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Protests Growing Across The Country; Protesters Across U.S. Marching in Solidarity with Baltimore; Massive Protests In Baltimore As Curfew Approaches. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired April 29, 2015 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:04] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you, Wolf. We are continuing our breaking news coverage of the State of Emergency in Baltimore and growing protests around the country. Right now this is a protest you're looking at in New York City. As people are gathering around the country in response to protests in Baltimore. On the streets of Baltimore, police warning tonight they're expecting massive crowds and the outrage as I said is spreading. You've got other major cities, New York just being one of them, Boston also having demonstrations tonight in solidarity with the city of Baltimore. The rally here in New York billed as rise up and shut it down with Baltimore.

In Baltimore nearly 250 people arrested in the past two nights. At least 20 officers injured, six of them seriously. The curfew goes into effect in less than three hours. We're also learning tonight that while protesters have been calling for justice for Freddie Gray, the black man who died of spinal injury in police custody, prosecutors don't have a slam dunk case. Could the city erupt again if no charges are announced? No charges being announced is a real possibility, apparently. We have a breaking development ahead. And the President doubling down today on his use of the word "thug" to describe rioters.

Last night on OUTFRONT that word prompted this angry response from Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes.


CARL STOKES, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCILMAN: Come on. So calling them thugs? Just call them niggers, just call them niggers. No, we don't have to call them by names such as that, we don't have to do that.


BURNETT: Much more on this heated debate with my guest, Carl Stokes will be back on this program tonight. CNN has reporters in Baltimore and across the nation covering every angle of this story.

We begin with Brian Todd in Baltimore in the middle of the protests there. And Brian, the protests are larger tonight than what we have seen recently. What are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, much larger, Erin, and more structured. This protest march mostly college students, hundreds of them, several hundred marching from Penn Station in Baltimore to City Hall. Now, they tell us they're going to march back toward Penn Station. Who knows how long this protest will go. I'm with one of the marchers now, Rashaun Smith, a sophomore at Penn State University, Rashaun, what has drawn you out here?

RASHAUN SMITH, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: I'm out here to support black lives and -- (INAUDIBLE) I don't want to have to walk outside and -- (INAUDIBLE) black lives matter. All black lives matter.

TODD: All right. Rashaun, thank you very much for talking to us, good luck with the march. Erin, that's one of the sentiments that's strong with people out here. Another one of is a lot of these folks feel that the recent violence in Baltimore that is drawn attention away from the Freddie Gray's face (INAUDIBLE) and from other prominent faces in the news, police treatment of young black men. They want to bring focus back to the streets of Baltimore. Check it out. This crowd, very dynamic, they're going to march uphill, back toward Penn Station. As I said, they're a little bit more organized than they have been. They've got a truck with a flatbed and they've called various speakers up to the front there to speak at the flatbed. They stopped for a long time at City Hall to do that. And now they're back on the move, Erin. We don't know where this is going the rest of the evening but it was very dynamic march.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Brian Todd. And you could hear the dynamism in that march. And tonight, we're not just seeing this in Baltimore. In New York City, crowds are growing calling for "Justice for Freddie Gray." Our Alex Field is live in downtown Manhattan, that is the picture you are looking right now. Again, let me just say, this is not Baltimore you're looking at right now, the protest, this is New York City. Alexandra, what are you seeing?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, I'm looking into the crowd right now seeing a homemade sign, this is, "We will not forget Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray." There are so many similar signs. Hundreds of people who have come out here tonight to gather. I was told by one of the organizers earlier tonight that this was going to be a place where people could come to express both their outrage and their sadness. But Erin, what I want to point out is that this is what it looks like when you have a peaceful protest. These are people who have been joined together by their passion, they are expressing it in a very passionate way. The visual here is symbolic. It certainly garners attention.

But the expression here is nothing if not respectful. These are people who have come to listen to one another and they hope to be heard. These are people of all ages, all races. This is very reflective of what we saw over the winter when so many people rallied after the death of Eric Garner. This was organized on social media. People had time to get down here. They were prepared to participate. But Erin, that means that the NYPD was also prepared for this. We saw them out here even before the crowds assembled. They set up loud speakers as a warning to the crowd. They had a recorded message warning people that if they were walking in the streets or obstructing the sidewalk that they could be arrested for disorderly conduct. They even passed out these fliers. It seems to excite or upset the crowd initially, a lot of people were chanting and starting to scream "our streets." The police have turned off the recording, we have not seen any kind of physical confrontation between the demonstrators and the police and we have not seen any kind of verbal confrontation either. The police are standing back right now Erin, and they are allowing people their right to express themselves out here in this park tonight.

[19:05:30] BURNETT: Certainly a very diverse crowd there where Alex is in Manhattan. Tonight officials telling CNN the case against the six Baltimore officers involved in Freddie Gray's arrest though is anything but a clear-cut case. And that is obviously a crucial development as you see these protests now in multiple cities.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT now in Baltimore at City Hall, where protesters have been gathering. So, Evan, I know you're reporting on this. You've been hearing charges are far from a sure thing at this time.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. I mean, we've seen this video. A few seconds of video that we've seen. And that's certainly what has brought a lot of these people out here into the streets is the idea that they believe this is a clear-cut case, that these officers should be arrested, that these officers should face charges. And I'm told by people close to the investigation that that is far from being a done deal, that there is still a lot of work to do, and we may be looking at weeks, months while they wait for a lot of key pieces of the case to be brought together. The key thing here that they're waiting for is the medical examiner's report which is still in the works. It still may be weeks away. They're going to look for experts in addition to their own work before they present a report to the state attorney's office.

