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Boston Braces for Free Speech Rally and Counter Protests; Backlash over Trump Response to Charlottesville. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 19, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:19] FREDRICK WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. It's 11:00 on the East Coast. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thank you so much for joining me.
We're following several developing stories today.
You're looking at live pictures right now from Boston where the city is preparing for dueling rallies. A free speech rally and counter- protest could be drawing out thousands to the streets of Boston.
This as the nation still grieves over Charlottesville, Virginia. Family and friends in Virginia are saying good-bye to one of two troopers killed when their helicopter crashed after last weekend's violent white supremacist rally.
And happening overnight, six officers are shot in three separate incidents in Florida and Pennsylvania. In Kissimmee, Florida one officer is dead and a second is in grave, critical condition in what police say was a possible ambush.
All right. We begin with what is unfolding in Boston. That's where we find CNN's Polo Sandoval, live for us. Polo -- what are you seeing?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred -- let me lay the scene out for you. We're just outside of Boston Common, one of the country's oldest parks. It has been now determined to be the venue now for this free speech rally that's expected to get started in about an hour.
About two miles away from here, there is a counter-protest that is gathering. So ass a result you can see and hear some of those bicycle police officers clearly getting ready for what will likely be a very busy afternoon. There are several counter-protesters that are already gathered inside the park itself that we went and saw a few moments ago.
The concern here though is because of the heated rhetoric that's been taking place, that's been happening across the country is that tensions could flare up again and could potentially boil over so as a result, the city of Boston has rolled out a truly impressive security presence here. Both -- some you can actually see others will be under cover as we heard from the police commissioner yesterday. But at this point what we know is that the organizers of this rally, Fred, they are extending an invitation to a pretty significant list here from libertarians, conservatives, classical liberals, Trump supporters. But then they're also extending that invitation to, in their own words, anyone who enjoys the right to free speech.
The concern is that that could be taken as an open invitation to some of these white supremacist groups. But at this point I can tell you that things have been relatively quiet. We have not seen any of those groups here. But of course we will be keeping a very close eye on the crowd. As you can imagine, Fred, so will law enforcement.
WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval -- we'll check back with you there from Boston.
Today, also a public memorial service being held for Virginia state trooper Jay Cullen. He, along with trooper Burke Bates, were killed last Saturday when their helicopter crashed after last weekend's deadly rally in Charlottesville. The funeral for Bates was yesterday. Governor Terry McAuliffe was among those who attended the service.
CNN correspondent Diane Gallagher is in Chesterfield with more on the service -- Diane.
DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred -- you know obviously a very somber occasion here. But you mentioned Governor Terry McAuliffe.
In a bit of a unique situation, he had a very personal relationship with Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates. They were part of the aviation unit. Lieutenant Cullen actually commanded that unit.
So he dealt with him quite frequently. They flew him around the state. He had a very personal relationship with them. And Governor McAuliffe delivered a eulogy not too long ago inside the church behind me.
I want you to take a listen to how he said that these deaths are impacting him, beyond just law enforcement dying in the line of duty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: Today we lost a member of our family. Dorothy and I are heartbroken. It will never be the same when I step into that helicopter and I see Jay in the front right seat with Cullen on the back in his helmet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: And so of course, this is something again that Governor McAuliffe and law enforcement all across the state are still trying to cope with.
Of course, Lieutenant Cullen and Trooper Bates were killed when their helicopter that was monitoring that white supremacist/neo-Nazi rally a week ago today in Charlottesville happened, that chopper crashed. They are still investigating the cause of that.
But I want you to take look at just the scene here outside. The service is beginning to wrap up inside. They are lining up. We heard the bagpipes practicing earlier as they're going to lead the Cullen family and his officers through underneath that flag there.
[11:05:00] They are still trying to deal with the tragedy here in Chesterfield. This is a father of two teenaged boys one of whom is going to be entering his senior year this year. The community has vowed to rally around them; those who live in his neighborhood even taking all of the light bulbs out, Fred, of their front porches and replacing them with blue light bulbs.
They started the service, I want to point out, this brotherhood of blue by having a moment of silence for the officer that was killed in Kissimmee, Florida overnight and praying for the other officer who, of course, who is in grave condition there t Talking about just sort of keeping the brotherhood together.
And so while they are honoring lieutenant Cullen, they also wanted to pay homage to that officer in Florida to keep that brotherhood together -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Diane Gallagher -- thank you so much.
