What did you do to diminish tension between the parties?


Julian Klugman


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
One I mentioned was the kid.

Question:
But what were the various approaches you used for dealing with that?

Answer:
I quieted them down. You're teaching them, you're a role model. It's how do you deal with that anger. I've been in some very violent situations, where you get angry, your heart starts beating, and your natural impulse is to lash out. That's where training comes in. Or, if I'm really angry or if the violence is really scaring me, I take a deep breath and I psychologically step back a foot. I wait until my heart stops pounding which takes about sixty seconds before I respond at all. You can be angry, but it's got to be controlled. Listen to what the person's saying, don't respond to the anger. Don't be condescending, don't be a smart-aleck, don't act like you're really afraid. Don't be a psychiatrist, but do take the person off the hook and depersonalize it. And this is where the interracial thing becomes important. There are differences between people and between groups and how they deal with anger. Do you know the book that the white professor at the University of Illinois did about the differences in confrontation between black and white? It's an excellent book; you ought to read it. You've got a great difference in perception sometimes of what's happening. I saw it in Palm Springs once. Here's this nice, sweet, young white teacher and a black woman parent came out with a lot of anger, which really wasn't directed at this woman. The white woman started crying and the superintendent wrote a complaint letter to the Attorney General of the U.S. about the mediator.

Question:
How does the mediator deal with that problem?

Answer:
Well, you're a role model, you ease up the flow. You might suggest a bathroom break.

Question:
Then you take the black person aside and say the reason she's reacting this way is because...

Answer:
No. I would not presume to tell this woman she does not have a right to be angry. This young white teacher; you tell her it's not personal. She was head of the cheerleaders and there were no black cheerleaders. There was no prejudice involved, of course, but the Palm Springs high school did not have any black cheerleaders. So they wanted some black cheerleaders and she had her own little kingdom of cheerleaders. There are a number of techniques. You break the flow, you talk calmly, you go onto another issue. You assert control in the situation.

Question:
Going back to the anger management, when things get really hot in a mediation, how do you cool them down?

Answer:
Sometimes you can make a joke. Everybody likes it when you laugh at yourself and make fun of yourself, so you can diffuse a situation through humor. One former CRS director used to draw cartoons. Very good ones. I'll show you, I've got a whole series of them. He would sit there and he was like a professional cartoonist, although he was a lawyer.

Question:
Break the flow. Any other ideas?

Answer:
About how you handle it? Ultimately you could adjourn the meeting, if you had to, or you could have a recess. And then you talk to the person.




Werner Petterson


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How about diminishing tension between the parties, what were some of the things that you did to help them feel less tense?

Answer:
I usually try to find a way to, I guess you would say "poke fun," or bring some comedy to the situation. Sometimes I would just tell a joke because at least in this particular situation it was a pretty good relationship fundamentally between the two sides. There was always frustration in the moment about things not moving along. If the opportunity was there I would try, something would be said, and I would try to turn it into a joke, but sometimes it was just time to take a break. Humor, I think, can be a dangerous thing. In that situation, by that time, the relationship was good so that humor could be used, but in other situations early on I would not use humor because I'd poke and say something and they'd think, "that's the silliest thing I've ever heard." You can only say things like that when people know you. Like I say, you just have to take a break. If you're far down the process with tension, then you can take a break and you know that the process will still stay on track. If it's early on, then you know, you have to bring that out.

Question:
Did you ever encounter any (maybe not in this case) situations where there was the potential for violence?

Answer:
In the earlier days when CRS was involved in things on the street as mediators. In that environment there was the possibility of things turning violent. In the kind of mediation that I'm talking about, I think when somebody becomes a part of a negotiating team they have more then just their own interest. They are being a representative for their community and so I think there is a lot of pressure to not do something crazy and jeopardize a larger interest that you are working for. If you're out on the street then anybody can do anything and nobody has responsibilities.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
Number one is that with street mediation, you're fighting and giving forth to prevent violence, reduce tension to the point where you can do the other. Hopefully, either you can come up with terms that are acceptable to both sides that will ultimately resolve the problem, or you can get them to become sane enough to stop the violence. So that's what you're trying to do. Ultimately, you want to get them to the point where they can sit down. As a mediator, even when it comes to table mediation, the beginning climate is so hostile that you're not going to get anything done the first few times, and you know that. I remember right here in this room, I was mediating a situation where the black police were charging discrimination in hiring, assignment, promotion, the whole bag. After Jackson was elected, he started to try to correct some of this and the white police filed a reverse discrimination suit and it had gone on for four or five years. Within the courts, the whole promotion process was tied down, the employment process was tied down, they were not hiring new police officers because they didn't have a system in place except through the courts. It had gone on for four or five years. The judge called me and said, "Mr. Sutton, this is Judge Moyer. We don't know each other." I said, "That's not quite so. You don't know me, but I know you. I've been in your court many times, and been in for the case you're talking about." He said, "I called to assign this case to you. For mediation." He didn't call to ask me to do it, he called to assign the case to me. "I want you to mediate this case and I shall tell the attorneys on both sides that I'm assigning this case to mediation. I'm assigning you to mediate." So I did. One team was represented by the black officers and their attorneys, and the other team was represented by white officers and their attorneys. We were right here in this room and that conference room over there. Things were so hot in the mediation and so volatile, that I decided to call a caucus right there. That's one of the techniques, caucus. I brought the black police officers here, and whites in the conference room. I assigned two staff members to the conference room and I took the black officers, because that's where the interest comes from and they were threatening to walk out. I walked up to the door and blocked the door. If anybody goes out of this room, he'll have to go over me. I know you're police officers and you really can go over me, but I don't think you want to do that. And that's what you're going to have to do. Nobody's going out of this room until we have at least agreed that you should go out. He said, "I've never seen a more determined person than you were. You stopped smiling, and that's the capacity that you have, you smile a lot. But boy, you stopped smiling so fast it got me sweating." Nobody's going out of this door unless they go over me.

Question:
So you gave them an opportunity for them to vent in a caucus or in the actual mediation?

Answer:
I wanted to clear up some issues in here before I went back in there. I wanted the opportunity to convince them that they were saying things that I would clear and that I personally would assure them. Now you're getting away from the processes and talking about 'I'. I said, "I don't think there's a man in this room that does not know that Ozell does not sell the interests of black folk short." I would not sell them short, and their interests short.

Question:
This is in caucus?

Answer:
This is in caucus. Now the only thing I'm talking about here is I will pursue those interests. In other words, your cause.




Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you decide when it was appropriate for the parties to get together and when not?

