Did the conflict become defined differently over time? How?


Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The bottom line for whom?

Answer:
For the tribal council.

Question:
Is that what they were seeking?

Answer:
That's what they were seeking. We recognized that they were pushing for some way to guarantee this change of attitude, because we had reached an impasse. It was like, we've settled all these issues, yet you're not coming to closure on this. Why are you holding out?

Question:
They brought this to the table?

Answer:
They didn't bring it out as such.

Question:
So they brought it to you? Or you perceived it?

Answer:
Well, we knew something was holding up this mediation because we had all the negotiation points: who's going to arrest, how do you contact the tribal police, who has jurisdiction, when, all the fine tune points for what a process or protocol to address their tribal concerns were, so that there was mutual agreement as to how Native American arrests would be handled by the town in conjunction with tribal police. We even negotiated things like, when they had to make an arrest, they would call the tribal police and the tribal police would work in conjunction with city police to do the arrest. They reached a number of agreements along those line. And yet, when it came down to. "Is there anything else, are you willing to sign this agreement?" there was this "No" by the tribal council. We couldn't figure out what it was, what more do we have to add to this? That's when we realized that there was more to it, they were really troubled by this distrust and attitude of the police.

Question:
How did you get that realization? Did they say something to you? Was it your insight?

Answer:
I think it was more of our insight. They didn't say it. It was just not said. It was like, "We were holding the whole mediation process hostage because there's something that you haven't resolved." We didn't realize what it was. They didn't say it. They wouldn't sign and they wouldn't say why. We couldn't move it. I don't think they wanted to say.

Question:
So what did you do?

Answer:
We went through this impasse period of trying to sort it out.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The real motivation for the conflict was believed to be the lack of recognition of ethnic celebrations. Once two students get involved in a dispute other students join in because they feel a sense of allegiance to their ethnic group. That's really what gives that flavor of a racial disturbance. But in fact, what was the real cause is very rarely totally race. A lot of times it's gang instigated, because a lot of recruitment goes on through playing off on race. In this instance, you could observe the way they threw the bottles at each other. Did you ever play the game where you toss balloons, and you see who can go the farthest before it breaks? That's the way they were throwing these bottles at each other. The bottles weren't being thrown at a straight level, they were tossing them very high so that the other side could really catch it and throw it back. So it was disturbing in the sense that you had bottles being thrown at each other, but it wasn't malicious in a sense that they were really out to hurt each other, and they happen to be African American and Latino. And then when I saw the kids disperse when the police came in, nobody was hitting anybody. Even if two students of different racial groups were caught facing each other alone, they didn't bother each other, they just kept going.





Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Have you ever been involved in a case where the issues kept on changing and maybe expanding over time?

Answer:
The problems getting worse?

Question:
Or people started talking about one thing and then were bringing in more things.

Answer:
No, once they agreed to deal with given issues, we tried not to let them continually expand. That doesn't do any good. It makes it so you just can't handle it. So no, I can't remember any. I've seen situations where it came to the point where Latinos and African Americans split, and this is over the goodies, as in Fresno county. It started out with a mutual concern over Fresno State University developing a community radio station. The problem was that the minority community wasn't given voice in terms of how it was going to be developed. Everybody else was given that voice. So they got together and they started raising that issue and we were called down there to help them get together with the administration. So initially the Latinos and the African Americans confronted the station with our on-site help. As things went by and the discussions went on, that administration soon saw that the African Americans had a better grasp on the politics of that situation. We also saw that the Latinos were concerned. The group was very small and so the university began to cater to the African American community. The Latinos saw this and tried to get back with the African American community, but the African American community saw what the school was doing, so they went for that. So that caused the split. In the end, nobody got anything because they were supposed to have a coalition of people being able to provide things. But since that part of the situation didn't occur, people just ran away. Eventually, when they developed that radio station, the school just went ahead and on their own, developed an advisory group and developed and hired people, but not through us and not through the original coalition. They said, "Hey, we can't work with these folks. The Latinos pulled out and so we're just left with African Americans. We're going to be accused of all sorts of things." So that's how everybody lost out.

Question:
So now what is happening?

Answer:
Now they've got a broad representation, but they went with another level of people. Not the grassroots types, but the more agency-influenced types, the more professional types, that's who they went with. Probably, that was good because the grassroots types started something and then the professional types got to become advisory people. I never sensed any anger on the part of the African Americans or the Latinos because they had started it and then weren't chosen, because the fact still remained that African Americans and Latinos were selected. At the time, the Asians didn't play as much of a part as they do now. The point is that they got what they wanted in one sense, but they didn't get what they wanted up here when the situation broke out. We went up when the split occurred, and at that point, we just really couldn't bring them back together. In fact, the Latinos said, "To hell with them, we don't want to cooperate with them." So they pulled back.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did the conflicts ever change over time with the way in which you were involved in the case? You sat down with the parties and you had come up with a game plan that you think would work. They came up with a game plan suitable for the conflict, but over time, over a month or two, did other conflicts arise?

Answer:
Yeah. Things change, everything is fluid. What's possible now may not be possible tomorrow, and vice versa. But if you can help them create a vehicle that can deal with that conflict, they will be able to deal with the current conflict and any nuances that might come up later. Now they have the vehicle to do that. It's their vehicle that they're going to own and operate. It's not my vehicle, it's their vehicle, and just use it and understand how it could be adaptable."




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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.

Question:
Stood with who?

Answer:
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.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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 last issue.



Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did the conflict ever change over the duration of this case?

Answer:
Not really, I think the issues were made pretty consistent.






Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Many times it's not the problem itself, it's so many underlying problems that if you're not careful you'll be responding to one thing when really it's another. And then you have to listen to what people are saying, and many times pay attention to what's being said. A lot of times people say things that will get them in a great deal of trouble afterwards.



Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Now, the issue of suicide, how do you deal with that? How do you work with that? To be honest with you, I didn't. I didn't have to. I was let off the hook during the mediation process, because the Indians understood that I was a resource. They didn't want to fowl me up by pressing that issue, so Alice told the rest of them, "Shut up and don't press this issue." Even I began to wonder why she wouldn't discuss the issue of suicide, because a lot of people were saying this guy was killed by the police, and there she was trying to prevent it. We sat at the table in mediation for four days. On one side we had Alice, the C.A.P. director, we had the Indian tribal organization leader for this group, we had the inter-agency Indian organization involved, and we had a representative from the America-Indian Movement. We had all these people sitting at the table. And she had control and respect. She was so respected by all of them, that they listened. When she said, "Don't mention suicide," or "don't mention this hanging," they didn't.






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