changed, some views have broadened, there are some new understandings. Hopefully this
happens more and more as you go forward. If youíve seen children from different backgrounds
working together on committees in newly desegregated schools you see them in a setting opens
them up a bit.
It is also the question of the political possibilities. When it's politically feasible, itís
good to have these good interpersonal things happening. If you launch political barriers, it
becomes impossible to break away from the group with which youíre are identified. So whether
itís a political or racial, or whatever it is, youíre ok, but Iím still not going to say whites are
ok, or blacks are this or that, or in this community this can happen because I still have to
represent my organization.
Another similar sort of question relates to
the statement that is being made quite a bit in the field now, that white Americans have whatís
being called the dominant North American model of mediation. Many people think it doesn't
work in other cultures and this has been very much said in relation to Africa, Central and South
America. Some people are extending that to minority cultures within the United States. Do you,
or did you see any need to adopt different approaches for different cultural groups?
I was never involved in a formal of mediation with the American Indian Community, but I
doubt it would be the same as the traditional mediation model that we know. More consultation
would be needed, more time would be needed. I was told by a Korean-American mediator,
whoís active in the Asian Mediation Center in Los Angeles, that he had a problem when the
parties shared their problem with him and then they expected him to be a party to the conflict too.
They refused to accept his contentions that his involvement ended when the agreement was
signed. They wanted the mediator to immerse himself in the problem and stay involved in the
event the agreement broke down. If you donít know that culture from the outset, you are going
to have trouble with another model. And if you try to impose another ground rule, youíre going
to get into trouble.
In El Salvador where Iím working now, weíre building a conflict resolution
component, a local Zone of Peace to address violence in 86 low income communities. There are
people who went in, before I had got there, who wanted a big mediation program as part of this.
That wonít work. During our assessment we found out that what will work, is a system already
in place where a directorate decides community conflicts. They come together, so that if the
issue is over the availability of water in the community, itís the directorate that makes that
decision or resolves it. Does this mean that thereís no mediation? No it doesnít. It means that
you respect that current process, and maybe you give some mediation type training, teach the
skills of mediators to the members of the directorate and the community so they have options and
alternatives to make them better, more effective in the way theyíre doing it. Is there a place for
mediation or mediational behaviors to be used there? I think part of this is how you use the word
"mediation." Formal mediation structured in certain ways, no, itís not appropriate in certain
places. But the techniques of mediation and being mediational in behaviors are.
What do you think are the most important skills and attributes of an
effective civil rights mediator?
The capacity to build and gain the confidence and trust of the parties and those listening
skills that help bring this about. The total integrity of what youíre doing, sitting on your biases,
knowing they are there and not letting them get in your way. And effectively blocking them from
getting in your way if you are going to mediate a case where your tendency is to be an advocate.
To suspend judgment. Reliability, when you say you are going to be there, you show up; it
counts for a lot. Again, all this contributes to the building of trust. Knowing that when you are
listening to somebody telling you their problem, you are probably the first person who listened to
them that well. That you care and are there for them. You are there for them because when you
say, "Iíll be back tomorrow," you are back tomorrow. You find ways to be of assistance. Send
them a news clip, send them an article, send them something so you connect. That builds trust
and effectiveness. Do those things and you can get away with all kinds of mistakes. I can tell
you, Iíve made many! The parties, as long as they trust me enough, they arenít going to let me
screw up their settlement. If they basically feel good about my being there, they arenít going to
let my mistakes louse up their settlement.
We want to direct our attention to
Wounded Knee, which is one of the highest profile cases that CRS was ever involved in.
Perhaps you could just tell us a little background on the conflict, what it was about, what was
going on, and how CRS got involved?
The American Indian Movement (AIM), which was the first national and highly publicized
civil rights organization representing the interest of Native Americans, had been conducting a
series of demonstrations and protests around the country, trying to call attention to the
government's miserable treatment of them and their concerns. They were protesting the
horrendous disregard of their culture by the federal government and its to acknowledge and
address the violations of treaties that had been signed with American Indians. While I was
working on an Indian rights case, I recall the late Judge Noel Fox saying to me, "If I have to go
by the law on this, Iíd have to give all of western Michigan back to the Indians. That included
Detroit, of course. There was no voting constituency for politicians, so there was very little
political incentive for the Congress to help. There was a caravan to Washington that started on
the West coast to take over the BIA building in Washington. There was a lot of damage to the
building, which hurt the image of the AIM and its supporters. They skillfully negotiated their
way out of that.