Answer:
Again, I think it would depend upon the conflict. For example, in a particularly violent conflict, where there’s a riot – first things first. And again, even this is somewhat controversial from a social theory standpoint -- there’s the notion that conflict intervention is designed to simply maintain the status quo and cool people out. So riot prevention cools people out, and removes the justification of anger that can really give grit to the complaints that people have. On the other hand, people are dying. So, the people who are espousing that belief are not the mothers, locked cell-like in their apartments, who can’t go out at night to get milk for their babies because people will be shooting machine guns in the area. You’re not responsible for that, but somebody has to be. You’re not always pulling people together; you’re simply doing a very hands-on conciliation approach to violence prevention. Then, before it gets to the point where people can fairly quickly become reconciled to the fact that we’ve stopped the violence, and then it’s back to business as usual, we say, "Now that we’ve got your attention, and we have some moments of respite here, are you willing to sit down and talk?” And then that’s the time to begin the process of pulling people together.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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.

Question:
And did you proceed without them?

Answer:
We did on some issues, with their concurrence. I suggested they send an observer in the room to sit and watch without participating. I don’t 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 don’t know what it’s like, you s.o.b.” 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 don’t escort us downstairs and we are losing an hour every time we visit. We aren’t going to stand for this.” I asked them if they had talked to the superintendent about it?" "We shouldn’t 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 aren’t coming back to this institution” 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 hadn’t 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 don’t remember the details, but there were assurances given and then they disappeared again.

Question:
What were you doing while this was going on?

Answer:
I was cooling my heels. What can you do when the group caucuses and they don’t 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 wouldn’t let me in. Oh, they were furious. That ended and we got through that.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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 it’s an hour behind schedule, and they’re 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 didn’t 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 man’s time not Indian time. We’re going to start when we agreed to start, not when they decide it’s time.” I said, "I think you’d better go back, because they’re 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.” "Nobody told me that," he said. "Well, people were up all night," I told him. "You don’t know what they went through." "All right, we’ll go back, but we’re coming back in an hour and they’d better be ready." So I ran back down the hill. "Stan, it was a mistake. I’m sorry, I must have screwed up on the timing. They’re going back. They’ll be back in an hour." So they proceeded to set up the teepee.



Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Let's talk about what you do when you see a potential for violence?

Answer:
It generally involves police departments. The best thing to do is to create as much public awareness as possible about what's going on. The more light you can shine on this community issue and make everybody aware of what's going on, the less likely that violence is going to occur, regardless of where it's coming from. The first thing is just to get everybody out there and talking about what's happening. Then you try to create response systems that include the community. For example, one situation was in a park at night where there was a lot of violence involving black youth. The police were trying to deal with it and one of our recommendations was to get the adult male pastor to come into those parks and help. The police were more likely to cause more violence to occur. So our suggestion wasn't the answer to the problems, but it was a way of working with the current situation and trying to diminish possibility of violence right then. We try to find people who have influence with the people who you fear might cause the violence. Again, those personal leaders. I used to tell school districts, "If you want to stop trouble in the hallways, put some other kids or parents in the hallways." A generation of school administrators cried "We want the parents out of the schools." Same thing in a community. You can't hire enough police officers to police the community. We have got to get the community involved in policing. It's amazing our presence, whether it was me or any of us, could create calm. There was a calming effect. We are good talkers, we can create hope. They don't have to take one particular route, there is an alternative. That takes us back to the Indians as a good example. The potential there was violence. The potential was that the people inside had guns.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What about building trust between the parties, how do you go about doing that?

Answer:
I think a number of different ways. If I can actually get them to the mediation table and get them to where they are actually listening to each other, then it is actually embarrassing how easy it is to reach an agreement among the parties. That's because in most cases, they have never really done that before. They have talked at each other and yelled at each other, and they've said things about each other to the media and so on, but they have never really listened and responded and then listened again. So once they actually hear what some of the needs and what some of the obstacles are that each of them faces, and once they talk to real individuals and not "those people" or "those administrators," it just comes to a whole different level. There are certainly cases where the two parties never get to a point where they trust each other; there are also cases where the parties agree to trust each other only because I'm there. Even in those cases, though, they each agree to do something and that is a step in the right direction. So, you know, I am not going to pretend that the parties suddenly become "good buddies" and live happily ever after just because Silke Hansen was in town. But at least they have grappled with one particular aspect of their conflict, and in that regard they have a better relationship than they had before. That's a step in the right direction.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Let's talk a little bit more about the issue of power disparity between the parties, and CRS's role as a neutral. Even though you say you are a neutral, you also, in a sense, try to empower the low-power group, do you not? How do you balance that?

Answer:
If you mean how do I justify that, let's start with that piece first. Very easily, because I don't think I can do an effective job of mediating between two parties if there isn't some balance there. So unless I help bring about that balance, mediation won't work. Of course, you can't necessarily assume that because one side is a minority community that it's the powerless community. That's another issue. But let's assume that, in fact, there is a power imbalance. Unless I can help balance that, and empower each party to effectively participate at the mediation table, we're not going to have an effective, successful mediation. So I explain that to the institution and I offer pre- mediation training to both sides. I also use that as a way to help each of the parties identify what their interests and concerns are, and what they hope to get out of this process. Sometimes, that's particularly important for the institution, because they often start out from the perspective of, "Okay, how much do they want, and how much of that are we going to give them?" They rarely think in terms of, "What do we want, and how much of that are we going to get?" The reality is that they usually do want something from the community, so this helps them become aware of that. This is another trust-building mechanism as well because I'm acknowledging that, "You need things too! What is it that you want? What is it that you're looking for?" I want to make sure that both sides are heard and that we can talk about how each side's needs can be met. I also let the institution know that it's in their best interests to have a well-trained, capable party on the other side because it will be easier to deal with and negotiate with them if they are capable. Part of what the institution is afraid of is that they will have a group of ranting, raving maniacs on the other side that they can't communicate with. So part of what I'm providing is some security, some format which is reasonable from their perspective. I may say to the institution, "Now, you understand that party A is angry and they're going to need to express that. But trust me, we're going to get beyond that, and get to problem- solving." So I lay the groundwork for there being some anger. I hate to call it "venting," because to me "venting" sounds too patronizing. I don't want to be allowed an opportunity to vent; I want to be allowed an opportunity to be heard. So, even though the term "venting" might apply, I avoid that word because it does sound patronizing to me. It has undercurrents of, "They're just spouting off, and they really have nothing to say." In most cases they have a lot to say, but they've never been allowed to say it and be heard before.

Once both parties understand this process and it's really part of the ground rules or at least the "ground expectations" that's going to make the process much more effective. If I explain this to the institution, they'll understand that. They also understand that it's going to take less time to train a police department to come to the table as a team than it does the community (with a police department, it's easy, they just look to the chief if the chief says it's okay, it's okay, even though they're there as a team.) In terms of a community, they require a lot more ground rules, a lot more preparation, in terms of how they're going to operate at the table. If there isn't a clear leader, sometimes, I try to split up the leadership role. I try to have different people on the community team take responsibility for leading negotiations around certain issues, so that everyone is head-honcho for a while. But doing that, and helping them to identify their interests and needs, is going to take longer than it does with a police department or a school district. But the institution recognizes that when they're at the table, their time is going to be better-spent and there'll be less time wasted if we do it this way. So they're not worried about the time the fact that I might spend three times as much time with the community as I do with the institution. They understand that it all helps to lay better groundwork for the process at the table.

