How did you respond if you thought that CRS intervention might harm a legitimate protest activity?


Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you ever see a situation where CRS's involvement would undercut a legitimate protest activity or might potentially undercut a legitimate protest? Did you ever have to think about that?

Answer:
Yes. All of the time. Most of the time, we come to the conclusion that a rally's going to occur with or without us. Let us be part of it so that it can be peaceful with our help.




Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever have a concern that mediation would undercut a legitimate protest activity?

Answer:
Oh yes.

Question:
What did you do in that situation?

Answer:
In this case in Portland Oregon, the key part of the school desegregation plan was the development of a particular middle school that would be a feeder for a number of elementary schools. This was regarded as crucial to the desegregation plan. It was the result of joint committee work. The white community was contentious. Several school board members ran on the ticket to change or eliminate this middle school from that role. A majority of those newly elected people came in the office on January 1, and the first action that they took was to eliminate that middle school. There was immediate outcry from the black community in the wake of this. At the February school board meeting, they met in their usual public session, and shortly after they got underway, Ronnie Herndon showed up, and Ronnie is the president of Black United Front. He not only showed up, but he had a large number of his followers that came to the public meeting. They marched in, and Ronnie stepped up on the top of the desk and proceeded to walk down the top of the desk. As he came to each name tag plaque, he kicked it off, walked to the next, symbolically dismissing the school board. That was the declaration of war. Of course, the chairman of the school board adjourned the meeting, stated that this kind of behavior is intolerable, and so on. If anything like this was ever repeated, the police would be called. The March meeting was held, and I think a second meeting was held which was similarly disrupted, and an injunction was secured in State Court, adjoining Ronnie and the Black United Front from this kind of activity. Of course, Ronnie predictably said, "We'll fill up the jails." Marches were held, and protest rallies were held. The board had to approve, in public session so many days in advance, a $50 million capital improvements program that was desperately needed. Here's the dilemma. "How do we meet to pass this tax measure officially and legally, without being disrupted." That was the standoff. CRS could easily have gone into that situation at a much earlier stage, but we were just watching it in essence. The community was generating support, and I don't think it was sophisticated enough to negotiate anything yet. We had very good rapport with all parties involved, including Ronnie Herndon, the NAACP president, as well as the school superintendents and some of the school officials. After it was obvious that no breakthrough was forthcoming, and there was the threat to fill up the jails if they enforce this injunction, we knew it was going to escalate considerably from that point. We'd been in continuing contact with the parties. "Let us know when you feel that it would be in your interest to explore some sort of negotiation." Finally, we got the go ahead. "Yes, now is the time," and this was primarily from the community side. We met with the school officials, and they arranged a meeting of the board of education, for the sole purpose of considering whether to go into mediation.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever run across a situation where a group was engaged in a legitimate protest activity that might have been undercut if you started some sort of consensus process?

Answer:
I'm not sure if I could think of an incident. I wouldn't try to stop a protest. The protest is what really gets the establishment's attention and gives me an opportunity to say, "So what happens next?" If you do nothing or what you've been doing resulted in this, is it worth trying? Give me a chance, maybe I won't do any better but what's it going to hurt to try? So the protest in many instances was the impetus to get the establishment to go for it. If this woman thinks she can do something, send her out there. So generally that protest is the catalyst and this is where my integrity and my trustworthiness would have to come in.






Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever perceive that CRS’s involvement would stop a useful protest activity?

Answer:
Are you following your nose now? (laughter) No, much of what I write about in that chapter of the book is about the responsibility of intervention. I don’t think most CRS people felt that they could ethically let a situation go unattended like that to the point of some conflagration, even though they thought it was justified. I mean, ethically, you sort of had to get involved.

Question:
What about short of violence, though? If there was a demonstration?

Answer:
Well, I think why you were there was to try to make sure that the demonstration was peaceful. It could still be loud – the question would be balancing out what the demonstrators needed to do to present a forceful portrait of the issue they were dealing with against the city’s wishes to end the demonstration entirely. And that would often-times become a conciliation point before you got into the actual agenda. So, the city would say, "This demonstration has got to end. If it doesn’t end, we’re going to enforce a temporary restraining order,” which means calling the police in and the possibility of violence. And so you’d have to negotiate that. "Okay, we won’t enforce the TRO, but we don’t want the demonstrators blocking the entrance to whatever-the-building.” "Well, they are blocking the entrance.” That was just a matter of some skill, of how to work with both sides to allow for the symbolic aspect of the demonstration to go forward, without compromising the protest movement – not only what they were doing, but the implications for negotiations later on.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
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?

Answer:
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."






Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you ever run into a situation where you thought that your getting involved might undercut a minority group protest activity?

Answer:
No, since most of the time that I've come across, they're looking for assistance. A lot of times, minorities see us as a big stick they can wave at whoever they're trying to get something from. We have to be careful that they don't misinterpret our arrival or presence to whoever else is there. Sometimes they do. We have to clear that up, we have to tell the officials about what we do, what we don't do, and what we're there for.




Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever run into a situation where your intervention might potentially undercut a protest activity that was going on and yield less for the lower power group than they might get if they continue to protest? Did that ever seem like an issue?

Answer:
I don't recall that occurring. Now there was a case that Silke worked on in Colorado on bilingual education. I recall that the community was protesting, but the central protest group seemed to come away, just because I was there, so the hostile atmosphere dropped down a bit. Not that they were demonstrating or anything like that, but the protest group stayed and it lingered a year or so. Then Silke came into the picture and she brought the group together, and brought in resources. That took a long time and they had meetings, and I was part of that. I think I might have diffused it a little bit, because it appeared that the school felt comfortable again, and the group felt that they were expecting more than they got. Just because I went there, they thought maybe the school will change because the Department of Justice is looking at it. But it didn't; the problems lingered. Then Silke was called in on it, and I think she did a lot. We brought in consultants on bilingual education, and there was mediation going on with the school board, and then some positive things occurred.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did it cause a problem to have this independent group operating sort of in parallel?

Answer:
It did not for us. I think down the road, the company was concerned that they were carrying out two negotiations at the same time. They were concerned that one group might have the perception that the other group got a better deal. So in fact, as it came close to a formalized agreement, I think they took pains to make sure that they would not face a situation where they had to explain to one party what the provisions were in the other agreement.







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