BURNETT: Medical examiner's report as you're saying could be weeks away. Obviously, that's at the center of all of this. Right. What was the injury to his spine? How was it sustained? In the van, before the van, before the incident? All of these questions. If there are no charges though Evan, what is the city doing? I mean, you're talking you say weeks, months. That is not a good proposition when you look at the crowds on the streets right now.

PEREZ: That's right. And you know, what's really unique about this Baltimore case, in particular, is that you know, in previous incidents, you know, we had the Rodney King riots which happened after there was a verdict from the court. You know, this case, people are already calling for -- they already think they know what the answer is. And what the government is trying to do is lower those expectations because as we just discussed, you know, they still might not be the charges -- not the type of charges that people on the streets here are looking for, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Evan, thank you very much. Significant development there.

OUTFRONT now, D. Watkins, a long-time Baltimore resident and professor who wrote about his experiences growing up with the Baltimore police in the "New York Times" op-ed this morning. And Daniel Bongino, former NYPD officer and secret service agent. Dee, let me start with you because you know Baltimore so well. The people of Baltimore, you just heard Evan's reporting, right? That there may not be charges and they may not have a decision here for a long time. Are the people of Baltimore prepared for this? I mean, what happens if there is no decision for months? And if there are no charges against these officers?

D. WATKINS, BALTIMORE RESIDENT: It's hard to say. Because right now Baltimore doesn't really look like Baltimore. We're living in a militarized state right now. Even on my way walking over here I passed all types of Humvees and dudes with assault rifles and guns that plug into vans and things like that. So, you know, it's hard to say. Let's just hope that the right thing happens so we don't have to worry about that.

BURNETT: So, I guess the question is, what is the right thing? I mean, in your op-ed today, D., you wrote, when it comes to Baltimore Police Department, I'm quoting your op-ed, "The only option is to rise up and force Mayor Rawlings-Blake to make what should be an easy choice, stop protecting the livelihoods of the cops who killed Freddie Gray or watch Baltimore burn to the ground." What are you trying to say there? I mean, it sounds like you're saying if there are no charges there's going to be violence and that's the right thing?

WATKINS: Well, you know, I'm not saying -- I would never say violence is the right thing. But I am saying that I sympathize with the frustration of a lot of young people who took to the streets earlier this week. Rise up can mean a number of things. I feel like right now, these people are rising up right now in front of City Hall. There's a beautiful protest going on right now. Diverse. I see black faces and white faces and Latinos and Asians. It looks like a blackout peace concert. So, you know, and again, the same message, a bunch of different people from a bunch of different walks of life who all want justice. And I think, you know, this is definitely something that I wish more mainstream media were out here reporting. This is a beautiful, peaceful protest. And you know, hopefully we can keep the peace and hopefully justice is served for Freddie Gray.

BURNETT: So, Daniel, what do Baltimore police do? If there are no charges, at this point how does Baltimore and the Police Department convince a skeptical community, frankly, and skeptical people around the country who are now protesting in other cities, New York and Boston, that this is fair? How could they possibly make people think it's fair?

DANIEL BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, Erin, it's going to be tough. And frankly, due to people like D., who I read his op-ed, and his op-ed seems to set up a Hobson's choice. The choice being, either street justice for the cops before we even have the information, or burn Baltimore to the ground. That was in the piece. Why he would write that, I don't understand. And I bring it up because we saw this happen in Ferguson. In Ferguson where the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" narrative made it out into the mainstream and then we found out later that that's not, in fact, what happened. I mean, Eric Holder said it himself, our attorney general. So they have to manage expectations. But sadly, D's not helping by already jumping to a conclusion about what happened. Listen Erin, if these cops are guilty, if they are guilty they should absolutely be punished like anyone else who did this.


[19:10:50] BONGINO: But D. knows nothing about what happened. And it is horribly irresponsible for him to even mention the term burn to the ground in an op-ed piece. Because he's going to be the first one running away when the fire starts --

WATKINS: I mentioned burn to the ground -- no, I'm not running anywhere.

BONGINO: Yes. You are running.

WATKINS: I mentioned burn to the ground in the op-ed -- no, I'm not running anywhere, I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere. And I mentioned burn to the ground in the op-ed piece because the city was burning. That's what happened.

BONGINO: Now, I read your piece --

WATKINS: No, you don't understand -- you've read it but you probably couldn't comprehend it.

BONGINO: Why is that?

WATKINS: You don't know what it is to live in a city or to live in a place --

BONGINO: Really. I grew up in the city, thanks, D. I grew up in the city.

WATKINS: No, you don't --

BONGINO: I don't know what you do?

WATKINS: You don't know what it is to be black and live in a city like Baltimore. You don't understand. No.

BONGINO: What don't I understand?

