Did your affiliation with the Justice Department help or hurt you?


Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We asked people to please let me know if they would be willing to participate in something like that. And we got about half a dozen or so parents who contacted me afterwards. One of the them told me afterwards that he came because he knew that "the Justice Department" would be there, so he figured there wouldn't be any problems. When he realized that "the Justice Department" was this one lady walking in with a little briefcase, he was really upset. "What do they mean the Justice Department was going to be here what the hell is she gonna do?" he asked himself.





Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
That's what I'm dealing with now to some extent. It goes back to 1970, down in Sumter County where President Carter's home is in Plains, Georgia. They had a group of people down there that started living in something like a commune. I went down there to look into brutality in the county jails and I called ahead and told the sheriff and other people that I was coming. So as soon as I got into Americus, I found the street and a place to park. So I pulled up to back into this parking space and this car pulls up right behind me and wouldn't let me in. I refused to move. So somebody ran and got the police and the police told me to move on. I said, "No, I am not going to move on. I'm trying to back up." "You don't know who that is. That's Mr. Satter White." I said, "I don't care who it is. I'm going to back up here." "He's the justice of the peace." I said, "I don't care if he's the governor. I'm going to back up and I'm not moving." "We'll haul you to jail." I said, "That's what you're going to have to do. Who does he think he is? Just because he's the justice of the peace? If he's the justice of the peace, he should have a place designated for him to park over at the courthouse which is across the street. I'm not going to move." I didn't move so I got hauled over to the courthouse. So the sheriff had heard about it and said, "We let you come here to see what you could do about those commune people out there. You don't have anything else in this county to talk about." I didn't know anything about who they were talking about. I said, "I came here to see about those people who have been beaten in this jail. These are people who have been beaten and denied bond and the speedy process." "That isn't any of your business, Boy." I said, "Well, I'm going to make it some of my business. If I don't, somebody else will be here to see about it." And so here comes this justice of the peace. He said, "You got some nerve Boy, coming down here talking to us white people like that. You don't know where you are and I'll..." I said, "You're going to do what? You're used to talking to blacks from this area in the manner that you're trying to talk to me. If you come out here and attempt to do anything to me, I'm going to defend myself any way I know how. I can assure you that you will not be victorious. Are you understanding what I'm saying?" So this big bully says, "I won't let no n****r talk to me like that." I said, "You go to hell." I was scared to death. I got in my car and I knew it was time to go. I went across the street and got in my car. When I looked around there were two cars following me on that rural road, so I stepped on it and got across the county line from Sumter County. I drove right up past Andersonville Cemetery and I stopped my car and went to the trunk like I was going to get something out. They stopped when I opened my trunk. I stood right by my trunk as if I had a shotgun or something. I didn't have anything in there but maybe a jack or something. They sent word to me that I better not show my black self in that county again and what they were going to do to me. I said okay.

Question:
They knew you were the Department of Justice?

Answer:
Yes. So at that time, Carter was the governor and I got Carter to find out about Cornelia Communal living.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I'm interested to know is the F.B.I. considered the good thing or the bad thing or do you work in conjunction?

Answer:
We're not law enforcement, and we don't provide them information in the investigative capacity but we work with them a lot in Houston. We do training, and they are part of the training program that we do. When communities have issues that they want to bring forth to them, because they feel that they don't trust their local investigative agency, I make that connection, although I don't speak for the community. I may convene a meeting with them, but I'm not part of that process, I just facilitate it.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Yes, but with limitations. They know what I'm there for and what I'm doing. In some instances those groups that maybe have a history of committing criminal acts, I let them know I'm still with the Justice Department and if they do something of a criminal nature, I'm duty bound to report it. But tell me only as much as I need to know to help them and help the situation. With that understanding, I don't want to be part of their strategies and I always ask, "Can I make this public? Is this public information?" No matter who I go to. And they say, "You can tell them this, but don't tell them that." And I respect that. If I don't then I'm no good to anybody.



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The Hispanic lawyer showed up and he didn't want to work with us, he didn't want us involved. I sat down with him, said, "Look, you don't like the present administration, and there's some things I don't like about the administration myself. The political winds in Washington change every four years. It goes in one direction, then another, and yet the people are still here. You're still here and I'm still here, so why don't you and I work together to help these people here the best that we can help them in this current situation? Let the administration do whatever, I know you have strong feelings about that, but let's think about these people here. Let's see how you can help them and I can help them and maybe we can help them even more if we both work together." So we did that and they and the D.A. finally worked a deal where they got a new prosecutor. What can we do together, that's our position with law enforcement. With the F.B.I., local police, and others, we try to form teams or work together and not be worried about turf or who gets the credit. We're all being paid by the same people. They pay the taxes that go to the federal and local governments.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Was there any implicit threat that the larger Justice Department might do something if the agreement wasn't adhered to?

Answer:
No, but we often felt it necessary to be sure that members of the community were aware of their rights and knew who in the federal government to call if they wanted to move in that direction. This was especially in smaller communities where people were at tremendous disadvantages for legal and other resources. But, that does not mean we were not perceived as having some clout. We might call a U.S. Attorney's office, and say we've had a complaint and we think somebody from the F.B.I. ought to go in and investigate it. Or we might encourage somebody in the community to call the U. S. Attorney. That was appropriate.






Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I can't just go up and say, "Hey, I'm from the government and I'm here to help you," you know that old line. When you walk into a sheriff's office let's say, you walk differently. Wear my other boots, the ones that make a sound, they're more like semi cowboy boots, wear my suit, pinstripe probably, blue tie, walk in there like you belong. Take a different position, ask some tough questions, but in a very friendly manner, and at some point they'll know you're not there to investigate them. You're not there to prosecute them, you're not there to do them harm so that they have to watch out and look out and be careful what they tell you. The more comfortable they feel with you, the more they'll tell you. That's the only way to help them because you have to understand their reality. Their reality from their point of view. That's the only way you can understand them, to try to help them resolve their own problems.



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I was doing a court mediation case against a federal agency. I'm part of that agency, Department of Justice. It was over an action INS took in a community in apprehending day laborers, and that town's police force helped INS in conducting this action. The plaintiffs felt there were a lot of civil rights violations, such as the fourteenth amendment, first amendment, seizures laws, and all that stuff. They filed a suit in court against the Attorney General, against the Department of Justice, against that city, and against the city's police department. So the plaintiffs asked me if I would mediate it after it had gone to federal court. They all got together, and even though I work with the Department of Justice, they were asking me to mediate. I had worked with a lot of the plaintiffs before. They felt I would be fair and impartial.






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