The other thing that I have found and at first, I was surprised, but I've gotten now to where I almost expect it is that when I have those initial meetings with the community, I get a lot of that venting. I hear a lot of the anger. To some extent, it is almost directed at me. But I know it isn't really it's just that I happen to be there at the time, and they're saying, "Well, you're an official, so why can't you fix it?" I can see that there are some very angry, frustrated people there, and I usually say, "Look, I hear the anger, but I want to make sure that you can express that anger to the institution and help them understand why you're angry." Then, when we get to the table, all of that anger has already dissipated to some extent. I can recall at least one case where I actually called a caucus because the community was so calm, and said, "Wait a minute. You were chewing my butt yesterday and you were ranting and raving. What's going on here?" I almost had to remind them of the points that they wanted to bring to the table. Now that they were actually at the table and communicating that was such a big achievement already that the rest of their issues almost didn't matter anymore. My concern wasn't to advocate for the community, but if those issues weren't brought to the table, that would undermine the effectiveness of any agreement. So I thought it was important for an effective agreement to make sure that all of that was on the table. The preparation I did with them was important too. It gave them some confidence at the table they knew they were prepared, they had an agenda, they knew who was going to cover what, and they trusted me and the process, at least to some extent. The same was true for the institution: they knew that I was going to control the process, they trusted me to keep the discussions on track. That's empowering for both sides. The fact that they really are talking to each other as equals is very, very important for making that process work.





Renaldo Rivera


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you run into overt resistance, that you had strategies to overcome?

Answer:
It's, "Why is this important?" kind of resistance rather then overt resistance. When I see what you would call overt resistance, or when we would anticipate that it could occur, what we do is frame our response or approach in such a way that it's not going to trigger that overt resistance. That is what we've been able to do in New York. I'm sure probably that conciliators around the country do this as well. When you know you are going to run into it, why approach it directly? Why not provide a value-added approach and frame the introduction or the relationship to that agency or institution in such a way that what you're doing winds up consistent with their interests.

Question:
Can you give us an example of how you do that?

Answer:
INS, for example. On it's own it was doing it's work, but it might not have necessarily seen the value of partnering with us when it was being approached by leadership in the Arab-Muslim community or the South-Asian community. INS national leadership was focused in New York on community tensions surrounding visa issues, e.g., exceeding visa time, or other inquiries related to legal alien status or those who did not have legal status. They wouldn't necessarily have seen the value of partnering with us in meetings with those communities to address the sets of concerns that those communities were going to raise with INS. In our outreach to INS we introduced that there were some individuals who might be victims of hate crimes and have concerns around civil rights and civil liberties in addition to immigration questions. When we framed it with INS we talked to the larger sets of concerns that the community would have and then instead of it simply being a meeting around an individual's concern with INS we were able to raise them as larger questions and respond to them as federal partners. This permitted INS to show that it really did have more leniency in its policy and program work and also provided the community leadership groups with the reassurances they needed that their other concerns around civil rights as well as hate crimes were going to be addressed by INS and the Department of Justice. We were able to speak to their concerns around any abuses and by doing this it goes a tremendous distance in helping communities that are currently under siege from a wide range of sources -- from backlash to primary investigation, to being caught up in American stereotyping, to be wondering what was going to happen to them if they come forward to any part of officialdom -- to feel far more reassured about their concerns, and then for us and our federal partners to respond to their specific concerns.

Question:
How did you build credibility and trust within those communities so they would in fact feel reassured that there was a CRS presence and it wasn't just viewed as the Department of Justice enforcement presence?

Answer:
There are several things. One, I mentioned very early that each of the state officials -- the Attorney General offices and all of their first assistants who were going out and doing the community meetings that started on day two -- were mentioning CRS. Even though we were not always in attendance, our small, highly specialized agency was consistently mentioned by high-level state officials in law enforcement. So that word filtered out. Two, in primary target areas where enforcement efforts or backlashes were taking place, like Patterson and Jersey City and then along Atlantic Avenue here in Brooklyn, CRS' presence was known and visibly felt. They saw us directly do our usual conflict resolution of large-scale community tension reduction with other public officials and law enforcement. Three, these organization in the local Arab-Muslim community and South Asian and Sikh communities had been aware of our attendance at meetings sponsored by their umbrella organizations or the Asian Federation or the New York Immigration Coalition, or the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in both their town meetings and youth meetings. So without taking over their agendas they had seen our presence there very strategically. In a series of activities from day two right through the present, what occurred is that they consistently heard about CRS and when there was a big problem they had seen us at work. So now what we're coming back to is the nature of the shifting landscape -- and we're not at the worst of it yet, it continues with the antiterrorism bill. There is more receptivity to CRS's direct outreach as a federal agency to each specific community. The timing of this was key. Because of the previous activities they weren't pushed aside by a heavy federal presence. We also permitted a natural community organization process to take place with people that individuals and community members already trusted, their own leadership. We assisted them building coalitions with their advocacy and umbrella groups and we just coordinated and we continue to coordinate with the umbrella groups. Now it's to the point where they need more responses from officials, which is the particular job that CRS is more able to do and more uniquely skilled to do and in the position to do. They're much more ready to receive us. This has been complimented by the work that was done in Washington headquarters in reaching out to national Arab-Muslim, South-Asian and Sikh organizations. They did the outreach, they provided us with the contact information with their local people, and then we, at Ground Zero, followed up with their national field office staff and field office directors by encouraging those field office people at the national level to come to this area and we assured them of our willingness to meet with the community at its request. So we utilized national field directors to come and utilize their local networks and advertise and introduce that CRS would be interested in listening to their concerns and trying to help to shape an effective agenda to respond to those concerns.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Meanwhile, in this particular case, I'm concerned about the potential violence that could continue to germinate. While the adults go to court and try to fight it out in dollars, the students are still potentially very much at risk in continuing the violence. So I move out of the mediation and move into a conciliation mode, and I look at what I can offer to try and lay to rest some of the other conflicts that are taking place within that school environment. I told the superintendent, I wanted to go to the school and meet with the principal, and observe that school. I want to make sure that the school is a safe environment for the African-American students and the other youth, because I don't know what's going on. The superintendent was very political and reluctant, but said, "You contact the principal and let him make that decision." I contacted the principal, and I was amazed that the principal is wide open. "Come on down, I'm trying to do this and that." I'll go over what we are trying to do. What he talked about was that he tried to form a multicultural club to work with both groups of students, to kind of figure out what the school could do to get the students to relate better. I said, "That sounds like a great idea, but too often, when you have a voluntary club, you only get the goody-two-shoes. The hardcore kids that are really the cause of the problem, you can't get them into those kinds of voluntary situations. You have to figure ways out to pull the really critical leadership that are involved in the conflict to the table." I said, "Let me share a couple of strategies that we've used and I'll send you some material and see whether that's helpful. So that's always for me a very positive thing, when I can go to my experience and pull out a couple of real visual, clear tools that I can send to an institution, and say, "Look, we've tried this and this works at these locations." I sent it to him and I think it changed the demeanor of our relationship and I said, "I'd like to come out and meet with you".