WATKINS: You don't understand how it is to be constantly harassed and brutalized by police officers.

BONGINO: You're right.

WATKINS: You don't get it. You don't understand, you have a police background, you are protecting your fellow gang members. So, I understand where you're coming from, protecting your fellow gang members that do the same thing that you do, I get it, I understand where you're coming from. What I'm saying is that, these people are frustrated and they're tired --

BONGINO: See how hard it is to make a rational argument? Do you see how hard it is to make a rational argument? WATKINS: No, it's not. It's not really that hard.

BONGINO: Are you going to let me talk or is this going just going to be your show?

BURNETT: All right. Let Dan finish, D., and then I'll come back to you for a response. Go ahead, Dan, and D. will respond.


WATKINS: Okay. Sure.

BONGINO: You see, you know, unlike D., I'm going to make a rational argument here. I'm not denying to D. that the black experience with policing has been far different. He's correct. I have no idea what that's like. But so the logic there is that every cop all the time is a gang member? His words, not mine. And that we should subject cops to some form of street justice, and if that's not the case, we should burn the city down. And yet D. thinks he's a credible figure in this argument --

WATKINS: No one said --

BONGINO: You said it.

WATKINS: No one says street justice.

BONGINO: Well, read your piece again.

WATKINS: Don't put words in my mouth. No one says street justice.

BONGINO: Okay, I don't have too. It's your word.

WATKINS: No one says street justice.

BURNETT: D., let me just quote what you said in the piece here and give you a chance to explain what you meant. What you said was, quote, "Stop protecting the livelihoods of the cops who killed Freddie Gray or watch Baltimore burn to the ground." So, what exactly were you trying to say when you wrote that?

WATKINS: I was saying that the citizens of Baltimore feel disenfranchised and cheated. The Freddie Gray case, it's an open and shut case. If I broke a guy's neck, it wouldn't take this long to lock me up. Especially if the guy died of murder. All I'm saying is that these people here feel frustrated and we're angry and I would never condone violence, I don't think violence is the answer or the key, but I'm saying that these people are acting that way because they feel like, you know, a lopsided justice system isn't working for them. And the only reason why I used the words burn to the ground, because when I wrote those words my city that I love was on fire.

BURNETT: And Daniel, I mean, to D.'s point, I mean, there is a history for the Baltimore police of aggressive behavior, right? FBI says officers have killed 127 people over two decades. That's more than other cities of the same size. They've paid $6 million in judgments. In just the past few years. For police misconduct. So D. has a point.

BONGINO: Yes, listen, Erin, I am in no way denying that there are very serious and credible cases of police use of force that in some cases has been criminal. Been worse than criminal. That have been morally, ethically, and legally wrong. I don't know any serious cop who would deny that. But that's not an argument to write an op-ed like D. did, using incendiary language, you know, no pun-intended, I mean that. Incendiary language, and then run from it. You know, there are a lot of really good people in Baltimore who get it. It's their businesses that are going to burn to the ground. It's not --

WATKINS: Why do you keep talking about --

BONGINO: You know, D. you keep interrupting me, and it's really annoying.

WATKINS: Because you keep saying I'm running and it's not true. That's annoying.

BONGINO: You know, D., you're talking about --

WATKINS: -- and that's annoying.

BONGINO: Right. D., you're not talking about them burning your house to the ground. You're talking about other people's property you don't own. You don't find that as grotesquely irresponsible --

WATKINS: You don't know. You don't know what I own.

BURNETT: All right. Final word to you D.


BURNETT: All right.

WATKINS: The final word is look, I don't want to see -- I don't want to see anyone get hurt. I don't want to see anyone get hurt, I just want justice for Freddie Gray. I just want justice for Freddie Gray and his family.

BURNETT: All right.

WATKINS: If you can comprehend what I wrote, then maybe you would understand more.

[19:15:02] BURNETT: All right. I appreciate both of your time tonight, thank you. And we are waiting a live police briefing out of Baltimore. We're going to bring that to you as soon as we got it. We just got word that was going to be happening this hour. And you're looking at live pictures. Massive crowds on the streets tonight. The curfew less than three hours away. And Baltimore's tough love mom speaking out to CNN. And my guest tonight, presidential hopeful, long-time Baltimore resident, Dr. Ben Carson, with a message to the rioters here on OUTFRONT. Plus, protesters insisting, we are not thugs, in response to what

the president labeled them. We'll be back.


[19:19:12] BURNETT: Breaking news. Protests erupting on the streets of Baltimore tonight. Also in New York and in Boston. We're seeing it. These are live pictures. You see our Brian Todd actually in this picture walking with the protesters in Baltimore. You can also see in Washington, in New York City, and as I said, also in Boston, thousands of National Guard and state troopers are out on the streets of Baltimore tonight. And in solidarity with Baltimore, outrage stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, the black man who suffered severe spinal injury in Baltimore police custody, is now nationwide.

