They Were There for Us: DOJ Peacemakers Helping Trayvon Martin Protesters

(Photo: US Department of Justice)

Have you ever heard of the Community Relations Service?  Some Trayvon Martin protesters have.

That’s because the Community Relations Service (CRS), a little-known branch of the Department of Justice, has apparently been helping protesters angry over the Trayvon Martin shooting, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The paper explains:

When civil-rights organizers wanted to demonstrate, these federal workers taught them how to peacefully manage crowds.

They even arranged a police escort for college students to ensure safe passage for their 40-mile march from Daytona Beach to Sanford to demand justice.

[...]

“They were there for us,” said the Rev. Valarie Houston, pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church, a focal point for the community after the unarmed teen’s death. She met the [CRS] peacekeepers there for the first time during a March 20 town-hall meeting. “We felt protected,” she said. [Emphasis added]

They Were There for Us: DOJ Peacemakers Helping Trayvon Martin Protesters

Dressed in navy blue windbreakers, polo shirts, and dark sunglasses, the “secretive” crew seemingly resembles a group of federal agents.  Their caps say “Justice Department,” and they say they will remain “as long as [they're] needed.”

“We are unique in that we don’t investigate or prosecute but foster communication between communities,” said acting Community Relations Service director Becky Monroe. “The real goal is to build local capacity to deal with these issues.”

So why was the department involved? The CRS’ website describes the organization’s mission:

[The CRS] is the only Federal entity dedicated to assisting state and local government units, private and public organizations, and community groups with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions, incidents, and civil disorders. The CRS works to restore stability and accord.

[...]

[The] CRS works to address the perception of racism, which sometimes may prove to be as upsetting to communities as actual racism. CRS enables communities to develop and implement their own solutions to reducing racial and ethnic tensions by facilitating the development of viable, mutual understandings and agreements as alternatives to coercion or litigation.

They Were There for Us: DOJ Peacemakers Helping Trayvon Martin Protesters

Since Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of George Zimmerman over a month ago, racial tensions have indeed been high both in Florida, where the 17-year old was killed, and around the country.

The New Black Panthers offered a bounty on Zimmerman’s head, and public figures like Al Sharpton threatened to escalate civil disobedience if Zimmerman was not immediately taken in to custody.

(Related: Eric Holder Praises Al Sharpton during speech)

However, it’s worth asking: Is the DOJ’s presence, seemingly in a supportive role of the protesters, working to undercut the very mission of the organization?

Then again, Glenn Beck wondered recently if someone intervened and told protesters and community leaders to tone it down — could that have been the work of the “peacekeepers?”

(H/T: White House Dossier)