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We knew there were tensions here because we had been involved in a lot of pre-riot conflicts between the Korean and African Americans and issues of police excessive use of force that was taking place. We were down in LA all the time just putting out swap meet and African-American community conflicts. Stores and demonstrations. The precursor to all the civil unrest was at least a year of spotted conflicts between Koreans and African Americans throughout. We knew there was this backdrop of police and community tensions all along because there had been shootings of the Muslims and other altercations that we had to respond to, all in the prior years. We've had gang leaders come to us and say, "we're going to declare war on the Los Angeles Police, this is it. We're tired of this because we feel like we are being hunted." So there is just a great deal of tension prior to the civil unrest. So after the Rodney King unrest took place and we knew that the Koreans were a big part of the civil unrest, they began to organize. You know they had their vigilante response teams, groups of young people moving off with firearms to protect the Korean stores in the African-American neighborhoods. My task with CRS was to try to de-arm the Korean community. I started working with the Korean leadership and I knew some of the Korean leadership from other case work so I began to move in and actually we met the key leader of the young men's Korean organization that was really the organizer of the response for the Korean community to all those stores. We were able to meet with them and convince them, "You've got to turn it back over to the police now. You're going to become a problem and you're going to become a victim of the police if you continue. You've got to de-arm and you've got to get out of it. They're in control now, so give it back to the police and move out of this." So we were able to do that.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So once we touch base and let everybody know what's going on, we position ourselves as the liaison from the leadership to all these other entities. We're constantly talking to the leadership as to, "where are you going to be, how are you going to set it up, what's the organizational plan, how many people," as much as we can get because having all the parties know is diffusing. It's the unknown that hurts you in these situations. As long as we say, "We're going to share this with the police, they need to know because if they don't know, they're going to over react, they're going to put more police out there, they're going to be upset because they put more police than necessary, or other scenarios. "We try to give them all a picture of what's to be expected and what our role as liaisons and mediators will be during the demonstrations. That's the position that we normally always take. And usually, in all the demonstrations that I control, I always try to assign somebody to the leaders of the organization, almost like a shadow, because you know if anything comes up, he's going to make the decisions. All the information is going to flow through the leader, so having a conduit; you can keep the pulse of that demonstration. We always try to have eye contact with them, if not a shadow, depending on what they will allow us to do. We also, if we can, try to position somebody in a command center, or whatever the counter-operation is, or at least have him know who that liaison is. In this situation we only had four people, so we really didn't have enough to station people away. We all needed to be marching with the 500 people because you have other elements around City Hall. You have, of course, workers, but you also have some clients and homeless out there.. So there's all these potential levels for altercation and conflict.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What I told this principal was, "Do you know the players, do you know the real players that were involved in this altercation?" She said, "Yes, between the counselors and security, we know who the players are." I said, "Okay, bring them in, one by one. Tell them, you need their help. Tell them 'I want to make sure that we bring this school back together, and I need your help. Will you help me?' You're the principal of the school." And she said, "Oh yeah, just bring them in one by one?" I said, "Yes, see if you can get them to support you." "What happens if they don't?" she asked. "Keep them on suspension."So I called her that evening and she said, "Steve, every one of them gave their word. It's amazing, these are great kids." I said, "Yeah, they are. Have you never met them before?' She said, "Now what do I do?" I said, 'Ok, they're keeping their word, they're helping to keep things calm?" She said, "Yeah they are, but I don't think I can just leave it like this." I said, "Now that they've made a commitment to you, you can bring them together as a group. So bring the Samoan kids in. Remind them they've already made their commitment, that they've individually given their word so that peer pressure doesn't take them to another level. Then talk to them about how we need you all to control not only yourselves as individuals, but also others to help diffuse the tension here. Then bring in the other group and do the same thing." So she talked to them and she said, "They all agree, we're all on the same page. Things are still okay."



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you have techniques you use for reducing tensions between the parties?

Answer:
Sometimes they get hot and I have to watch the parties and see what level of tolerance one has of each group. I read the behaviors and decide whether to ask them to calm down. Sometimes I call for timeouts and ask for caucuses. There have been times where I've said, "Wait a minute, we need to review why we're here and what tone and ground rules we've agreed to abide by. If I sense some discomfort by some of the people, I'll say, "By the behavior of the individuals there seems to be a need to take some of that tone out of here," or "Could we take a time out?" At that time I can meet with individuals to draw out that person and speak to that person directly and say, "You know you're creating a level of hostility. Do we want to move forward in working towards a solution? We're not going to cut you out of getting your voice and what you want to accomplish, but the tone is going to possibly harden the other side, so it depends what you want to accomplish here. Think about that as you convey your issues. You could be passionate, but don't get to the point where you're so aggressive that it harms the process." I think those are the kinds of techniques that I have used.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The other thing I wanted to mention about tension is I think it's always good to bring humor. I have a very light humor. They always say something that you can play off on that you can stay within the context and still be light enough but bring enough humor to defuse some of that tension. I think humor is a very valuable tool. Some people know how to use it and some people don't. It's tricky, I know, because you can get hurt with humor sometimes, but I found humor to be a very meaningful way to relieve tension and a valuable one.

Question:
Do you have any examples or guidelines for humor?

Answer:
Well, now you're asking me. I can't tell jokes, I can't remember. Maybe, the things that you play off on are things you hear and the misinterpretations we have and using yourself as the vehicle for humor versus any of the parties. But, everybody will say something and then they'll know it's a miscommunication or it's a faux pas of some type and you catch it and you go "Did you hear that one?" Just a light playoff on words sometimes can relieve a lot of tension. When you see the parties warming up in that vein of a little humor sometimes, it gets a whole lot of invigorated faith in the other person's ability to recognize that the other party is just another human being with needs and interest just like me.






Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

When you're going into a situation that you think is potentially violent, do you approach it differently than others?

Answer:
Very carefully. I don't know what you mean by differently. It depends on the kinds of violence that you're talking about.

Question:
I don't know give me some examples.

Answer:
Ok, very recently, we were in this case where we worked together with the Kansas City Regional Office. We're in Pine Ridge and AIM and Pine Ridge Leadership wanted to march into White Plains to protest. There had been a couple of recent murders which had been unsolved. There were allegations of mistreatment of Indians in the town and that the town was using the sale of alcohol to the detriment of the Native American community. There had been a march the week before which had gone peacefully, but as the marchers got ready to return to the Pine Ridge reservation, others stayed behind. There was some burning and looting and destruction, so when plans were made for another march, there was a real concern that this might become violent. It was at that point that CRS got involved. So there was a potential for violence there. One of the key things that we try to do before an event which might lead to violence is that we get the key players, the leaders, together to talk about what expectations each one has about the coming event. We talk about what parameters each one has set, what are their absolutes, and what is negotiable, so that each side would know what to expect of the other. In this case, we arranged for a meeting between the march leadership and the Nebraska Law Enforcement, particularly the State Patrol. We tried to come up with an understanding of how far marchers would be able to go. The Nebraska Law Enforcement understood that there was no intent to create any violence or to destroy any property. They understood, in fact, that the marchers would be training self-marshals. CRS helped, to some extent, in doing that too. AIM has a very effective security staff themselves, so they served as marshals to some extent in controlling their own group. When we actually got to the border and the point at which Nebraska Law Enforcement said, "This is as far as you can go," there were a number of demonstrators who wanted to contest that restriction. They wanted to cross that boundary and be arrested, and some did just that. Other leaders worked very, very hard to draw attention off those marchers, away from that confrontational setting, to avoid actual physical violence. There were police lined up shoulder to shoulder in riot gear and it was like 95, 97 degrees outside. It's not where I would have wanted to be at that particular day! Yet the marchers said they were not leaving until those arrested were returned. CRS tried, but was unable to negotiate an agreement whereby those arrested were released on their own recognizance because these marchers really wanted a court test of their first amendment rights, of where they could go and what they could say there. On the other hand, nobody really wanted violence. Eventually they were released, but they were not returned to the border, where there was still some tension, but they were transported back to Pine Ridge, away from the confrontation site, and released there. We had a debriefing with the law enforcement and march leaders later that day or the next day, and all of them were convinced that, had it not been for the meeting prior to the march, and the understanding that had been reached there the trust that had been built up. I remind you that they were not "best buddies," but there was a trust level established. Had that not been done, this probably would have ended up violently again . So I guess what I am saying, in probably way too many words, is that our primary response to a potentially violent situation is to try to get the key parties together beforehand to avoid that violence. Because once things have gotten out of control, it's difficult to use mediation skills to get it back on track. When you do this kind of preventive work. you can see where there might be actions that are exacerbating the violence, and try to deal with that. I know that the phrase, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is sort of a cliche and trite, but that really is true. Usually even the people who might be involved in violence don't go out wanting violence. They might want to make a particular statement, and they might want to get arrested, but there are ways of doing that in a controlled manner which gives everyone what they want.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

But as a result of this incident, we helped create a community monitoring program in each of the schools. And we developed a tension assessment instrument and trained school staff in what to look for in schools to decide whether or not there were tensions brewing that might, in fact, result in violence. Plus we formed bi-racial parent councils. These were court-ordered. In Boston the schools really didn't do a whole lot, at this point, unless it was ordered by the court -- which made the court real popular!



Renaldo Rivera


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Have you run into situations where there is resistance to this kind of mediation?

Answer:
What you get in terms of overt resistance is because there are parts of federal agencies, because of their particular mission focus, or some local officials in law enforcement or elected officials, that may not have the same values attached to issues of equity and equitable treatment across the board. It may not have been in their experience patterns with the tremendous demographic changes that have taken place in the last ten years. They may be overwhelmed by it or it might not yet have shaped their views, or their way of looking at the situation and their communities in a way that is inclusive of the populations that are currently there. And then you have the traditional existing civil rights populations that have always had access problems and power imbalances with the existing institutions. So at CRS what we try to do is when we see that that's the issue, either that people's eyes haven't been opened to take a broad enough view, there's an imbalance in the power relationships, or there are simple problems of access to institutions, is that we try to address those as such. We will provide the access to local officials so that the conversations can take place, promote the dialogues between the affected populations and their public officials so that issues of concern to the affected populations can become known to public officials and constructive responses can be shaped. Often times we'll meet with public officials and law enforcement who may be in this more reluctant zone because literally their communities feel overwhelmed by the change and differences that diversity brings. We'll spend large amounts of time assisting them to see that indeed the populations have changed and how developing outreach processes, community assessments and community relationships is critical to other forms of law enforcement and that's it's also in their interests as well as in the interest of community stability. We have to consistently work around that, work around those questions of people who may not see it as clearly as we do.

Question:
To clarify, you said that they feel overwhelmed, do you mean the agencies feel overwhelmed with the changing communities.

Answer:
Yes, on some occasions that is very much the case and then you'll have an old guard in some of these agencies that's just not equipped either linguistically or by inclination.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Would you talk about the emotions of this conflict and how you addressed them? Was there anger or frustration? In terms of easing emotions?

Answer:
The important thing was that meeting with the president and students. We had met previously with the president and chancellor to discuss what they were going to say. That was important for them to help allay some of those tensions in the sense of what he was going to say or not say.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Also, we got them to agree not to go at each other physically. They also agreed to take their shoes off and we took our shoes off too. If you don't have your shoes on, you don't want to fight. That was something that the superintendent's program administrator suggested to me, and I said, "Heck, yes. Let them take their shoes off." The next step is to take your clothes off, and that helps even more because nobody wants to hurt himself. But we didn't go that far.



Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What did you do, for instance in L.A. during the riots, to try to calm down tensions when you had these really potentially violent situations?

Answer:
I can only speak for myself, but generally the agency responded to the police department -- in this case, the LAPD -- to be available to them simply for whatever information that we could provide about potential problem areas. Not as intelligence, but more like letting them know, "we think you ought to do certain things." For example, do not send the troops out to control things, but letting people like our people go out there and try to either calm down the situation by talking to them, or disperse the situation by dealing with the leadership and hope that the leadership would bring the people away from that situation. It's really hard to pinpoint what it was that we did, because it was mostly a seat of the pants kind of thing. You're there because the problem has presented itself. So then you're only dealing with it through your own experience. You can't really program a riot or the aftermath of a riot, so you just go along with those situations. You anticipate some of the things that might happen, based on your experiences having dealt with other riots or other disturbances, but you still have to be very careful. You can't commit yourself to the police department and you can't commit yourself to the community. You're just there to use the process to keep problems from escalating. I can only use my own sense, I didn't see anyone talking about it. We had very little chance to sit down and talk immediately. Most of our meetings were, "Here's what today's assignments are," and you were gone. Probably the most significant thing that I think I did was to be out on the streets and talking both to some of the leadership of the police unit, and to several of the leaders of a given group on a given corner who were raising hell. With police unit leadership, you would ask them, "Give me a chance to talk to these folks before you decide to intercede." The sergeant that I was working with was really good and he said, "Yeah, go ahead. We don't have any problem with that." So I would go out there and talk to these folks and they would crap all over me, but that was okay. As long as they were crapping all over me, it meant that wouldn't crap on the cops, which meant that the cops wouldn't go after them. So I would take the abuse and I would say, "Okay, but what about that? You're using all these angry statements at me, but don't you think that you could do other things to deal with the issue aside from expressing anger, anger, anger?" We just had gripe sessions with these folks. If they got too close, I would fold my arms and I'd start talking to them and as I would talk, I would take steps -- very, very small steps -- forward, and what I was actually doing by moving forward was moving the group back. So I'm talking to a group of maybe about twelve to fifteen people with maybe a couple of leaders, and they're riling up the the people in the group behind them.




Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What you did to reduce tensions when they are high? Did you ever run into a situation in mediation where things got really tense and you needed to calm them down?

Answer:
Sometimes. I was usually able to moderate the situation without any heavy handedness. Once in a while a certain decisiveness, maybe even standing up and speaking very loudly, was necessary. That was rare, but I can recall a couple of occasions where that, in my judgment, became necessary. One was a business mediation, which was kind of unusual for us to do, but a minority sub-contractor was one of the parties on a big housing development that had been ninety-seven percent completed. It was a middle income development, and there was an impasse between this sub-contractor who had some minor finishing work to do and the general contractor who was not minority. They had some bad blood on various things, various past hassles, and now they were right at impasse. As I recall, somebody from HUD called us. HUD was involved in some aspects of the financing and everybody wanted to see the project finished since housing was a desperate need. The attorneys for the two parties actually were willing to have us give them a hand. One of the attorneys handled arrangements and they were willing to move fast, like tomorrow. I had no chance to study the issue. They were so anxious to get to it, I think it was the attorney for the minority sub-contractor, that he arranged the meeting room in a major hotel-- normally I would be doing that. Anyhow, we got into that session quickly. The minority sub-contractor, the main person, didn't have a bonding capacity or something, he had some kind of a problem financially, and he had brought in this guy from New York to help him. We went through the regular opening routine and I explained to these folks, "look, you all understand that I'm not expert in the contracting business and I've had no chance to study up on this as there's been no time. You're in a hurry, so you're going to have to educate me as we go along, and I may have a lot of questions." They agreed, and we got going. We got fairly well into it but then an impasse developed and people got angry. A gentleman representing the minority sub-contractor who was six foot three and big strong guy, said angrily, "I'm not going to take any more of this, you know," and accused the general contractor of insulting him. "I'm not going to take any of this, this is a waste of time" and he stood up to walk out. So I'm at the end of the table and I stood up and said, "Dammit, Mr..., you agreed to the approach we were going to take to this, and we are following that approach and I think we can make it, so please sit down." He paused a moment, and then he sat down. And we got on with it. By the end of the day we had a deal. As a matter of fact, Mr... was so happy with the deal, he invited everybody down to a bar at this famous hotel and bought us a round of drinks. There was one other intra-tribal scene where a lot of folks were present and it was just not feasible to limit it to a four or five member team. Actually there were several teams from either side. There was a clan or family grouping, with history behind it, that was very unhappy for maybe a couple of generations. Some of the other members of the band insisted on being present. It wasn't public with press, but there was quite a crowd, and that got messy. People were standing up shouting, and it became pretty difficult to have any orderly process. After a time trying to keep it on track, I asked for a recess and spoke with some of the folks. I explained that we had agreed in advance who the people were who were going to handle this, and I told them that we were not going to be able to pull it off if it continued like it was going. "I don't want to tell anybody to go home, I can't tell anybody to go home," I said, " but how about we convene the original group in such and such a room." So we proceeded on that basis. But that was one case where it was it couldn't have gone anywhere on the basis on which it had started. In situations with high tensions, from time to time there would be individuals who would explode or get close to exploding, but usually we didn't have anything fall apart when that happened. We were able to have our recess and to caucus and get back on track.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So we help them to change it, to make it more customer friendly, to build back the trust of the community. There will be some solution there. People don't complain because either they don't trust the process, they don't know about the process, or they're afraid of the process. So we have to build that faith back into it. What we're doing is lessening the tension gap. Suppose you have a bar graph, with one line representing perceived inequalities and the other the perception of a redress system, the systems in place that can give you redress to what you're complaining about. If the perceptions of redress are at the same level as the injustices, things are okay. If you complain about something happening to you, you can go somewhere to get redress. Problems occur when complaints are high and perception of redress is low. This is called a tension gap. The higher the concerns and the lower the redress, the more volatile the situation is. If you look at recent race riots - Rodney King, Miami, the Liberty City Riots, St. Petersburg, a police incident usually triggers it all. People go back to saying they don't have anything to lose, so let's go for it. What we try to do is help the system get back to a certain level, so we're constantly on the look out for these indicators. If there is any place they can go, then we help them get there. Then the community will have faith in the redress system and in their leaders.



Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
I think over in Salt Lake it was quicker, and there was more hostility. They were really angry, and they were demonstrating in front of the police department. Also, I thought that if there was a way to bring them to the table right away, it would help. When we first brought them to the table, it wasn't mediation, it was just a matter of bringing them to the table so they could air out their differences. Then an outgrowth of that is when the actual mediation started. I suggested that we try to work out a solution, perhaps we can mediate this. But I don't like to use the word "mediation" because sometimes that's foreign. It's better to say, "Well, let's work out the problem," or, "Maybe there is a way to work it out". I prefer to use those terms, rather than "mediation." That's how it happened there. Since the press had played it up quite a bit, I thought it was too aggravated to use conciliation. It was building up, and if I could bring them to the table quickly, I could maybe lessen that anger that was there. Remember in Salt Lake City, you have a whole west side or southwest side that's all Hispanic. They have all kinds of problems, in fact they still have gang problems in that area. We wanted to lessen that anger quickly. And it's a bigger population than the other case was. The other case was a little more spread out. Over there it is a little more contained. I thought the hostility was greater there.

Question:
You thought the potential for violence was also greater?

Answer:
Oh, yeah.

Question:
Is there a general rule that you had during your practice, for example, is it true, to say that if a situation seemed like violence was imminent, or the hostility was greater, that in those situations you would bring people to the table more quickly?

Answer:
I don't know whether it's a general rule, it's just how I feel the situation is, how I understand it at that time.

Question:
What factors do you consider to be especially important?

Answer:
Well, I guess if we break it out point by point, there is the hostility which includes anger, what are they saying, what are they doing, all of that relates to how angry the community is. Also, in working with the police, what are they saying, and how are they acting, because they become fearful themselves, to some degree. They become more on the alert, and then they might do something that might create another situation. So I guess what comes to mind is how the community is acting, and how are the police are acting. Also what is being said in the press, are they picking up something that's adding to it, or trying to bring the focus down on it. In Salt Lake I thought that more was being said, and there was more activity, and there was a more hostile atmosphere. The whole east side was really angry.

Question:
What did you do to try to diffuse the hostile atmosphere when you got the two groups together? To keep them from screaming at each other or throwing things at each other or whatever.

Answer:
Initially, of course, when we first brought them together, they were hostile. We took a break after they aired off. I suggested we take a break, and then we'd come back together that afternoon. While we took a break, I talked to the group, and I said "in order to find a solution to some of these problem areas, we're going to have to go back to the table with the department and have more of a dialogue in specific areas of your concern. I realize that you're angry about this, but there has to be more specific information, so that the police department can more accurately respond to some of your concerns." So they did. They agreed they would come back. In the meantime, what they had done already, is identified some people at the university who could come in and help. The university people came in and they had cooler heads and a better understanding of what has to happen, and I think that helped lead them to sit across the table with the department and try to work out some kind of solution. And it wasn't that there were a lot of items that they wanted to discuss. It was just that the police department had to somehow respond to the Hispanic community, or patrol the Hispanic community in a more fair manner, rather than in a picky way. The Hispanics felt that the police began to pick at their side of town. For example they would stop a car because it was suspicious, or stop a car because a light wasn't working, or stop a car for whatever. That was part of what I felt was picking on that area, which then led to more hostility. So that's why I thought it was so important. But anyway, to get back to your question, once they came back, they were more ready to work with the department and the department was more ready to talk to them. I also met with the department earlier and said "this is what I'm going to do while we take a break," and they said "that's fine." The department was really ready. They were ready to say they goofed up, they wanted to know what can they do to remedy the situation. They wanted us to help them find a solution to that.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Even at your own expense? What are some things that you did in Memphis or in any of the other cases that we talked about to diminish the tension between the parties?

Answer:
The main thing is that you get the parties to formally set up rules of conduct that diminish the tension. During a march in Memphis I persuaded the city to pull the police back. I wanted them to pull the police back completely out of sight. "Because your very presence generates hostility and most especially your highly armed presence," I told them.

Question:
Did you just tell them flat out that they needed to move back?

Answer:
Yes, you tell them that, but you do it strategically. You explain to the chief that the marchers are policing themselves. They've got marshals to police themselves. They don't need you to police them, yet you are close enough, if something occurs, that you can get there in seconds. Your purpose would be better served if you were back out of sight. That's the way that you reduce tension.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
A lot of times you do. A lot of times you want to have one side overcome their hostility or let it all hang out and then sometimes, it hangs out no matter who is there. You just have to be cool and let them talk; don't go in there and try to shut them up. Usually if you don't say anything, someone from their group will quiet the loud individual and that's more effective than if you do it yourself. When somebody's up there and they have the floor, the best thing you can do is let them speak. Most people, unless they have some real problem, will accept that you are a mediator.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Going back to the meetings, how did you reduce tension? If you've got somebody up there screaming at the other side because they're so mad about all of these issues, that's likely to make people on the other side mad. What did you do to keep the meeting under control?

Answer:
Well, there were times, when needless to say, I had to exert some kind of authority. I had to -- from time to time and depending on the situation -- say, "Wait a minute, we're not having stuff like that." And most of the time I could reduce the tension by stepping in that way.

Question:
How do you make a judgment call about when to do that?

Answer:
Well, it depends on if somebody's threatening violence, and generally you can tell when that is going to happen. I remember one time in Oklahoma, the white establishment business council, came in and put their guns on the table in front of the council and the sheriff. How were we going to deal with that, because the sheriff wouldn't tell them to remove their guns." So, before things got started, I just got vehement. I didn't know if it was going to work; I suppose if they had said, "Shut up and get your black butt out of here," I would have left, but they didn't. I got up and I said, "Hold it! None of this!" I put on my best act like I was mad, my eyes got big as saucers. I was scared of them, but they didn't know I was scared. I was really scaring them! They said, "Oh. Yes sir. Yes sir." Boy, they went back out to their pick up trucks and got rid of those weapons. The minorities in this situation were Hispanics instead of Indian. That was the only time I ever saw anybody put their firearms on the table.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

By getting them to write these things out, I was able to ease the tensions among the group members themselves. Because they didn't have to go about fighting somebody from another group or another race, they were going to do each other in, simply because they had a problem with who was going to be the leader in that situation.



Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Were you able to reduce those hostilities that much in other situations?

Answer:
Put it this way. That was one of my methods of operation that I went out for. Even though I was attempting to mediate something, I had an agenda myself. And one aspect of that agenda was to try to develop mechanisms, or suggest developing a mechanism within the mediation sessions that will speak to the issue of communication, keeping channels open at all times. And how are you going to do that when you start talking about police brutality? You want to look at doing that. When you start taking about better compliance with city laws or ordinances. When you want to start talking about better garbage collection in a minority community or anyplace else, what better mechanism could you have, or what better organization could you have where police, social workers, school officials and others are coming together with minority leadership once a month instead of letting a crisis develop? To answer your question about the proof that that trust level had been developed was that in some cases, the minority community, and in this case, the Indian community, elected someone they supported to be president of that organization. He served for about five or six years. Then somebody else served. But the idea was that this was ongoing. Here's a communication mechanism that remained open all of these years and it couldn't help but to serve to diffuse tensions as they existed throughout the country. It's the same way in Bingham's Hispanic community. It's the same way. These things came over a pretty long period of time. It took a while to discover how we could come up with something so that CRS didn't have to be back in this town every few weeks. What can you do to help? So instead of allowing somebody to use you as their flunky or something, you come up with a mechanism and in time you facilitated the scene. And if anybody else wanted to be the facilitator, then they'll be a facilitator.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What did you do to diminish tensions between the parties?

Answer:
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.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Is that because violence was happening or you think that it’s about to?

Answer:
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. That’s 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.

Question:
Why did he refuse?

Answer:
He would not meet with them because they hadn’t made an appointment. It was one of those things where "If you want to meet, just make an appointment, but don’t just show up.” Or "We have this under control, there is no need for a meeting.” 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,” and that five minutes was spent convincing him and trying to help him understand the necessity of meeting with the parents.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Interesting story. When you brought parties together when tensions were high, what did you do to try to facilitate effective communications?

Answer:
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 can’t 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 I’ll ask you to just keep that in mind.” That wasn’t 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.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Interesting story. When you brought parties together when tensions were high, what did you do to try to facilitate effective communications?

Answer:
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 can’t 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 I’ll ask you to just keep that in mind.” That wasn’t 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.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Other than Wounded Knee, which I want to talk about tomorrow, were you ever in situations where there was a serious potential for violence?

Answer:
At the table you mean?

Question:
Either at the table or in the community.

Answer:
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.

Question:
So what do you do to try to reduce that potential?

Answer:
You get people talking and hoping that they see some light at the end of the tunnel. Most people don’t 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 don’t have to jump.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
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 pro-active way?

Answer:
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, "Where’s racial violence going to break out?" We'd then come back with a report that said what’s needed here are more jobs, or more money from the Labor Department to take care of this problem. We would do an assessment, I’d call my staff together and we’d look at the region and the areas we should cover. The staff knew the region and would conduct the assessments. That doesn’t 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.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Do you do anything else that you haven't already described to try to manage really strong emotions?

Answer:
I pay attention to the setting. How people are arranged in the room, whether they're sitting close to each other, if they're really hostile toward each other. I may intentionally put myself between them. Have enough room between them so that they're not going to feel threatened by one another. I remind them in a private meeting, they may not want to embarrass anybody, think of what it's going to cost. If you continue in this direction we're not going to move toward productive resolution. But if you feel that strongly, that may not be an appropriate response. I think that always needs to be restated when emotions are really high. Not to try to push them on, but to give them an out. If you feel that strongly, this may not be the appropriate avenue. You may need to take legal action. You may need to use another option. Most times they'll come back from that and say, "No. I really want to try to do this. Maybe we need to meet another day. Get some more information." A lot of that I've dealt with in private groups where they've been allowed to really vent as much as they want and then I begin to test some of that. This is not a community example, but it's a clear example. Some of the community people believed that this municipality and the business leadership intentionally kept the gas prices in their community high, because those establishment people could all go outside the community to get gasoline. The community was pretty much confined to the community to buy gas and their gasoline prices were higher. I traveled from there and out of there all the time, and the reality was that the prices were cheaper in town, then they were out of town. But to say that to them immediately, is not helpful. But as they gained trust venting, I began to test some of that and say, "Okay, have you checked some of that out?" So next meeting they come back with better information. I had one situation where the community just swore that if you were arrested and a minority, when you were taken to jail you would be beaten, no questions asked. I shared this with the chief and the staff, his administrators. They were just horrified. One of the deputies said, "we haven't beaten anybody for twenty years!" I said, "Well, they remember." He couldn't believe that the community still carried that perception. I didn't even tell him as I remember, he had the courage to go ask. He was really horrified that people would say that. He had the courage to ask the prisoners that he had right then, "what did you think was going to happen when you got here?" They said, "we expected to be beaten." He then had the courage to come back to our group and say that. That's what they thought, that's what they believed. I said, "That's the power of history. People carry any incident with them, until there's intentional effort to change that history." You know you haven't done that for twenty years, but there's been no intentional effort to say to the community, "that's not who we are anymore." Those were examples of where you deal with some of the reality checking ahead of time, so you begin to break down some of the myth. You break down as many of the myths as possible, so that by the time you get to the table, there's some basis for discussions. If all of these myths are true, then you don't have much relationship to deal with. If you can see that some of those myths don't have a reality base, then you begin to think maybe there are some things we can talk about. If that wasn't true, maybe we were misunderstood.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So when I asked, "When did it happen?" in that case, I tried to make sure that they didn't feel what happened twenty years ago wasn't important, but as we get closer to the actual joint meeting, it's important to know what the long term history is and what's happened more recently. But it's an angry setting. I see the anger and the frustration and sometimes hopelessness that this community is experiencing, because they really don't know what to do with it. Again, at first we say, "oh god. I hope I can get these people to the table, I hope I can keep this under control." And a few days later, I get these same people at the table. I remember at least one situation where I ended up calling a caucus and talking to the minority group. "What happened to all the anger?" It isn't that I want them to lose their temper, but to some extent, I want the other party to recognize how much hurt and frustration is there. I'll ask them, "what about all of those points you had made to me? Who is going to raise that?" Once they get to the table, and they have gotten a lot of the emotion out of their system. I was amazed the first few time at how calm they were. I don't want to say they were reasonable, because sometimes for me it's reasonable for them to be very angry. It would unreasonable to be calm, controlled, soft-spoken, once they got to the actual mediation process.



Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

In this case, there was competition among a number of vendors serving the same clientele and some had arrived there fairly recently and the others were more old-timers. So these newcomers, as interlopers, were cutting their prices to undermine the other companies' business and they were lowering their standards and providing a poor product. As a result of that, their appearance was detrimental to all of them. So one of the things that they wanted to talk about is how to not undercut each other by having a similar price structure. When I discussed that with the antitrust division, the man at the other end of the phone was absolutely appopletic. The poor man could hardly talk. I would say, "Calm down. We haven't done this yet." He was totally hysterical because he had visions of having to go and drag parties into court who would then produce a mediation agreement signed by the Department of Justice Community Relations Service. So he was not a happy camper. I tried so hard to calm him down, but he was absolutely hysterical. The bottom line is, we could not make that one of the issues to be negotiated. The parties, even though they had agreed to other issues to be discussed as well, like quality of service, appearance, and training, they were not interested in negotiating any of these other points unless they could also talk about the pricing. So we never entered formal mediation or even informal mediation. We had some meetings with the group to explore whether or not to use mediation, but we never actually entered mediation. I think there was a good result though, and this isn't the only time this has happened. There are times when we get involved and begin to do an assessment to see whether or not we can do mediation in a very heated, potentially violent, situation. Sometimes just our involvement has enough of a calming influence that tempers cool off and the whole thing de-escalates. So even though we didn't help them reach a mediated agreement, it diffused enough so that other forces could then enter into the process and it didn't become violent. In this particular situation, there had been many physical confrontations and it really did look like it might result in serious violence among competitors. But it never reached that level of tension again. The very fact that we did, in fact, have them talking to each other to some extent, they began to hear each other's specific needs and concerns in greater detail than they did when they were trying to push each other out of the way. So we helped to defuse the actual tension that had existed. This was a successful CRS case, even though it certainly wasn't a successful mediation case. I do think that our involvement at that particular time did play a positive role in diffusing that situation.





Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

As soon as they saw us come in, they dropped their weapons, which were pieces of stick and that sort of thing. This was inside the joint; it wasn't out in the field. We went over and talked to them and said, "You guys, we need to sit down again." "Okay." So we said to them, "We expect you not to go at each other." "Yeah, okay." We sat down and they didn't go at each other. "Alright, want to go two more weeks?" The end result was the same as in our first effort; they just couldn't keep the violence from occurring. Finally, how we got peace was to transfer out some of the guys. From then on it was peaceful, and I can't remember ever getting a call from that guy again.



Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How do you think that you turned that hostility around? What are the things that you did to turn the hostility into something productive?

Answer:
I think the beginning to turn that around is when we chaired that first hostile meeting. They saw us working impartially or working with the chief to try to, number one, control the meeting. Also, I tried to identify the people I had met by name. I had met only three or four, but if I knew someone, I'd say "Bill why don't you speak now," or something like that. That began to build that slight trust. Remember, the people didn't know us then at all, except for the small group I'd met with. Then, of course, when they set up a meeting I was present. I was at practically all the meetings that followed thereafter. So I met with them constantly One of the other issues was that there were funerals going on in the meantime. The police were saying, "How are we going to handle this situation?" They were afraid that the community might get all upset during or after the funeral and trouble would start again. So I met with the police chief and assured him that the group was going to be cooperative, but they needed a permit. And I asked if he'd have police officers located at some distant points, and also asked that a police officer come in in advance to talk to the group to say "I'm the one you contact in case there's any problems." I wanted them to know someone in the police department directly. I forget who the chief selected, but he was a redheaded guy, and really nice individual. Had good character for the funeral purposes. So in case something happened during the funeral, they would get a hold of him. The chief also identified the officers that could work with the community to go to the funeral. The community met with the officer-- it was five people still--so they would know what the officers were going to do. The church was almost downtown, in fact it was close to the police department. So that's the kind of thing we did. He helped establish communication, to gradually build trust. After awhile, I almost felt like I was part of El Comite, a member myself. Which I was not, but they almost begin to treat you that way.













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