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT in Baltimore. And Jason, you're also in the middle of the crowds. And what are the protesters saying to you, what's the mood? It sounds a lot more energetic and enthused than it did last night.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. As we're marching now through the streets of downtown Baltimore, this is a protest Erin that started at Johns Hopkins University, then they marched to City Hall. Now they're going to march back to Penn Station. As we walk through this community here, some people, if you get my camera to turn around and stop briefly, looking out of their apartment buildings as they watch hundreds and hundreds of people peacefully, I want to re-emphasize that, peacefully march through the city. This is a diverse crowd, a multi-cultural crowd. I met a group of nurses who are out here holding big signs saying, marching for healing.

And that students from Johns Hopkins. One common denominator that they all have is they want to be able to show the world, show the country, that people from all walks of life can come together and can march peacefully in speaking out for a cause. They say that that they're going to march all the way to Penn Station. You can see the hundreds and hundreds that have gathered here and continuing to march, Erin. I did ask about the curfew which as you know goes into effect about in about three hours. The folks that I talk to say that they are going to honor that curfew and they're going to continue marching and having their voices heard -- Erin.

BURNETT: And Jason, you know, I know the video of the California mom -- California, I'm sorry, Baltimore mom, Toya Graham, has been getting a lot of attention. Right? This video which we've all now seen, it went viral. You know, smacking her son, getting him out of the riots, bringing him home. What are you hearing tonight about her son and her and what's happened to them?

CARROLL: Well, first of all, let me say I've met her and I can safely say there are a lot of Toyas in this crowd tonight. That video that went viral showing her slapping her 16-year-old son Michael, who I met a little earlier today. Basically, this is a woman who cares deeply about her son. She is a single mom, six children, doing it on her own. And when she saw her son out there, she decided to put a stop to it.


TOYA GRAHAM, MOM WHO SCOLDED SON FOR RIOTING: He was actually embarrassing himself by wearing that mask and the hoodie and doing what he was doing. And at some point I told him to take the mask off because why are you hiding behind the mask? If you want to be bold enough to do this, then show your face.

CARROLL: She was worried about you?

MICHAEL SINGLETON, SCOLDED BY MOM FOR RIOTING: Right. She didn't want me to get in trouble by the law. She didn't want me to be like another Freddie Gray.


CARROLL: When I spoke to Michael even a little earlier, I said, what were you thinking when you were out there doing that? And he said, I wasn't thinking. When I spoke to his mom and I asked her specifically, I said, when you see so much like this happening in your community, she said, look, I don't want to see another Freddie Gray, whether it be my son or anyone else's son. And I think Erin, that's the sentiment of so many women who are out here, so many men who are out here. That's why these people continue to march for peace -- Erin.

All right, Jason Carroll, thank you very much. And you'll see more of Toya --

OUTFRONT Dr. Ben Carson, he's expected to announce he's running for (audio gap).

OUTFRONT Dr. Ben Carson, he's expected to announce he's running for president on Monday. He has very close ties to Baltimore. He lived there for 36 years. And Dr. Carson, it's a pleasure to have you on this show. I want to start with that video of the Baltimore mom, Toya Graham. Obviously, it's gone viral. Everybody has now seen this video many times. She smacks her son for joining in the riots. She forcibly brings him home. You're a parent to three sons. Did she did the right thing?

DR. BEN CARSON, LONGTIME BALTIMORE RESIDENT: Well, she certainly reminds me of my mother. She would have certainly have done that if I'd been out there doing such silliness. Put it's such a wonderful example of parental responsibility. Parents, grandparents, guardians. Need to play a very active role in the lives of these children. That's what will mold the kind of adults that they become. And that will add character to the fabric of our society. So I commend her. You know, I don't necessarily think violence is always the answer. But sometimes in a desperate situation, a mom needs to get her son out of the situation feeling that he may be in danger.

[19:24:22] BURNETT: And so, you know, as I said this video went viral. The cover of the "New York Post" today reads "Forget the National Guard, send in the moms." Obviously a somewhat humorous way of saying a serious question which is, are the National Guard less effective than a mother?

CARSON: Well, there is no question that the most effective way to avoid danger and to guarantee success is good parenting. And it's something that we really need to talk about more in our society. As we moved away from talking about the kinds of values that really created an incredibly strong backbone for our nation. Nothing wrong with that at all.

BURNETT: Now, Dr. Carson, you just heard the Baltimore native D. Watkins on the show. And today in the "New York Times," he wrote, I'll quote him, "To us the Baltimore Police Department is a group of terrorists funded by our tax dollar who beat on people in our community daily." As a black man who spent decades living in Baltimore as you have, was that your experience with the Police Department?

CARSON: I certainly had many, many encounters with the police. Many cases over people who had been shot over various other types of trauma. And I think the Baltimore police are some of the finest people I've ever met. They've worked with me in terms of helping to educate children, going and talking to them about making wise choices. And I've never had an unpleasant encounter. That doesn't mean that there aren't bad apples, of course there are bad apples. There are bad apples in every profession. Even in the news media. But it doesn't mean that you go out and try to take out all the people in that profession. That's silliness.

BURNETT: You're obviously in Florida right now talking to me. You know, Martin O'Malley has come back from Ireland to come back to Baltimore, other leaders of Baltimore are back. Why aren't you there?

CARSON: Because I'm here. I can only be in one place at one time.

BURNETT: Are you going to go though? I mean, if it's this important?

