FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1995

AG (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO CALLS ON CONGRESS TO SAVE THE COMMUNITY RELATIONS SERVICE WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Attorney General Janet Reno today urged Congress not to abolish an important and effective Justice Department agency that safeguards communities and saves lives. Established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Community Relations Service calms communities through mediation and conciliation when tensions flare over issues of race, color or national origin. "For thirty years, Attorneys General of both parties have relied on CRS for the invaluable service it provides," said Reno. The Senate is expected to vote as early as today on a Justice Department appropriations bill which would abolish CRS. Reno said CRS has established a tradition of trustworthiness that has enabled it to forge relationships with law enforcement, local officials and civic leaders nationwide. Over the years, CRS: ​ managed to quell a crowd of thousands that had gathered in Memphis to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak the night he was assassinated. Though riots erupted elsewhere, the crowd went home peacefully; ​ ​ has met with police officers, community leaders and demon-strators before every Ku Klux Klan rally it was aware of; bravely disarmed the Native Americans at Wounded Knee in 1973, standing between them and the armed camps of federal agents stationed nearby; ​ worked closely with communities in Boston in the late 1970's to reduce racial violence while the courts tried to desegregate the schools; ​ averted violence, a threatened economic boycott and prolonged legal action in Union Point, Georgia, after the Mayor, in February, banned 21 black youths from entering certain businesses; ​ ​ averted a strike by black college coaches before the NCAA basketball tournament in 1994; and, dispatched conciliators to Wedowee, Alabama, where a high school had been burned down after a principal threatened to cancel the prom if interracial couples attended. Reno also noted that in just one week this July, CRS defused explosive racial controversies that resulted after incidents

involving local law enforcement in Miami, Panama City, Indianapolis and Los Angeles. The approximately 100 CRS employees carry no guns or badges and cannot file lawsuits. Parties to a dispute are free to decline its services. "It has only the power of persuasion," added Reno. CRS also provides humanitarian aid and reunites families of immigrants with their families in the United States. Over the last eight years, CRS has provided shelter care and orderly adjudication of immigration status for more than 7,500 unaccompanied alien minors that would otherwise have been on the street or in detention centers ringed with barbed wire. CRS has an operating budget of about $10 million for conflict resolution and $10 million for resettlement purposes. "CRS has invested three decades into building relationships on the ground, and for Congress to throw it on the scrap heap now wouldn't even be penny-wise," added Reno. "I urge Congress to do the right thing, and save CRS." # # # 95-485