So they were in a protest mode, and demonstrating in the
Midwest. A caravan was headed to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. That was
out of my region, but earlier we had responded to some American Indian protests before CRS
opened a Denver office. We had responded to some things in Nebraska, an incident involving
the fatal shooting of an American Indian by some white ranchers. I was told to relinquish three
of my younger staff members to accompany the American Indians march through the plains
states, which was headed to Pine Ridge. John Terronez, Efrain Martinez, and John Sarver. They
were reporting directly to Washington and I would only touch base with them peripherally.
My initial interest was getting them back to work in my region. The team was
accompanying AIM on its marches and helping to prevent problems along the way. As the
American Indians would come into a community, CRS would perhaps precede them, talk to the
sheriff or other local officials and try to help clear the way, give them an escort through town or
let them sleep in a local park.
They got to the Pine Ridge Reservation specifically to protest the actions of Dick Wilson,
the elected tribal chief, who was accused of nepotism and improper use of federal funds and civil
rights violations. They got to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Feds were absolutely
petrified because of the disastrous experience at the BIA building in Washington previously.
They thought they were going to take over the two story brick building in the town of Pine Ridge.
How many people were involved in the march?
Oh, there were a few hundred marching. I donít know how many at this point, maybe
150-200. They werenít heavily armed. I assume some had some arms, but they weren't
intending any takeover at that time. But the BIA had stationed troops, US marshals were there,
Wayne Colbert, head of the Marshal service was out there. Troops were on the rooftop of the
two-story BIA building with machine guns, ready to prevent any possible takeover.
I recall talking to John Terronez after the effort to have Wilson recalled had ended
unsuccessfully. John told me, "Looks like weíre done. They are breaking up now and they are
headed out and we are going to pack our gear and head home.Ē What neither John nor anybody
else knew was that the caravan was going to the historic village of Wounded Knee on the
reservation was going to take over the village. Russell Means talks about how this was kept
secret because they thought people would be afraid, and they didnít want word to get out.
When the caravan got to Wounded Knee, the leaders announced, to the surprise of many,
including the CRS staff, that they were staying.
Who was living in Wounded Knee?
It was a village. There were American Indian families there and some white ranchers as
well. Pine Ridge reservation was a desolate place. There were some jobs there, but at least 70%
unemployment. It was February. They stopped there and took over that village. They didnít
hurt anybody; people were free to leave. For the record, -- Russell
Means doesnít tell it this way in his book, he says AIM communicated directly with the FBI
Chief Trimbach the stories I heard was that Terronez and Martinez, both Mexican Americans
who could be confused for Native Americans, and Sarver came out of Wounded Knee to the FBI
officials up the road with AIMís list of demands. The FBI chief immediately placed them under
house arrest, notwithstanding their Justice Department credentials, the same as the FBI carries. It
took a day until John could get through to Washington and get released. But they brought up the
list of demands and thus started a saga, 73 days at Wounded Knee.
CRS sent a team in to try to serve in the mediational and
intermediary role. The FBI was there, Bureau of Indian Police, customs officials, they needed all
the police types they could get there. There were rifles and firing and a few killings. CRS
responded with a cadre of field representatives - - conciliators and mediators -- who were housed
in a church in the town of Pine Ridge, five to ten miles out of Wounded Knee. There were
blockades along the road. The first road block was maintained by the tribal chief, Wilsonís
people. Then the FBI had a road block and the third road block was the American Indians right
outside of Wounded Knee. We established our base in a church. There were beds and phones
and a few rooms and we had anywhere up to a dozen people there at a time, doing a variety of
activities. We would transport people in and out in conjunction with the other Feds. They knew
we were there, but they didnít accept us or like us. You had a situation where you had FBI
agents who are really trained to work behind desks or in urban settings, and there they were out
there in the plains and the cold. You had BIA police, and customs police, perhaps, and Marshals
and none of them were very happy there. Many of them werenít getting overtime and their
families were back home. There were bunkers that the AIM members had built. There were
armed people in them with gunshots going off at night sometimes. There were shots fired into
the place. That was the setting.
