The Boskey Dispute Resolution Essay Competition honors the memory of James B. Boskey, humanitarian, Seton Hall University law professor, and mediator, who became known and beloved world-over for his publication of The Alternative Newsletter, a resource guide on ADR published quarterly.
The Boskey Dispute Resolution Essay Competition is a project of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution’s Law Schools Committee, learn more. The Essay Competition is chaired by Professor Jean Sternlight, Saltman Professor, UNLV Boyd School of Law & Director, Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution.
In March 2008, Tibetan protesters gathered outside the Chinese Consulate in Manhattan,
echoing cries in Lhasa, Tibet to end occupation by the Chinese government.94 During a month of protesting, the crowd ranged from 500 to 1000 protesters, and in its most escalated moment,
protesters broke through police barricades, throwing rocks through windows of the Consulate.95
Remarkably, using integrative techniques such as framing, matching, and re-framing, the New
York Police Department in conjunction with its Community Affairs Bureau (“CAB”) brought the
protest to a peaceful resolution, completely avoiding escalation to a riot.96
Jeff Thompson, an NYPD officer in the Special Projects Unit of the Community Affairs
Bureau and an expert in cultural outreach in the Tibetan community, was on the front lines.97
Prior to the conflict, Thompson had begun building relationships within the Tibetan community,
which helped him and other CAB officers recognize the ways in which the protesters framed the
conflict. Thompson’s relationships with the Executive Boards of various Tibetan organizations
and with monks and monastics from the spiritual community helped him identify the
stakeholders during the conflict and teach him about the deep-seated historical conflicts between the Chinese and Tibetan cultures.98
To do so, Thompson and his colleagues brought in high-ranking monks to stand beside them during the protest’s peak where police barricades were breached.104 While protesters had a tendency, at first, to view CAB as an opposing stakeholder in the conflict, having monks by the
sides of the officers send visual cues of neutrality, which had a calming effect on the protesters.
By enhancing the strength of the third side, Thompson and his colleagues were more likely to be
viewed as neutral mediators—standing next to spiritually revered monks—rather than firstperson negotiators, hostile to the interests of the Tibetans.
protesters that Thompson and his colleagues were not entirely stakeholders, or negotiators
representing the city, but that they were mediators at the core of a strong third side, an extension of the mediator. The officers’ ability to contain the protest and prevent a riot, can be traced in no small part to their ability to time this transition between roles, and to wait for a moment of crystallization where taming the conflict became possible through properly matching the protesters’ attunement frame.
94 Chronology: Day-by-Day Record of Tibet Protests, REUTERS, Mar. 20, 2008, available at
95 Thompson, supra note 3.
99 The third side in this case was comprised of numerous stakeholders in the conflict, including the police department, patrol officers, various Tibetan groups and an entire hierarchy of monks and monastics from the spiritual community.
100 See supra text accompanying notes 52-57.
101 Specifically, Thompson repeatedly recited, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” a well known Tibetan chant for inner peace.
102 The meaning of this mantra is difficult to translate into English, but its effect is to calm those who speak and hear it, “invok[ing] the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.
Viewing the written form of the mantra is said to have the same effect.”
www.dharma-haven.org, Om Mani Padme Hum: The Meaning of the Mantra in Tibetan Buddhism,
http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/meaning-of-om-mani-padme-hung.htm#Meaning (last visited Apr. 20, 2009).
103 Jeff Thompson, supra note 95.
Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.
Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.
He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.
(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)