All right. As the protest in Boston get under way a vacationing President Trump in Bedminster, New Jersey continues to feel the backlash over his response to the deadly and violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. A close ally to Trump, Newt Gingrich, weighed in on the impact this week has had on the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER REPUBLICAN SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think he's in a position right now where he is much more isolated than he realizes. On the Hill, he has far more people willing to sit to one side and not help him right now. And I think that he needs to recognize that he's taken a good first step with bringing in General Kelly.
But he needs to think about what has not worked. And you don't get down to the 35 percent range of approval and have people in your own party shooting at you and conclude that everything is going fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So today the President is at his New Jersey golf club with no event on schedule.
Let's go live now to CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones who is nearby there. Athena -- no events scheduled. But we've already heard from the President this morning.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred.
That's right. There are no public events on the President's schedule. And the White House won't say if he's spending this beautiful day on the golf course.
We haven't heard from the President for several hours but during the 7:00 a.m. hour he sent out two tweets. One of them, thanking his recently-departed chief strategist, Steve Bannon -- I believe you can put that up on the screen. That he tweet including a familiar dig against his former rival, Hillary Clinton. And ending with, "Thanks -- S" -- as in thanks, Steve.
He followed that tweet a few minutes later saying "Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan."
We know they were there at Camp David in part to discuss this long- awaited and somewhat delayed strategy on Afghanistan. Well, a Pentagon spokesman tells CNN they saw the President's tweet this morning and quote "We looked into it and there are still no changes or planned announcements from the Department of Defense."
So if in fact a decision was made on Afghanistan strategy, the plans for announcement have not been communicated to the Pentagon.
But as you mentioned earlier, Fred -- the President is still feeling a growing backlash to his response to the violence we saw last weekend in Charlottesville, his comments that seem to equate neo-Nazis, KKK and white supremacists with the counter-protesters protesting that racism and hatred.
We've seen business leaders leave his advisory boards and the disbanding of those advisory boards. We've seen charities and other organizations decide not to hold fundraisers at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida.
And now today, we're seeing a new reaction. The White House announcing this morning that they are not going to take part in any of the festivities surrounding the Kennedy Center honors. That's the annual gala -- it's a big deal at the Kennedy Center to honor artists and performers and entertainers of all sorts. There is usually a pre- gala reception at the White House, which is considered an important invitation to get, a desirable invitation.
Well several of the honorees said they were planning to skip the gala, among them Norman Lear, the famous television writer and producer. He created shows like "All in the Family". He said he would be skipping that gala reception.
We also heard from an actress and dancer who told the "Washington Post" that she was going to skip the White House reception, quote, "In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in."
So that is what we saw coming out of the White House and the Kennedy Center this morning -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: And among those honorees you mentioned Norman Lear, also LL Cool J and Gloria Estefan and Lionel Ritchie -- all of them to be honored at the Kennedy Center Honor. But again no president and first lady there or at -- or holding the reception.
All right. Athena Jones -- thank you so much. And that event is in December.
All right. So after the break, as the President of the United States now grapples with a week of backlash from his own party over his response to Charlottesville, Virginia another key member of his staff is shown the door. So what will Steve Bannon's departure mean for Trump's relationship with Republicans? That's next.
[11:10:11] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right.
Live pictures right now out of Boston, you've got conflicting marches taking place and organized gatherings taking place. You've got marchers going through the streets of Boston. Many of whom are there in solidarity, who claim they're there to counter-protest a gathering that is scheduled right in the center of Boston by a group called the Boston Free Speech Coalition, a coalition that describes itself as that of libertarians, progressives, conservatives and independents.
[11:15:00] This is expected to be quite a gathering of a number of people. Police are out in full force and they're also looking through bags and looking on persons to make sure there are no weapons.
But again we continue to monitor the events there unfolding with as you see in the center of town, a gathering of one group of people and then you saw the other live pictures of another group of people who are marching through the streets of Boston.
So we've also seen while all of this is taking place as a backdrop, quite the dramatic turnover of President Trump's inner circle during his short seven months in office. Take a look at this Oval Office photograph. National security adviser Michael Flynn -- fired in February, gone. White House press secretary Sean Spicer -- resigning in July, gone. Reince Priebus was fired a short time later. And then finally yesterday chief strategist Steve Bannon was also let go leaving now the President and the Vice President there in the Oval Office.
So let's discuss this and more with our panel. Of course there are other staffers, but it's just that photograph, which is quite profound.
