What did you do when you couldn't locate anyone with whom to talk?


Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I think a lot of it is trying to see if there is a community group. There is a problem of a shooting death of a Salvadoran that I am in the process of doing an assessment on right now. I'm trying to find out who is the community? Who's the leadership? Is this an issue to the community?

Question:
Is there always a community?

Answer:
When we can't find one, we're really not going to do much other than conciliation, probably with the police or other authorities. That's when we may be getting into some training or technical assistance. We're probably not going to be able to go further than that because we can't bring anyone else to the table. You get bits and pieces, but there is no group.There was an article in the paper of an African-American reporter who was stopped by the police while interviewing a person along side the road. The article written by the reporter stated that the police stopped him and it was racial profiling. The policeman said, and this was in the article, that he stopped them because a motorist passing by reported that the reporter had a gun. That was in the paper. It took place in a small community, but I didn't know if there was any type of community organization there. So I called the NAACP, which we had worked with and asked, "What do you think of this? Do you have any problems? They said, "Oh, yeah, that's a problem!" "What can we do about it?" I asked. "Are there any community organizations or groups that you're working with down there?" He said he would check it out. It ended up there was really nobody, other than the reporter, in that community who was interested in dealing with that issue. We did not have a local community group dealing with this issue. In the subsequent meetings on this issue, the community was just the NAACP and the reporter. So, it's who is taking the leadership; who are the real players in these incidents. Sometimes we go by who comes forward and is willing to address the problem. I remember one of the problems with which I was involved in my hometown of Wellesley, MA. One of the cases there was with Dee Brown, a basketball player with the Boston Celtics. He was stopped as the alleged bank robber who robbed a bank in Wellesley the day before. It led to a celebrated case in the paper. There was a lot of publicity. Into that process came a public meeting which the selectmen held in Wellesley at which the issue of the police treatment of him was discussed. The police were defending their procedures. But the major issue that came out of the meeting was that other members of the African-American community came forward and said that they had been stopped driving through Wellesley. The issue was racial profiling even though we didn't call it that then. There was a real problem. From that meeting, one leader reached out and helped convene a group of African Americans, some who testified. They became the community group. Was everyone reached out to? No, not necessarily. But, I always think you want someone who might be on the negotiating team. If you want to make some progress, I think the best way is through the mediation process and getting the community involved. But sometimes you don't know whether that group is representative of the community. There was no election and there was no formal group formed. I suggested that they call themselves something, so they called themselves the Wellesley African-American Committee (WAAC).







Copyright © 2000-2007
by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado