Did you ever intentionally act as an advocate for one side? Did you ever do this unintentionally?


Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You couldn’t just go into communities and become a sheer advocate. There were examples of CRS people who did some egregious things, because they were not able to draw that fine line. It certainly wasn’t a bright line, between a kind of allowable advocacy and impartiality. Allowable advocacy was useful in reinforcing a voice from a low-power minority community, because you had certain legitimacy: You weren’t from that town, you represented a very auspicious federal agency, and you were, in fact, an authority whether you cared to acknowledge it or not. What that did was to make your advocacy comparatively more acceptable, in that sense. Whereas I think that in a more formal mediation, the construct of mediation would sort of mitigate your ability to be able to do that. On the other hand, CRS people, many of them being minorities themselves, came in with various degrees of arrested advocacy development on their own part. So they were hugely frustrated. They would get out into the field, and they would do things like, and these are true examples: One fellow, in an open-air meeting, made several pronouncements about resources he was going to be able to bring to this particular community. In effect, he called the establishment everything short of racist pigs. Now what made him think that wasn’t going to get reported back? Well, once that happened he was finished. And he actually did no service to that particular community. His actions were self-defeating. Because it became very clear, not only in that instance but actually in other instances as well, that even the minority community needed the CRS person to be someone who could articulate their concerns in forums. Not only to create a forum for them to be able to do that, which they were not successful in doing themselves, but at key points be able to refine that articulation to the establishment’s side. But to be able to do that, you had to be accepted by the so-called establishment’s side, so if you were no longer accepted by them, you simply destroyed your purpose for the minority community as well.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Were you able to do this without appearing to be an advocate? Or were you an advocate? Was that okay?

Answer:
I don't think I appeared to be an advocate because I didn't speak for them. I basically reminded them that we had an agenda and there were issues that "you" wanted to bring up. "If you don't talk about it now, you won't have a chance." That type of approach. I don't think anybody perceived me as being an advocate.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So we got them together, and what we would do within the Hispanic community was to rile people up about the stuff that cops were doing. Not CRS as such, but I'm a member of the group. So we came up with a report on the shooting and the report involved Latino attorneys, members of the advisory group, psychologists, teachers, corrections officers, former policemen. I was an advisor, I wasn't a member of the group. Anyway, the report was written, really castigating the L.A. Police and jumping all over a guy who is a psychologist out of the University of California, Riverside, because he's the guy that had written the report on the shooting and he screwed it up. He came out like the police hadn't been wrong, it wasn't their fault, they were protecting themselves. So we not only tackled that issue, but other shootings in L.A. When the police chief, the guy that was a real nemesis to the minority community, got that, he held his gut and he read it and he said, "We're going to put this in our library." But we did get one over him. We registered it with the federal people you send written materials to and that kind of stuff, so that's registered there. It was a well-written report, I have to say that. We paid for it, we got it published, and we used the Latino brain power and they did a good job on it. So anyway, that's technical assistance. If all I provided was stirring the mud, and providing the money for the report and publishing it, that's technical assistance in my eyes. The brain power was theirs.



Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Therefore, I did not always just stay there and maintain a neutral position. I had to speak out at times. Like the merchants would always come out and some of the merchants along there would always want to come out and start sweeping and watering and all of that stuff. They were willing to take the dollars that were being spent, but they didn't want them standing in front of their stores. They wanted the blacks to come in and buy stuff and get out of the area. So I had to speak up about that.



Julian Klugman


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
Sure. You've got to be very careful. That's the problem in CRS. I'm not really an advocate though, I was an advocate earlier. You're working for the U.S. Justice Department, so you're not an advocate. There were people in CRS when I came in who pretended they were advocates.

Question:
Tell me a little bit more about the difference. What makes you not an advocate?

Answer:
You're an advocate for people if they tell you. So you only represent people if they say you can represent them. You're not a leader unless you have followers.




Julian Klugman


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
No, not a community organizer, that's different. I've been there. But you're right, I am talking as someone who works for the government. When you're working for the community, you're working for the community. When you're working with the government, you're not the community, you're providing a service from the government to the community. That's very different, and I think I told you when I came into CRS I had all these guys who said they were advocates and they weren't. We were under the civil rights act. We were dealing with problems of discrimination and our goal was to help deal with those problems. I think we were fair. We weren't lawyers. We weren't enforcement. We were trying to get the community in a voluntary way to solve their problems. But did we have an axe to grind? Yeah, we wanted to problem solve. Did we feel there were civil rights violations? Yeah we did. We basically did, because if we went in and there weren't, we would leave.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

For example, after Martin was killed, Baird Rustin....do you know who I'm talking about? Baird Rustin came down to organize that peaceful march that Martin had come back to Memphis to do, but was killed before he could. Baird was a great master of demonstrations. He's the person who organized the march on Washington. He was a great tactician, so Baird Rustin came down and took charge of organizing the next march. When Baird walked the route of the march, he said, "Oh no, we can't march that way." Number one: They had a court order to deal with, because the city went into court and tried to get an injunction against him in another march. They didn't get the injunction, but they got a bunch of restrictions on the march. One is they could only use one half of the street; another one was that the march had to take place between ten and two; another one was the route of the march. When Baird had walked the route, he was that much of a tactician. Most folk would mark from here to here; he would walk it and see what the hindrances and encumbering things would be and he said, "Going that way, we have to pass two buildings in demolition and one building in construction. We don't want young people to be tempted to pick up rocks and bricks to throw. We don't even want to go that way, we want to go another way." But the court order was to go that way. And then the other was a problem too. Do you know how long it would take to process ten thousand people, marching four or five abreast? We couldn't even go downtown and get back within the four-hour span of the court order. So the court order needed to be changed. So then they turned to me as the mediator, and Baird said, "Mr. Sutton, somebody's got to go before the judge, and tell him what the encumbering things are as they relate to a peaceful march." Under usual circumstances, an attorney would go down and make that appeal, but that takes too long. The attorney would have to make a brief, and the judge would have to study the brief, and then come up with an answer. He said, "That would take three or four days, and we don't have that. Would you go down and just talk to the judge, man-to-man about this situation?" I agreed to do it, so the next morning, when the Justice Department agencies got together, as we did everyday, CRS, CRD (Civil Rights Division), U.S. Attorney, and F.B.I., all got together the next morning. I reported this to them. So the guy from the Civil Rights Division jumped up and said, "You can't do that!" I said, "What do you mean I can't do that?" He said, "The Justice Department can't be in the position of asking a judge to change his order." I said, "With the exception of the F.B.I., the rest of you are attorneys and I can understand your great fear of the judge. But a mediator does not have that kind of fear, at least this one does not, and I shall go." He said, "I'm the highest ranking member of the Department of Justice here, and I direct you not to go." I said, "You're getting things mixed up." He said, "What's that?" "You are the highest ranking person from the Civil Rights Division, I'm the highest ranking person from the Community Relations Service, and I promise you that the Community Relations Service would not tell the Civil Rights Division what to do, and the Civil Rights Division will not tell the Community Relations Service what to do. There are only two people telling me what to do and that's Roger Wilkins, Director of the agency, and the Attorney General himself. He said, "I shall call the attorney general." I said, "Call whoever you want to call." I left the meeting to go to meet with the judge, but on the way to meet with the judge, I called Roger. I said, "Roger" and he said, "Hey, Ozell, how's it going?" I said, "I say to you," and I'm always doing this, "you remember the scripture about how the lady said, I will go and see the king and if I perish, I perish?" I told Roger what I was about to do. I told him I was greatly upset at the Civil Rights Division, that he would probably hear about that, but that, "the only thing I need to know, is whether that disturbs you or not, Roger." Roger said, "Ozell, if you think that's what ought to be done, then you do that." That's the way Roger was. "You are a seasoned mediator, one of the best we have, so you go ahead and see the judge." I went to see the judge, and the judge received me, very politely, and I explained to him, I said, "Judge, marching four or five abreast, it would take more than five hours to process ten thousand people. Had you considered that?" He said, "The city does not want them to take the whole street." I said, "Judge, you know what that is. When the American Legion comes here, it takes the whole street. When the Shriners come here, they take the whole street. And they don't even get a permit. They just go out there and start marching. I used to be a commander of a protest group and when we came into town, we just went out there and start marching. We took the whole street and nobody said a word to us. This is selective law enforcement, which we cannot do in this situation. The city would not drive for three hours and they're going to need the whole street to do that, even for the city's sake they need the whole street." The judge agreed. Then I told him about the difficulty that they didn't want to march down that street, unlike it was in the other march. "Even the signs are not going to be on sticks; they're going to be on strings hanging on their necks, they're trying hard. We've got to help them." He agreed. He agreed to all that I asked him to do. When I came back and told Baird and the ministers and all the leadership, (they met every morning), that the route had been changed and that the judge had agreed, they were satisfied. I met with the Justice Department officials. This guy who was daring me to do something, he said, "You know, Ozell, you are a peculiar guy." I said, "There's nothing peculiar about me." I did that as a fun thing. He said, "You have a lot of audacity." I said, "I'm audacious. I'm more than audacious, I am bodacious." Bodacious is being brave and audacious. I've been out here a long time, and sometimes you have to take a risk, even with yourself. If the issue's big enough, you even risk your own self and your own career. I'm not out here playing, and what they said made sense to me. And I didn't have any reason to fear the judge. I'm just a laborer, I'm not a member of the court system. Judges are human beings, and I wanted to talk to the judge not in legal terms, but in practical terms.