I donít remember when I got a call to get in there, but I brought
in a fellow from our Philadelphia office, Tom Hadfield, to do the administrative things, just to
get it organized, keep track of who had what cars and who was where. Marty Walsh
was there when I arrived and had helped get negotiations started. They had just declared a cease
fire and there was a demilitarized zone and they were trying to get talks started. The Feds were
all in the BIA building. Kent Frizzell was a solicitor of the Department of Interior which handled
American Indian affairs. Dick Helstern from the Justice Department was there doing
administrative and legal work with him. Stan Pottinger, the head of the Civil Rights division was
there for a while with some of his staff. These were others who were assigned there from those
agencies in Washington. They were in regular phone contact with the Acting Attorney General
Snead who was in touch with the white House.
Now who was negotiating with whom?
Nobody at this point, but they were opening negotiations. Frizzell was the top federal
official. Harlington Wood (later a federal judge) had been there earlier. At an earlier time, there
had been efforts to open talks and they hadnít gone very far. Now Frizzell and his people were
going to talk to Russell Means and Dennis Banks and the leadership of the American Indian
movement. We had staff going back and forth as I said sometimes escorting lawyers in or
bringing people out who were sick or wanted to leave. We were talking to people trying to gauge
what we should be doing, and then trying to help get talks started. Marty had carried that ball
with his staff, and then I came in to replace him and we overlapped for a few days.
Nobody authorized us to mediate. I donít think the parties felt any
need for that, but we were there to participate and help facilitate. We were more in a facilitative
Explain how youíre using those two terms differently. What do you do when youíre
Well youíre helping to get things going. Youíre there to help in those roles to do what
you can to keep it moving, but they didnít want you sitting at the head of the table saying this is
what weíre going to do.
Were you at the table at all?
Oh yes, but our role was peripheral. We were often in an observing role, information role.
We were not in a role to take charge.
The first day I was there, unbeknownst to us,
Frizzell held a press conference saying that the government had learned that there was a split in
the American Indian Movement, that there had been a fight in the AIM office in Rapid City
which was some miles away. This really antagonized the American Indians in Wounded Knee.
We didnít know anything about the press conference. Marty and I went down into a room
where the leadership was early that afternoon, and they had just heard the radio report on
Frizzellís remarks and they just jumped at us. This was a day before talks were supposed to
start and they were fuming. "Theyíre threatening in this way, theyíre creating the wrong
picture, theyíre telling lies. Why is he doing this if talks are supposed to start?" They had
already created a cease fire zone.
Why did he?
I had no idea. I just knew nobody told us
about it. AIM leader Vern Bellancourt told us "We want someone from CRS to stay down here
tonight. We donít trust them. Theyíre going to fire in and we want a couple of whites in
here." They believed the government would be less inclined to fire into Wounded Knee if whites
from the government were there. So we assured them that would happen, and I made plans to
spend the night there with Burt Greenspan, a young white conciliator. Doug Hall was there that
night, a civil rights lawyer from Minneapolis, who was providing legal counsel to AIM.
The plan was that the next day there would be negotiations in a
teepee that would be set up at noon in the DMZ, and the feds were not to come until that teepee
was set up. They would come down to the road block and then walk over to the teepee. So I
made arrangements with Kent Frizzell that I would radio him, when the teepee was set up and we
were ready to start. It was scheduled for noon, but everybody knew that Indian time meant it
would be later, that was a given.
We were in the radio room in Wounded
Knee at 4 a.m. At four in the morning, someone in a bunker radioed that there was someone in
the DMZ, which was a violation of the cease fire. We wondered who would do that at four in the
morning just before the talks were going to start? Stan Holder, the AIM security chief,
threatened to have somebody shoot at the violators. I convinced him to wait until one of his
people, accompanied by our Bert Greenspan, could go out and survey the scene. What they saw
was that a jeep with a couple of BIA personnel had gone over a line to find some flat land where
they could spread a blanket and have their breakfast. That was the violation. So Burt came back
and we got that sorted out over the radio and they got the guys out of there.
Finally, at midmorning, it was time to head up to the DMZ, only everything was late. The
Indians were up late at night conferencing, negotiating, and celebrating. They went through the
sweat, a spiritual ceremony, met some more, then got up late. Now itís an hour behind
schedule, and theyíre trudging up the hill with the teepee, which was supposed to be set up an
hour earlier. The leaders are walking up the road with the men who
were carrying the teepee. Bert and I were walking with them. As we approached the site where
they were going to set up the teepee, about 50 yards from the federal roadblock, a helicopter
landed at the road block and out stepped Frizzell and Helstern. There were about 50 news men
and women standing around as well. Stan Holder turned to me and asked, "What the hell are
they doing here?" I told him that I didnít know why they came in before we radioed them to do
so. "Well, you get their asses out of here or there's not going to be any talks," someone else said.