CARSON: And I do have a schedule. You know, we have lots of mechanisms for being able to speak to people. I was on television in Baltimore yesterday morning. And I've weighed in on this in multiple situations. So I'm not going to break commitments that I have elsewhere when I can easily get the information disseminated.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Dr. Carson, I appreciate your time, thank you so much for coming OUTFRONT, sir.

CARSON: A pleasure.

BURNETT: All right. And next, we are awaiting a police briefing that should be happening just around half past the hour. So, in another three minutes we will update you on that. We're going to be bringing that to you live. Meanwhile you're looking at live pictures of the protest on the streets of Baltimore. A lot of people are out, it is a very diverse crowd tonight. They are chanting, they are energized, and so far they are peaceful.

Plus on this program last night an emotional reaction to President Obama calling young rioters thugs.


STOKES: Come on, so calling them thugs, just call them nigger, just call them niggers. No, we don't have to call them by names such as that, we don't have to do that.


BURNETT: Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes is OUTFRONT again tonight.

And his hands in the air, police charged this man, pushed him into an armored vehicle. People are now asking, where is Joseph Kent?


[19:31:46] BURNETT: Breaking news: thousands of protesters gathering right now in cities across the U.S., marching in solidarity with those in Baltimore, protesting the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, chants of "black lives matter." Some are carrying signs reading "we are not thugs", in reaction to the president's comments yesterday calling the rioters and looters thugs.

A huge demonstration in New York City right now as well. So far, these protests have remained peaceful tonight.

Alex Field is among the protesters in New York City.

Alex, I know that you've just seen a bit of a change in terms of police response.


This confrontation now happening live. This had started as a peaceful protest. Police had warned that people could not walk in the streets, that they could be arrested for disorderly conduct if they took to the streets.

What we saw in the last few minutes was a big crowd of hundreds of people marching across 17th Street heading west across Manhattan. Police cutting them off as they tried to approach. You can now see police trying to hold them back. They have put some people into wire hand ties.

We've seen them make the first few arrests. We're hearing NYPD come? Over the loud speakers, warning people that they will be arrested for obstructing sidewalks. You saw a few trying to resist arrest, now a great deal of the crowd has been pushed back onto the sidewalk.

Part of this street clearing out, but you've got this influx of NYPD officers who are trying to keep control of this crowd.

I've heard a lot of people in the crowd chanting now "Baltimore, we've got your back", and also, "our streets." We've certainly now seen at least a handful of people being taken into arrest, and this group of NYPD officers out in the streets now.

We've got someone on the ground. I think we can get in and see this, another arrest being made. Officers also trying to talk to people on the sidewalks, trying to keep more of them out of the streets, trying to stop them from joining in.

Again, Erin, I want to reiterate that this started as a peaceful gathering in Union Square for an hour, hour and a half. People were listening to speakers, they were chanting, they were doing a little bit of singing. When they decided to get in the streets, the NYPD came through on this threat. They'd handed out fliers earlier saying they would step in to arrest people if they obstructed sidewalks or got in the streets.

NYPD now showing that was not a hollow threat. They have cut them off really just within the first half block of this march. This is Union Square. Just down here. So really, this crowd didn't get far at all before the mess came in and started making these arrests.

I want you to take a look at what's happening out here on 17th Street in Manhattan before your eyes. This started as a protest to show solidarity with Baltimore. NYPD again now making a handful of these arrests -- Erin.

BURNETT: Alex, were you able to understand exactly what happened to have a change? Because when you were talking to us not even 30 minutes ago, this was -- it was remarkably peaceful. And now, obviously, you're seeing this isolated incident -- yes, go ahead.

FIELD: Right. About half an hour, when we were on the phone or when we were talking to you, we were saying that this was really a representation what was a peaceful protest looks like.

[19:35:06] Just a few minutes ago we heard people saying, let's march, this walk. This wasn't be a organized march. Initially, this was just an organized gathering. That's what's billed on social media.

But when we got down here, and we talked to organizers, they said, yes, they hadn't made plans for a march but they weren't going to stop people if that's what people wanted to do.

Here's the big difference, Erin. You saw in this city, these marches happen for weeks during the winter. And you saw a lot of them happen without any incidents. But the NYPD did warn this evening that people could not take over the streets tonight, that they could not take over the sidewalks. That was a different tactic than what they employed back over the winter when you may recall we would often walk for miles at a time following crowds of protesters who wanted to demonstrate, who wanted to make themselves heard, who wanted to carry their signs.

So, just as soon as this crowd started to pour out of Union Square, police intercepted them, they cut them off. The crowd headed from east to west. The police cut them off coming from west to east. There was the confrontation that happened right out here in the

middle of 17th Street. The police tried to force this crowd back to where they had come from. A lot of people again getting out of the way of police, listening to police orders, getting on the sidewalk. But you did see a few people who are put in those hand ties who have been arrested now. Now, we're told they're going to be charged with disorderly conduct.

BURNETT: All right. Alex Field, thank you very much.

We'll be checking back in with her as more develops, with -- as we said, these protests in solidarity with Baltimore and other cities, one of them being right here in New York.

Well, the White House doubling down, standing by the president's controversial comments calling those who are engaging in riots and looting in Baltimore "thugs".

Here's White House spokesman Josh Earnest today.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I don't think the president would in any way revise the remarks. What's also true and what did get the lion's share of the coverage out of Baltimore were the actions of a small minority that were nothing short of criminal actions. And whether it's arson or the looting of a liquor store, those were -- those were thuggish acts.


BURNETT: The doubling down in response to some people taking issue with the president's use of the word "thugs", including one guest on this program last night. I want to warn our viewers that the language and what I'm going to play right now is offensive.


CARL STOKES, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCILMAN: Come on, so calling them thugs, just call them niggers. No, we don't have to call them by names such as that. We don't have to do that.


BURNETT: Carl Stokes is a Baltimore City councilman. He's OUTFRONT again with us tonight.

Tara Setmayer is a former communications director for a Republican member of Congress.

And, look, I appreciate both of you being with us.

And, Carl, that you can for coming back. I want to understand more about what you were saying. The president obviously you heard his spokesman stand big his use of what he described these rioters and looters were as criminals and thugs. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines thug as, quote, "a violent criminal." You just heard Josh Earnest say if it's arson or looting of a store, those are thuggish acts. That fits the definition of the word.

What is wrong then with the word, what the president said?

STOKES: I have no problem with the president. As I said last night, no one condones the criminal acts of those who participate in the looting, the fires, any of the criminal acts that went on.

What I said was that we need to heal. And that many of these young people, not the people who were leading this, but those 14, 15- year-olds who were misled, misdirected, who felt lost and who were breaking out, speaking out, for whatever neglect that had gone through their lives, they deserve a chance to be gain engaged, for us to begin healing.

Let me tell you, University of Kentucky won a national championship in basketball a few weeks ago. There was rioting, burning of cars, there was looting going on.

The University of Maryland, college park, won a football game. There was -- they injured many police officers, they turned over cars, they started fires. Michigan, the same thing.

Now, what do we call those rioters? We call them college students. We didn't refer to them as thugs. We said college students were rioting.

This is a racially sensitive issue for the children in Baltimore City, 2,000 college students just marched to city hall to protest the use of the words that are demeaning to the children in this town.

BURNETT: All right. So -- by the way, it would seem that by the definition of the word, what you're describing those kids doing in those other places, thuggish behavior. That's a thug.

It should not be racial. If they were white and they were doing those things, they're thugs.

[19:40:01] Tara, to the point Carl is making, though, there are some who see this as racist at this point. The word "thug" has become linked to a racist terminology. Tupac Shakur popularized the phrase, "the thug life," had even a tattoo across his stomach, started a group named Thug Life.

This is a racial word?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It shouldn't be. I mean, the word -- the term thug has been used for decades to describe all kinds of people who behave in a criminally violent way. It's used against Chicago mobsters and, you know, thuggery back then. It was used in comic books to describe villains in the '50s. It was commonly used, thugs.

We were talking before. The president has used the term "thug" across the board to describe terrorists in Ukraine, in Boko Haram, in ISIS.

So, to make this a racial issue I think is really taking away from the root of what's happening here. It's a complete distraction. And what this does, is that it simply removes the responsibility from a lot of the people who have failed the residents of Baltimore, starting with Baltimore leaders, city leadership on down, for decades. It's failed these people and these residents.

So, instead of taking some responsibility, perhaps, some of the folks in Baltimore who have been responsible for the policies there, for the policy failures there for decades, instead of taking some responsibility and saying, maybe what we've been doing the last 50 years hasn't been working, we're having arguments and wasting our time over a word like thug, which I guarantee you some of these people out here who are behaving that way probably sing rap lyrics and walk around with a badge of valor that they're in the thug life.

And that's a problem in and of itself. Why we even glorify that kind of behavior in the black community and hip-hop culture? That's a worthy conversation to have. Not making ate racial one like this. I think this is a waste of time.

BURNETT: And, Councilman, you know, President Obama has used this word many times, and, by the way, to refer to people of several different races. Here he is.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.

In too many countries, the actions of thugs and warlords and drug cartels and human traffickers hold back the promise of Africa.

Rather than stand by while they're being bullied and some cases detained by these thugs, negotiate with the Ukrainian government.


BURNETT: Councilman, the point I'm making is he uses the word to describe an action and a behavior, which is not defined by race, because the word "thug" means violent or criminal behavior.

STOKES: So, Erin, what do you call the people who are responsible for Freddie Gray's death?

BURNETT: Well, those people have done something criminal, you could call those people thugs. At this point, I want to make it clear we don't know exactly who is responsible, whether it was those five police officers or not. We're waiting for that verdict.

STOKES: No, no. We do know that. We know Freddie Gray didn't break his own neck, we know that. We know Freddie Gray didn't crush his own voice box. We know that.

And why won't you admit what these people are? If you're so willing to do that for the other folk?

BURNETT: I would be perfectly happy to call them thugs, I'm waiting for a court of law for charges to show a medical examiner report so we know exactly what happened. That's what I'm waiting for.

SETMAYER: But that's changing -- shifting the focus, though --

STOKES: We neither know nor care. We know what happened. We know that they are responsible for his death. You have that information already. The police have admitted as much.