Question:
It sounded like you took the interest of the parties.

Answer:
Yeah.

Question:
And the interest of the city, which is what a mediator would do?

Answer:
You mesh them. Even thought that wasn't what the city wanted done, as soon as I had done that and left the judge's office, I went over and met with the mayor and his chief of police and I said, "This is what it's going to be like. As negotiated by me. I would hope that it would meet with your understanding and your will, but this is the way it is. Everybody wants to know why they need a position like mine to go ahead and do something, and I did it." And the mayor looked up and said, "Well, Mr. Sutton, we have been accustomed to your moving on what you think ought to be done. Whether we like it or not, that's the way it is."




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Sometimes you sound like a neutral third party, sometimes you sound like an advocate.

Answer:
That's right.

Question:
Do you ever have a problem balancing these interactions?

Answer:
No. I just didn't let anybody know where I was coming from in that area. But of course there were some times where I was an advocate. Especially if somebody has beaten the hell out of some blacks, I'm going to definitely be an advocate. As I saw the situation being what it might have been. Now, it's how I handle that internally to get something done, I just didn't say anything about it. I wouldn't go out and openly push.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
Oh, I’m sure that people behaved differently, that some were more advocates and did things behind the scenes that were not appropriate by the book, but nobody would criticize them for doing those unless it was seen as going beyond some point. But you take those risks. We really were advocates for justice through negotiation and we were able to do a lot of things to help people achieve greater justice.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever have the situation when, once you gained the trust of one side, that side started trying to get you to become an advocate for them?

Answer:
That was pretty routine also. I think, in some way, each group or each party began to see me as an advocate and it was a balance between making clear that I have as much obligation to protect the interests of the municipality as to protect your interest. The institution has a right to exist, unless you're ready to destroy the institution and that was always the bottom line. There had been instances in history where the institution was so debacled that it needed to be destroyed, but are we there? Have we gotten to the point? If no, then you have to honor the institution's right to exist. It has interest. You have to honor those interests. They need to be interested or played out in light of civil rights law. That's where we come back to. To move beyond that, to get a sense of what our role really was, to not be an advocate for anyone except for civil rights law. And we were advocates for that. Then to help people to come to some voluntary compliance with that. And hopefully even beyond that, to come together in community to become community rather than just abiding by the law.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

And so I went down there and began meeting with these folks, and he came down and was meeting with me, and we both became spokesmen for that particular group. Really, we were trying to get the administration to get off its duff and pay attention to these people's needs. As a result, that staff member was fired. That was after many involvements, that wasn't just one involvement. They saw him as being disloyal and all these other things that agencies accuse you of when they see you being an advocate. It was really my fault for getting him enmeshed in this and not giving him a way out, and so he got fired and I was told not to come back. But, that came about because we were really pushing them to demonstrate and get out there. "Let them know, because they're not going to pay attention until you put as much pressure as you can on them."



Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you see the role of CRS as being an advocate for the minority community?

Answer:
Only by the fact that our mandate states that services will be provided by CRS in racial disputes. If there was violence in the street and the issues were not racial, then this government would have formed a CRS-like organization that would have served everybody. We solve disputes through law enforcement, we solve them through education and through all of these other systems that serve our society. It is only when there is a community- wide racial dispute that an organization such as CRS has the mandate to respond. And government officials obviously don't see it as that high of a priority because you only have 41 offices throughout the country.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

That was part of it. But also I didn't trust him not to burn these kids. And this is where my prejudice came out, because I knew, or I felt, that they were going to get burned if they came across as being equal. Some people are unequal no matter what happens, and if you understand that, then you can structure things around it to some extent. But I didn't think I could do that in this case.






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