So I went running up to the road block and called Frizzell away from the reporters and said, "I
thought you were going to wait until we sent you a signal." "Well," he said, "I decided this is
going to be done on white manís time not Indian time. Weíre going to start when we agreed to
start, not when they decide itís time.Ē I said, "I think youíd better go back, because
theyíre really ticked off. Were you aware that last night there was an incident last night, that
two of your men went over the line and stirred things up? We almost had a shooting incident.Ē
"Nobody told me that," he said. "Well, people were up all night," I told him. "You donít know
what they went through." "All right, weíll go back, but weíre coming back in an hour and
theyíd better be ready." So I ran back down the hill. "Stan, it was a mistake. Iím sorry, I must
have screwed up on the timing. Theyíre going back. Theyíll be back in an hour." So they
proceeded to set up the teepee.
Now the parties were the Indians and...?
The American Indian Movement and the Feds, and that was it.
Nobody else. They started talking, and I donít remember the details of that talk, except I
do remember that I was asked a question about Dick Wilson, who was an anathema. He was the
tribal chair and I responded using his title "Chief,Ē and Russell Means chided me for using his
title. That was an example of where you can make mistakes, and if people want you there,
theyíre not going to throw you out because you did something wrong.
Was he seen as a puppet of the feds? Was that why?
In a way he was, but the feds just found him there. Nobody really cared about him and the
AIM leaders deplored him.
And he was not at the table?
Oh no, they wouldnít let him near the place.
So what were the issues?
Well, the American Indian Movement had an agenda. It ranged from recognizing Wounded
Knee as a historic site, to going to Washington to renegotiate the treaties, to have Congress
address the issue. They wanted to have the white House meet with them and talk about these
issues. And they wanted the government to investigate the civil rights violations under
Wilsonís regime. There were subsequent negotiating sessions, mostly in the meeting house in
Now they set the agendas themselves and ran the meeting themselves?
Sure, the fed's agenda was, "Get out of here. Give up," with the threat of force at all times.
So yes, they went back and forth in the discussion. There was no need for a mediator,
there was no need for a formal agenda. It wasnít called for at that time. They managed it very
well. There was anger, but that was all controlled, very political as well.
Each side was willing to listen to the other?
I guess. I donít know who was listening or not, but people took turns talking. Again, this
is where I say, youíre not going to listen to the American Indians and say, "I understand how
you feel. And why you feel that way.Ē Youíre representing the United States of America. As
soon as you leave that meeting, youíre going to call the Attorney General, whoís going to call
the Special Assistant to the President, and it will be on his desk. Youíre not about to make a
commitment to do anything without advanced clearance. The only word from the white House at
that point was "Donít shoot anybody."
The CRS staff would move back and forth, as I said, and at
times we had great difficulty. It could have been with anybody. The FBI resented us, because
we were the ones promoting peace, prolonging the takeover. Or at times we were stopped at
Wilsonís road block.
The feds had made strategic errors. Theyíd left the phone line from the Wounded Knee trading
post open for a long time, so the leaders of the American Indian Movement were on the phone to
reporters all over the country. They were on talk shows and were getting a world of publicity.
They finally cut off the phone and only opened it when they had to speak with their attorneys.
They put a tap on this phone and that would come back to haunt them.
The FBI started to stop our people. "Youíve got a can of gas in
the back of your trunk. Weíre not going to let you through. Weíre going to confiscate it."
Well, what happened is that in Wounded Knee, gas would be siphoned from our tanks. Weíd
get stuck on the road coming back. Someone would have to go out and rescue them. So, we put
a can gas in the trunk as a security measure. Or Iíd come out and go to the staff meeting, which
theyíd have every morning and someone would show me a picture. "This is Crazy Al. Is he in
there? Heís wanted on felony charges in three states." Yeah, he was in there, and they knew he
was in there because they must have had informers inside Wounded Knee and strong spy glasses
on the outside. there. They knew he was in there, but they want me to say it. I would only say,
"Iím not sure.Ē I had to make the point that they could not use CRS to extract information.