SETMAYER: Well, I think that there are legitimate questions here with what went on with Freddie Gray. And why it's taking so long, I'm not sure. But there is a process and we need to respect it.

It's not helping the situation that we don't have the information. But we need to be careful --

STOKES: We know what happened.

SETMAYER: Well, they said the same thing about Michael Brown in Ferguson, sir, and they did not know what happened, it turned out to be a complete lie and fabrication. And what was initially what people thought, what they were rioting in the streets over, never actually happened.

So, we need to be careful with running to -- having vigilante justice here. We can't do that. But I'm not saying the Baltimore Police Department doesn't have problems. They have for many years, corruption on down. It's been a significant problem from the higher- ups on down.

But there are also good officers in Baltimore. We can't continue to sit here and say and just throw respect for authority and law and justice out the window --

STOKES: Most of the officers are good.

SETMAYER: Yes, absolutely.

STOKES: And we say that. The Baltimore community supports the officers in our town. We have many, many good officers, thousands, a couple of thousand -- numbers, close to 3,000, almost all of our officers are good people who work in our community. We support our officers, 100 percent.

SETMAYER: Right. We have kids that are throwing --

STOKES: We are there. I'm not sure that you are there --


SETMAYER: That's acting like a thug and if they were black, if they were white, if they were yellow or green --

STOKES: OK. SETMAYER: -- when you're throwing bricks and rocks at police

officers that are trying to respond and protect innocent people and property, that's thuggish behavior.

[19:45:06] When you have people that are cutting these fire hoses of fire trucks trying to stop the burning of community stores, that's thuggish behavior.


STOKES: But that's what happened.

SETMAYER: That is what happened.

STOKES: So, we do use different words for black people versus white people. We do. I just talked to you about all of the college students who have been rioting and never once has the media called those rioters, those looters, those abusers of police, thugs. Not once.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to both of you. I appreciate it it's a good conversation and part of a much broader one, of course, that's very important to have.

And OUTFRONT next, live pictures on the streets of New York. Police officers are arresting protesters. We're going to go back live there next. Some of the numbers we have coming in, we have many people being arrested now in various protests in these cities. We'll update you on that.

We'll be back live in a moment.


BURNETT: We're standing by right now for a live press conference. It's going to be right here at these microphones from the Baltimore Police Commissioner Batts.

[19:50:03] He will be speaking momentarily with an update on what we're seeing. And we're just about two hours away, of course, from the curfew. More people on the streets than we have seen even last night. So far, though, very, very peaceful in the city of Baltimore.

Also, large protests in New York City, we're also seeing protests in cities, including Washington, D.C.

Here in New York City, the NYPD has been making arrests.

Alexandra Field is with the protesters in the midst of this. Actually saw the first of the arrests happening.

Alexandra, what happened?

FIELD: Erin, I want to show what's happening now. We have these NYPD officers out here, lined up shoulder to shoulder, committed to keeping people off of the streets. Officers telling other officers if you see anyone in the street, force them back on to the sidewalk.

We've got these mesh fences, I don't know if you can see them through the crowd, but the NYPD is using to keep them on the corners.

Erin, this started as a very peaceful protest, a large crowd, hundreds and hundreds of people just behind me back there in Union Square. They had gathered, said this was going to be a place to express their sadness and outrage.

But the NYPD said they were not going to have free rein of the streets of the city tonight. As soon as people left Union Square Park, came right out here to 17th Street, police started pushing them back toward the park. Those who resisted, those who refused to get on the sidewalk, those who refused to disperse, were arrested. We think we've got maybe a couple dozen arrests. It's tough to keep track.

We have seen a lot of people have the hand ties put on. One person being carried out of here for resisting. Another person taken away in an ambulance.

Still a very tense situation, Erin. We've got more and more NYPD officers who have been brought in here. Some of them wearing helmets with face masks.

We have heard protesters responding saying they're going to walk somewhere else. A big crowd has taken off south of here saying they might wrap around toward the 6th Avenue.

Right now you've got this standoff outside union square park with part of this crowd refusing to leave, police holding their line here in the middle of the street. And we're going to have to wait and see if there is another arrest being made right now.

People being in this crowd being warned they could be charged with disorderly conduct and certainly a lot being taken away in cuffs. A lot of people in this crowd beginning to feel agitated, some of them saying they don't feel they're being respected by the police. The NYPD trying to stop this situation from escalating in any way, Erin.

I feel this has come as something as a surprise to some of these demonstrators, because you'll remember, just a few months ago, there were a lot of marches, a lot of protests following the death of Eric Garner, in which people were allowed or given the freedom to take to the streets, to demonstrate, to chant, to hold their signs, as long as they were not acting in any capacity outside of that. Of course, we did see some arrests over the winter, but these arrests coming swiftly and quickly, Erin.

BURNETT: And, Alex, what's your understanding? It looks like the presser is about to start. Let me just if they're going to actually walk up to the camera. Bear with me, Alex.

There's Commissioner Batts from the Baltimore Police Department. I believe he's going to walk over to the camera.

