Maybe we need to call the CRS to calm down the right wing nut jobs around here.....

Federal mediator Thomas Battles serves as peacemaker in Sanford

Quite suddenly, the tiny Central Florida city, just north of Orlando, was being cast by some as racially troubled.

So in the weeks after the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a city representative picked up the phone and called Thomas Battles, a quiet force who has worked almost three decades mending racially damaged communities.

The federal mediator works for the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service (CRS), a stealth federal operation that works to defuse community anger hardening along the fault lines of race, color and national origin.

The mediators are called the peacemakers.

“There was so much angst and fear of the unknown,” said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett one afternoon just after the start of the murder trial of George Zimmerman, accused in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. “We had never been through something like this before. We didn’t know what was going to happen and if this thing was going to blow. Mr. Battles has a calming way about him. He was a voice of reason. He got everybody to the table.’’

Battles, southeastern regional director of the CRS, acted as a trusted third party, gathering opposing factions to address the simmering tension by developing reconciliation strategies. He worked with city and civic leaders to allow the protests, but in peaceful manner. He also worked with the city to create its nine-point plan that aims to improve race and police relations, and tapped into the city’s faith community to help guide the healing.

Now, with the Zimmerman trial expected to end in the next week or so, Battles, based in Atlanta, is likely headed back to Sanford to make sure the verdict — acquittal or conviction — does not incite violence. By department policy, Battles does not give media interviews.

“Like all our conciliators, Thomas Battles goes into a heated community to be supportive, to listen and mediate and to slow things down for people,’’ said Grande Lum, director of the CRS. “They help to create reasonable conversations.’’

Reserved and discreet, yet engaging and well-connected, Battles and his team were dispatched to the city as the shooting was making national headlines — to assist without drawing attention to themselves.


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