Violence Prevention by Enforcing Groundrules

 

Will Reed

Former CRS Mediator, Denver Office


[Full Interview]

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.