Salena Zito is a CNN contributor and reporter for the "Washington Examiner" joining us. Larry Sabato, the director for the Center for Politics for the University of Virginia, Stephen Collinson is a CNN politics senior reporter and Tanzina Vega is CNN's national reporter for race and inequality. Good to see all of you as we also continue to look at the live pictures out of Boston, with a number of marchers and demonstrators all culminating there on this Saturday.
All right -- good to see all of you.
Salena -- let me begin with you because you do have your finger on the pulse of many Trump supporters. Are Trump supporters concerned at all with this rapid turnover, with the many distractions going on in the White House?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean one of the things we have to remember about Trump voters is that they bought into this guy's -- meaning President Trump -- his personality long before he ran for president.
So they knew he was disruptive. They knew that he -- he could change things on a dime. And so, they sort of understood that when they voted, as part of the equation in voting for him.
So they also understood -- because there's several things going on here -- they also understood that this was not at the time that he was elected, a polished politician so that his decisions and who he puts in office may or may not work.
We have seen what doesn't work. Flynn under fire for all kinds of suspicions and allegations of misconduct. Reince Priebus did not turn out to be, although he was very effective in the picking of the cabinet, he did not turn out to be quite the liaison that the President needed with the House and the Senate on capitol hill -- something that is incredibly important.
And Steve Bannon, you have to remember when I interview people across the Rustbelt which is very impactful of putting him in the office, they had no idea who Steve Bannon was. So they didn't, weren't emotionally attached to him. And remember, these are voters in Wisconsin and Michigan and Iowa and Indiana and Pennsylvania and Ohio who made the difference. So I don't think they're upset that he's gone if you're looking at those specific types of voters.
WHITFIELD: All right. So Larry -- you know, the President certainly has received a lot of criticism in the past week particularly because of his response and lack thereof about Charlottesville -- exactly where you are as a university of Virginia professor there in a place that you call home.
You know he was, he blamed -- meaning the President blamed both sides. Then he criticized the removal of the confederate monuments as foolish. But listen to what candidate Trump said about the confederate flag back in 2015.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's time to take down the flag, put it in a museum. It represented a time and a place but I would say taking down the flag would be a positive thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So then, Larry -- how has that message and the messages resonated there from your standpoint?
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Well first, Fred -- I'm glad you showed that clip. As we all know on a thousand subjects, Donald Trump, has, is, and will flip-flop. What he says one day doesn't have any relationship to the next day. He does what is in his political interests. I suppose that's the one thing he has in common with professional politicians.
But as far as the way we look at it here -- we regard President Trump as a big piece of the problem we saw unfold before us. The President during his campaign emboldened and energized the very people that probably will be in Boston today and certainly were here in droves last weekend. And he made the problem worse with the things that he said and did over the last week.
[11:20:00] Whether it affects his base -- we've talked about this a million times, most of them will stick with him regardless of what he does. But you know, everybody else comprises a large majority -- Fred, and that large majority increasingly is anti-Trump.
WHITFIELD: And Larry, while you're talking, I mean these are astounding -- an astounding representation of people there, marching through the streets of Boston right now. We understand that there are a couple of different gatherings, at least a couple.
There's one central gathering by this group saying that they are gathering in the name of free speech. They call them the New Free Speech Movement or the Boston Free Speech Coalition. And then you have a number of people, presumably these, that are marching through the streets of Boston, to meet up with or get close enough to the location where the gathering of the Free Speech Coalition will take place. No one is -- or police have put protections in place to try to keep any violence from happening.
So Stephen, as we look at these images, and we know what was central to the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia and how the President handled it. Within the White House -- his advisers, his flesh and blood, his daughter Ivanka, has been pretty quiet. The son-in-law, Jared Kushner has been very quiet.
What -- what's your view about what's happening within that family, within the White House, as it tries to handle this?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Well, I think you've got a couple of things going on in the White House at the moment. You have John Kelly, the chief of staff, who is trying to put together a much more organized structure, sophisticated messaging, so that everybody is on the same page. And to try to end these factions that have existed in the White House.
You have the sort of Jared Kushner/Ivanka Trump faction. You had the Steve Bannon faction. You had a faction around Reince Priebus to try to get everybody on the same page. That's good as far as it goes.
You're right it's been striking that there has been no statement or tweets really from Ivanka Trump or Jared Kushner on the President's remarks at that wild press conference on Tuesday. But I think it just goes to show that you can put together a much more organize and conventional White House structure and policy operation and you can let disruptive forces like Steven Bannon leave. But the most disruptive force, the most unpredictable force, the most undisciplined and ungovernable force is still the President himself. He can come out at any time and say exactly what he wants.