COMMISSIONER ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE: When our guys were out there, can you imagine getting hit in the face with one of these things? And that's what these guys have been dealing with. They have a number of officers that have -- probably have broken hands or other bumps and bruises. They haven't come off the line. Officers hit in the head, hit in the face.

So when we talk about people just throwing rocks, and this is one of the small ones that were coming at my officers that were out there. I just want to share that because I think they're extremely courageous and I think they've been standing tall.

And I'd like to thank you guys, because I've been listening to the news, as your commentators have reported that the organization has been very professional. We've been very deliberate in what we've done and I think organization as a whole, I agree with you guys, has done a good job. So, thank you and I think the officers have been very courageous.

Today, we have had no officer's injuries so far. We've had no major incidents. We've had the large crowd that came down to city hall. I had resources stationed in front of city hall. I've placed resources down in our inner harbor all day.

I've shifted resources from state as well as National Guard, as well as Baltimore Police Department in a multitude of multi-agencies up at the Mondawmin Mall. We had a huge presence there opening up bus routes for school. I've also placed resources at North and Pennsylvania.

We have no major incidents, no major events at this point. We're getting ready for curfew. I've directed automatic resources to start paying attention. That curfew is going into effect within less than two hours.

I believe now the governor and the mayor are getting ready for a full briefing that most likely will take place about 8:30.

[19:55:01] So we're preparing for that. Other than that, we have had 16 adult arrests throughout the day and two juveniles. I can't tell you what the 16 arrests are for.

Is there any questions I can answer?

REPORTER: I have a question, Commissioner. Just so we're clear, because I've heard a lot of people talking about information that will or won't be turned over on Friday. Just so the public has a clear expectation, what can they expect to know about the Freddie Gray investigation and that report that's being --

BATTS: Much like we -- I said last Friday, when we did the news conference, what we're going to be turning over is pre-investigative work that we have placed -- put together, the same thing that we shared. We will be turning that over to the state's attorney.

No actions -- if you're anticipating actions, the action will be turning the investigation over the state's attorney. And from there, they will take the ball. REPORTER: So, you won't turn over any -- you won't be releasing

any information to the public on Friday?

BATTS: We will be turning over all information to the state's attorney. They then take the lead.

REPORTER: What about the public? So, no information will be coming from the police department regarding this investigation to the public? Because you've said in the past -- you said last week that --

BATTS: I said last week what we'll be doing is turning over information much like I'm saying tonight to the state's attorney and then they take the lead from that point.

Also what I said is that we can't put out too much information that may jeopardize the case itself, if anyone needs to be prosecuted. So we're limiting what information that goes out there for the purpose of prosecution if that's an issue.


REPORTER: The public defender's office says that over 100 people who have been arrested are being released without any charges. Can you tell us what happened there? Was it something that just couldn't process them in time, in 48 hours? What time?

BATTS: We've come up on a timeline. We are still releasing them with future prosecution in mind.


BATTS: One more time.

REPORTER: Are there any spots in the city tonight as we approach curfew that concern you like last night?

BATTS: I was pleased with what took place in the city last night. For the most part, I think the curfew looked pretty well, much like the mayor predicted. We got people off the street. There wasn't a lot moving. Much like will happen now.

Much like this large protest, extremely peaceful, but people are going home in enough time before curfew, which is about two hours out.

So, right now, I think we'll be OK. I anticipate no major issue. We do have a lot of resources. I've placed resources in multiple places around the city to anticipate any issues, but I don't think there's going to be.


BATTS: One more time. I can't hear you.


BATTS: We had a device that looks like it was a homemade device. It was inert. We found it on I believe it was North and Pennsylvania. And we have to pay attention not only to rocks. We have to pay attention to bottles, inert devices, too, at this point in time. It's nothing over-alarming for us but we make sure officers are paying attention.

REPORTER: There's a photo of you on Twitter grabbing or attacking a person. Can you just tell us what was happening there?

BATTS: Up at the Mondawmin Mall, as officers were taking rocks prior to them advancing across the street, I saw probably about four or five or six young people picking up rock, throwing them at officers as a whole. I went over to apprehend one or two of them and the picture that you see the one of them that I was grabbing as I was trying to grab the second one.


BATTS: We had officer -- I believe a female officer with an injury to the leg and everybody has been released.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have time for two more questions.

BATTS: I'm sorry? How was it injured? Well, flying rocks. Kind of like that rock that I showed you. They were coming and taking rocks.

REPORTER: Can you provide any more details on these 101 people that were released? Do you expect some of them, most, all of them to eventually be charged?

BATTS: We're not giving up on them. We're just going to follow up. I think the system right now is trying to catch up.

But Eric Kowalczyk will give you further information if you need it. I have to go meet with the governor and the mayor.

REPORTER: Thank you, sir.

BURNETT: That was Police Commissioner Batts in Baltimore, where as you can see, crowds are gathering. A few headlines: he said there were 18 new arrests today. He's optimistic the curfew tonight will be respected. He did say no further injuries today of Baltimore city police officers. And he actually, though, had a rock to show some of the things that have been thrown at them, talked about an inert device that they had found. Also talking about bottles.

But he seemed very optimistic about the curfew being respected and how things were handled last night.

Thanks for joining us.

Our continuing coverage of the breaking news continues right now with Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.