They werenít happy, many of them werenít happy with us. Although, some of them, such as
Wayne Colburn, the head of the marshals, understood what we were doing and appreciated it.
Still they gave us a hard time coming in, they gave our people a hard time. Mark Lane was there
as one of the AIM lawyers. He was involved in a number of high profile cases and was a very
controversial civil rights attorney, not like William Kunstler who was also one of their attorneys,
a very creditable person. Lane was not to be trusted, I learned.
One of our jobs was to escort the lawyers through the road blocks. Anyone we escorted
had easy access. I did that one day. I was alone in one car and they were following me down the
road. We got through Wilsonís road block, and we got to the FBI road block, and then we get
to the last road block, the American Indian road block. But before we get there, Lane, he was
with attorney Beverly Axelrod, swings his car around mine, zooms up to the road block, says
something to the guard there and zooms into Wounded Knee. When I got to the road block, the
guard was standing there with a rifle pointed at me. "They told me not to let you through, no
matter what," he said. I got out of the car to talk to this sixteen year old with his rifle pointed at
my head. "Do you want a cigarette?" Finally he put the rifle down and let me through.
That was Mark Lane. He hated anybody who worked for the Department of Justice, or
the Department of Injustice as some people called it during the Nixon years. It was a frightening
incident. Later, Beverly Axelrod, through one of the CRS staff, apologized for Laneís
So to recap, CRSís role involved running errands, getting materials that the Indians needed,
getting people in and out, and facilitating the discussions to some extent?
Helping to get the discussions going.
How did CRS go about doing that?
Meeting with the leadership, interpreting what was happening to the Feds, meeting with the
Feds and interpreting some of that on the other hand.
So you met with the leadership on both sides, interpreting what was going on at the other
side. Is that what you mean?
Interpreting to one what might be happening with the other. I donít know how important
that was. It was more important to let the Feds know. I donít know how much they really
cared, their hands were sort of tied. They had to find some peaceful way out of this.
Now when you say interpreting, do you essentially mean message carrying?
No, itís not message carrying. Itís helping them understand perhaps, that there was no
serious threat. We were trying to motivate negotiations, and sometimes there were reasons why
they couldnít take place. It might have been an internal conflict within the leadership of AIM,
where the leaders could not reach consensus. We might not be able to talk about this with the
feds, but we could explain that they just had to be patient not press the issue.
Did you do any mediation within one side, like helping AIM to resolve some of these
No, not to my knowledge. Marty Walsh told me that one morning he went to one of the
leaderís rooms and pulled him out of bed to get him to a meeting. I told you that they showed
me a mug shot of this fellow named Crazy Al. He was a tough looking white fellow who walked
around Wounded Knee with a rifle. Well the first day we went into Wounded Knee for a
negotiation and Frizzell asked me if I was sure it was safe for him to go in. I assured him that
AIM was going to protect the Feds who came in. I told him that a security patrol would assure
his security. They will meet us at the helicopter and walk with you to the church where weíll be
talking." It turned out that Crazy Al was heading the three-man security patrol.
So you play different roles, some are unexpected, or maybe unimportant, you never know,
you just do it. Then, when the decision was made that Russell Means would go to
Washington to do an exploratory visit, we arranged to have John Terronez accompany him and to
be available for any emergencies, and just to try to keep things as smooth as possible. But Russell
gave John the slip and went off on his own, making the rounds of radio talk shows before he
finally was arrested. At the final negotiation, where there was the signing of the peace
agreement, there was a very colorful ceremony. They put a table out in the open, it was a sunny
day, there was an eagle flying overhead which was symbolic. There was a signing of an
agreement, that certain things would take place. Then Russell went off to Washington and there
was a deterioration of the agreement. The trick was to try to get this thing concluded in some
way before people lost control and did something. Before somebody got angry and pulled the
So what was in this agreement?