I think the key image of this week was of that press conference when the President talked about Charlottesville and John Kelly was pictured just sort of looking at his shoes. I mean he can control a lot of the things inside the West Wing, but he can't control the President himself.
WHITFIELD: So reportedly Ivanka and Jared were not in favor of keeping Steve Bannon. They've been pushing for him reportedly to leave. Do you believe that this last shove was inspired largely by Jared and Ivanka?
COLLINSON: It's been interesting because over last two weeks, which you could argue are perhaps the most disastrous two weeks so far in the Trump presidency, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were out of the picture. They were up in Vermont for some of that time. They were at Bedminster as well with the President.
So if they are organizing things behind the scenes, it's very behind the scenes. It's interesting that they would come out once this has been sort of put together, the ouster of Bannon, and sort of leak that they were involved in it. Whether that's the case or whether they're trying to put the best face on this, it's unclear.
But there are clearly worries among people in the sort of Bannon wing of the Trump coalition, in the media at least, that the departure of Steve Bannon will lead to more power and influence to what they see as much more moderate even Democratic influences by people like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner on the President.
WHITFIELD: Tanzina -- you know, as we look at these pictures out of Boston, we really are seeing, you know, quite a tapestry of images, from the throngs, the what appear to be hundreds of people marching through the streets of Boston.
You see some tight shots were in harmony, people are walking with signs. You see some other tight shots that we've gone, you know, back and forth with, people who have masked their faces. Who are you know, standing, they're holding signs, too. We can't see the front of the signs to see what they're saying nor are we able to hear the audio.
But what's your concern or hope as it pertains to the gatherings taking place here, a week away from what took place in Charlottesville, Virginia with the President continuing his vacation in New Jersey? And the importance of him saying something or in some way conveying a message as this unfolds?
[00:25:08] TANZINA VEGA, CNN NATIONAL REPORTER FOR RACE AND INEQUALITY: You know, this week -- and I was saying this earlier this week -- these events in Charlottesville and beyond have really ripped the band-aid off of race relations in America. We are seeing what I think a lot of communities of color have seen for decades -- the pain, the ugliness and the unfortunate rhetoric and violence that can go along with our race relations in America.
And I think, you know, there's been sort of a reluctance to assume. I mean think about it, just a couple of years ago we were talking, you know, the media and other folks were talking about how President Obama's presidency represented a post-racial America. So that obviously was not true.
And so we have to reckon with our history and I think that's what we're seeing now with these debates, with these marches, with these debates around taking down confederate statues and other confederate monuments.
I think, you know, what we're seeing here is both the best of America, which allows for us to get out and say what we want to say. And if we can protest peacefully, that's something that is our -- it is our right in this country to do that.
But what we're also seeing a very ugly and unfinished history that has to be reconciled with, that has to -- we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable about having these conversations. And it's taken -- frankly it's taken an unfortunate turn of events for us to be able to really have a conversation about where we are today, you know in America when it comes to race and our policies.
WHITFIELD: Again, on the ground there in Boston, you see thousands of people who have turned out for demonstrations and rallies, right there in Boston, people walking through the streets there. My producer telling me, they're able to hear some of the chanting from people saying stand up and fight back.
We continue to watch the developments there in Boston now, one week away from what took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. We will keep close tabs on developments there.
So much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. Thanks to our panel there.
We leave you now with more pictures out of Boston.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. Live pictures, you're seeing thousands of people march through the streets of Boston. There are dueling rallies and demonstrations expected today.
One at the center of Boston called the New Free Speech Movement and it describes itself as a coalition of libertarians, progressives, conservatives and independents and it's also being met by these dozens upon dozens of people who are marching through, through Boston who are calling themselves counter-protestors.
And then the mayor of Boston has just sent out this tweet. Mayor Marty Walsh saying, "I ask everyone to be peaceful today and respect our city. Love not hate. We stand together against intolerance." We'll continue to keep a close watch on the developments there out of Boston.
All right, six police officers have been shot in three separate incidents in Florida and Pennsylvania. In Kissimmee, Florida, one officer is dead and a second one in critical condition. Two officers were also shot in Jacksonville, Florida and in a third incident, two Pennsylvania state troopers were shot.
I want to bring in now CNN digital correspondent, Dan Lieberman. So, Dan, we've heard from police in Kissimmee a short time ago. What are they saying about that incident?
DAN LIEBERMAN, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Fred. Well, it was an emotional press conference there this morning in Kissimmee, Florida, where two police officers were shot late last night after responding to a call in an area known for drug activity.
Police were surprised and they were not able to return fire. One of the officers died and the other we're learning today is in grave, critical condition. Here's what the police chief said this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JEFF O'DELL, KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA POLICE: It breaks my heart to have to come speak to you tonight about another senseless tragedy, one that's resulted in the death of one of our police officers and a grave critical situation of another.
This evening Sergeant Sam Howard, a ten-year veteran of the Kissimmee Police Department and Officer Matthew Baxter, a three-year veteran --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMAN: Police arrested a suspect in the shooting who is facing murder charges. And in Jacksonville, Florida, two officers were shot when they responded to an attempted suicide call when they encountered a man with a high-powered rifle and exchanged fire there.
The officers were hit and injured. The suspect who has not been named yet, was also shot and died at the scene after being taken to a local hospital there.
And then in another police officer shooting last night, this one in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Two state troopers there were shot as well when they confronted a man over stolen property. Both officers were taken to the hospital.
This morning one was listed in critical condition. The other was released. And President Trump is reacting to the Florida shooting on Twitter saying quote, "My thoughts and prayers are with the Kissimmee police and their loved ones. We are with you."
And Fred, there's no evidence that these shootings are connected at all, but to have six officers shot in one night -- pretty alarming.
WHITFIELD: Very. All right. Thank you so much, Dan Lieberman. Appreciate it.
Meantime, we continue to watch the developments out of Boston. Look at this. Hundreds of people are marching through the streets of Boston in the name of peace and love. The mayor of this city has send out a tweet, urging people to remain peaceful.
Meantime at the center of the city is also another organized rally by a group calling itself Boston Free Speech Coalition. This is considered a day of dueling protests and demonstrations in Boston. We'll continue to monitor.
WHITFIELD: All right. Live pictures right now of Boston and you see what appears to be hundreds of people descending on the downtown Boston area. Many who have marched for many blocks. Others who have gathered in a park in downtown Boston.
All in the names of dueling demonstrations. All in the names of free speech and peace and love. And this happening a week after what we saw unfolding in Virginia. In the wake of Charlottesville, a growing question of whether confederate monuments should continue to stand across the U.S.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says there are at least 1,500 that dot the nation. Last night in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a confederate soldier statue was defaced. In Durham, eight have been arrested for tearing down a memorial.
[11:40:06] And the mayors of Baltimore and Birmingham removed or covered confederate statues earlier in the week. The nation's largest confederate memorial is at Stone Mountain, Georgia.
A place Dr. Martin Luther King made reference to in his "I have a dream speech" let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia. Today, it's a place of many uses and points of view.
WHITFIELD (voice-over): With the bird's eye view of Atlanta, just 20 miles away, the nation's largest monument memorializing civil war confederate leaders. The 90-foot tall carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson prominently on the north face of Georgia's nearly 900-foot high stone mountain. The centerpiece of a state park attracting three million tourists, bikers, joggers and hikers a year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seeing the world from a God's eye view.
WHITFIELD: And now again the carving here making it a centerpiece of discussions as hot as the August sun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm conscious of them.
WHITFIELD (on camera): Kind of comfortably ignoring it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much.
WHITFIELD: Why is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I believe it stands for the old way the United States was. Now we're more you know, a melting pot. More than ever now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think you can erase history. It happened, you know, I think people have to learn from it because if you erase it, people don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can voice your opinion, but don't force it on somebody else.
WHITFIELD (voice-over): Passionate views following the disturbing images, 500 miles away at the white nationalist gathering in Virginia involving a confederate monument, the death of an anti-hate protest demonstrator, Heather Heyer, laid to rest this week and following the U.S. president's comments about removing confederate symbols.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You're changing history. You're changing culture --
WHITFIELD: And his tweets, the president asking, who's next? On Stone Mountain, among those we talked to, a resounding feeling that action speak louder than symbols.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, it's an issue, I don't think taking away the carvings will take away anything in anybody's heart. You have to change the heart first.
WHITFIELD: And while this nation's largest monument to confederate leaders maybe a high point, for other individuals and groups like this one --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless America --
WHITFIELD: Posing with confederate flags atop the mountain, posting it on Facebook and later saying they would defend the monument --
(on camera): Is it really etched into the consciousness of everyone who comes here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not necessarily. Lot of people who take advantage of what the park has to offer really didn't come in this area.