It was that Russell, or that a delegation from AIM, would go to Washington. Theyíd have a
meeting with someone at the white House, and there would be consideration given to their
demands. There would be a memorial established at Wounded Knee and the Civil Rights
Division would investigate complaints on the reservation. I guess they felt that was the best they
could do. They had their lawyers working with them. Kunstler from New York. Lane, Axelrod
from California and Doug Hall, who stopped coming after awhile. Some of the lawyers wanted
to be where the action was. I remember there was disarray at one point, and I took it upon myself
to call Doug Hall, who was from Minneapolis and very highly regarded as well as low key. I
said, "Doug, youíre needed out here." He said, "Well, they havenít asked me so I wonít
come unless they do." And he didnít. And I sure wish he had, because there were antics going
on, I mentioned what Mark Lane did to me, for example. That wasnít the reason that I called
him, I donít remember what the specific incident was.
The last negotiation I took part in took place on a school bus,
which was in the DMZ. It was a convenient place, the people fit and it was pitch black. I was in
the back of the bus, and they decided what they needed to do was find a way to end. It was
agreed they were going to end and what terms would be. There would be no arrests, but those
who had felony charges pending were subject to arrest. CRS would be the intermediary for
turning in guns. Guns wold be registered and returned to their owners if the could show they
owned them. That was our role at that point. Now there may have been more of a role played in
other meetings. I left at that point.
So if guns were legitimately owned by Native Americans, they would give them back?
Thatís right. Native Americans or others who were with them. Peopleís property was not
lost. Iím not sure how that played out. I think Leo Cardenas would know. He succeeded me.
So they agreed, essentially, that they would end the standoff if they
got this document that said that theyíd be heard in Washington?
There was a signed agreement and they went to explore it and thatís when Russell
Now why was it that everything fell apart when he left?
I think people were tired. They had accomplished their mission. It was time to stop. They
had milked this for the publicity, which was very important. They had heightened awareness
throughout America of the plight of the American Indians, of the rape of the Indians by the US
Government, of the treaty violations. That was all exposed, highly publicized. The media had it.
People were more aware.
So why didnít it just peacefully disband?
Well, how do you end it? That had to be negotiated. I think the thought was that Russell
and his group were going to go to Washington and confirm by good intent that people could do
certain things and then come back. But I think he hit the talk show road and continued the
publicity, and there was conflict inside AIM. We werenít privy to it, but it was there. Russell
writes about that. So then, how do you end the standoff? Finally, it was agreed that they would
come out. Part of this might have been some of the civil rights lawyers too, who wanted to
perpetuate the cause, rather than protect the individuals. At the end of the day, they worked out
the agreement on how this would end and it did end peacefully at that point.
And this was several days after Means had left?
Probably a few weeks. Some of the others had slipped away too. I think Dennis Banks left
and certainly anyone subject to arrest. They were going to arrest these guys right on the spot, so
they slipped off into the night. It was very easy. There was a very wide perimeter. You think of
the village and some road blocks, but still a huge perimeter.
Now one of the factors in the resolution was an idea that Ed Howden had. Ed was out
there with me. He was a godsend. He aided me as a former journalist too, heíd write our daily
reports. Ed went out on cold, snowy, windy day to help fix a flat tire for one of our people who
got stuck on the road. It was Edís idea that they involve the tribal elders, Foolís Crow and
Black Elk. I think Ed, after I left, went to visit them or got somebody else to get them involved.
Whatever that dynamic was, they got involved and helped, because the American Indian
community respects and listens to its elders. So that is the story as I know it.
But youíve referred off and on to the trials?
A year later there were the trials. The initial trials were Russell Means and Dennis Banks.
They were held in St. Paul. St. Paul, Minnesota in my region. St. Paul has a large Native
American community. So there was the potential for anything to happen there, and a lot of
people from there were from the Sioux nation
Now why were they being tried if the agreement was that there wouldnít be any trials?
I donít think there was an agreement that they wouldnít be tried for any illegal activity.
So this trial wasnít related to what they did at Wounded Knee?
Oh yes it was, it was the Wounded Knee trial. There were other charges against them from
other demonstrations and protests in other localities, but this was the Wounded Knee trials.
And the settlement didnít say that...?
No, the leaders of the takeover would be charged with felonies. They were fair game. I
didnít follow all of the trials, just Russell Means and Dennis Banks trial.. There was a very fair
judge. Now the beauty of that trial was that the Wounded Knee defense committee, which had
been set up in the Twin Cities and had provided money and support from the time of the
takeover, had a network throughout the state. Jurors are selected from voter roles from around
the state. Every time a name came up, they checked it out through the network. Somebody came
from a small, rural community they checked her out thoroughly. They did such a good job at jury
selection that when the trial ended the jury formed a Wounded Knee committee of their own to
protest what had happened up there. It was extraordinary. They used all of the modern skills of
jury selection and outwitted the prosecution.
I sat in a few days of the trial. Two things hit me that were interesting. One was related
to the record on Terronez and the other related to the FBI testimony. FBI agents were
questioned. I was there while two FBI men and one woman were questioned. They had been
assigned to the road block, and at the road block was an armed personnel carrier. Itís a small
tank, but with doors for entry and seats in it. First, they brought up somebody from the telephone
company who testified that he had installed a telephone in the armed personnel carrier. which
was linked to the telephone line that ran from Wounded Knee to the outside world. The defense
charged that telephone calls between the parties and their lawyers were monitored by the feds.
The three FBI agents got up there and denied having any knowledge of the telephone, even
though they admitted that they signed reports describing conversations on the tapped line. They
obviously were perjuring themselves.
The other thing thatís perhaps more relevant is how you gain
trust. People often donít know who you are when youíre with CRS, so thereís always a
question of credibility. I told you that as the American Indian Movement approached Wounded
Knee, the BIA building had armed guards with machine guns and heavy equipment sitting around
on top of the roof of the BIA building to prevent another takeover. Well, Terronez had been with
the AIM group coming toward Pine Ridge. He went ahead and he talked to a U. S. Marshall. He
said, "This is overkill. You guys have all this equipment here. Youíve got a few people down
there. Youíve got 150 people maybe, theyíre carrying sticks and bats, a few firearms maybe,
but thereís no weaponry out there.Ē And that was his plea to ease tensions and prevent a
catastrophe from occurring. Itís an appropriate role. The way that I found out about that was
when the entire Marshalsí logs were entered into the Wounded Knee trials. One marshal wrote,
saying that "agentĒ Terronez of the Community Relations Service informed us that there are
approximately 150 to 200 marchers armed with sticks and bats and a few might have firearms. It
was out of context so that anybody reading it might assume that Terronez was an informer. Iím
sure it wasnít intended to capsize us or anything, but thatís the risk you take in this work.
So that is what I remember of the Wounded Knee saga. Iíve got notes and press clips
and whatnot, as do some of my colleagues. We got some media there
because there was a United Press International reporter up there for a while. He did a feature
story on this band of seven people huddled in a church basement trying to keep the peace,
moving back and forth stealthily between the parties. So that is most of the Wounded
Knee story. Some of us got letters when we were done. All kinds of
letters started flowing out from the white House, the President commending us on this and the
Secretary of Interior and the Attorney General. It was almost farcical.
But did you get any more money?
You never know what or how things are regarded. I think there was true appreciation in
some quarters for us. I got a beautiful letter from a lawyer with the Civil Rights Division, Dennis
Ickes. He thanked us for being there, saying itís very important that we were there to help keep
the peace. It was important because we were the only ones who were saying, "Well, maybe
thereís a better way than to just go in and shoot up the place.Ē Others knew it but couldnít say
it. After the agreement was signed, Kent Frizzell got on the radio that reached every federal
official said, "I want to thank everybody who helped bring this to a peaceful conclusion and the
FBI and the BIA, you were outstanding and I really want to thank you and credit you for what
happened.Ē And thatís all he said. Our guys were livid when they heard that. I went over to
Kent and I said, this was late in the day, I said, "You didnít say anything about CRS, and Iíve
got a team of guys whoíve been hanging out there, strung out there, being hassled, having their
car searched, being accused of everything. Someone would pick up a shell as a souvenir, a bullet
shell off the ground, and then all of a sudden theyíre being accused of carrying ammunition.
Weíve gone through so much.Ē He said, "Oh Iím sorry. I neglected that. Let me come over
and talk to your people.Ē So he came over to our quarters in the church basement and said, "I
want to tell you guys what a great job you did.Ē But he was scared to put it out over the air and
let the others hear that, because they were so angry with us. These were guys who had
been out there in the cold, just standing by a barrier with the cold winds blowing on a March
night and from a bunker comes someone singing, "While youíre out there in the pale moonlight,
and an Indianís in bed with your wife tonight." How would that make you feel?
Did they ever get any concessions once they went to Washington?
I donít know. I donít think so. There might have been a memorial promised to be built.
Iíve never been back. I think it heightened awareness of some terrible abuses and was an
important chapter in our nationís civil rights history.