WHITFIELD (voice-over): John Bankhead, the public information officer for Stone Mountain said this summer for the first time in a long time it received a cross-burning request by a group identifying itself as the Ku Klux Klan. A request denied this month.
(on camera): How much of that is true?
JOHN BANKHEAD, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: This request was made in May and we had to go to legal people here in Georgia, attorney general's office to get opinions on what we can do to deny it. And we never intended to allow that to go on here. Given we know the history of this park. We know the history of this mountain. We just not going to allow that to happen.
WHITFIELD: So, as a request like that happened often, this year?
BANKHEAD: No, first time it's ever happened, other than 1962.
JOSEPH CRESPINO, PROFESSOR EMORY UNIVERSITY: Part of the memorialization was an effort to try to remember these men who had sacrificed during war. But it happened at the same time that a much broader kind of political project was going on in the south. In which the south, southern states had passed laws that were disenfranchising African-Americans and were restoring kind of white rule.
WHITFIELD (voice-over): In Georgia, despite a flurry of tweets from a Democratic gubernatorial candidate urging the removal or sandblasting at Stone Mountain, and the Georgia NAACP stating --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We as the birthplace of the civil rights movement must act in accordance with true American values.
WHITFIELD: Any change at Stone Mountain is complicated. Georgia state law has a clear mandate for the memorial, saying it should be, quote, "preserved and protected for all time. As a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of the state who suffered."
The carving of this monument was a 60-year project initially involving a sculptor of South Dakota's Mount Rushmore. Stone Mountain would be completed under President Richard Nixon's administration.
Forty-five years later, under the nation's 45th president, Stone Mountain's carving and confederate monuments like it, both landmarks and lightning rods.
WHITFIELD: And underscoring another perspective of Americans on the removal of confederate statues in the U.S., this NPR poll shows 62 percent of those polled believed the confederate memorials and statues should remain.
Joining me right is Michael Eric Dyson. He is the author of "Tears We Cannot Stop, A Sermon to White America." Michael, good to see you.
[11:45:03] So, it has been one heck of a week and in this last week, several monuments have been torn down, have been covered. Some even vandalized. What do you think of civilians taking matters, particularly in their own hands like we saw in Durham, North Carolina, where they took down a statue?
Citizens taking it into their hands as opposed to mayors like in Birmingham or in Baltimore who have covered monuments.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, "TEARS WE CANNOT STOP: A SERMON TO WHITE AMERICA": Right. Earlier in New Orleans, under Mitch Landrieu. Look, I think it's extremely important that citizens understand this is not a neutral and objective test case of the American memory.
When people say leave these statues up because after all we have to deal with history. Are you really dealing with history? The litmus test is in the following. Do those statues provide opportunities for people widely and broadly to discuss the racist reactions of this country?
And resistance to African-American people and other allies in the fight over democracy? Not really. Those statues are usually evoked for that reason. They are the source of pride. They are the source of pride for those in the south who feel that the war is still being prosecuted.
That the civil war goes on. What the civil war historians call that late unpleasantness, is still with us. So, the reality is, that it's important for citizens to literally, like renew some climbing the poll to take down a flag or the citizens in Durham, North Carolina, who said we must take matters into our own hand.
We wish the government would do so, but civil disobedience in an extremely important part of the American project, Martin Luther King Jr., and others engaged in it. I think the nation must be forced to come to grips with the fact that memory is critical.
There is no such thing as neutrality. That these statues reinforce white supremacy and the attempt of America to push into our collective consciousness, a stream that is marginal and yet serious. That is, secessionists who wanted to leave this nation.
It is amazing to me that Colin Kaepernick can be the subject of such consternation in the NFL and in America for refusing to stand for the anthem because he believes it dishonors his people.
And yet people walking in the confederate, walking with the confederate flag and celebrating neo-Nazi-ism have not been similarly assaulted as un-American. So, what we're fighting here, I think, Fred, is the future of this nation when it comes to how we properly memorialize what we think is important.
And let's not pretend that what dots the landscape in terms of these statues reflects the American character. It's public space that means all of us have to recognize its importance, therefore, it should be fought over. And I think those statues and other symbols should be removed.
WHITFIELD: And so, we've heard all of these sentiments, so many sentiments all week long, particularly because we have reached a particular high point this week. Among them Laurence Kaznar (ph), an anthropology professor who studies monuments in sacred spaces told the "Washington Post" saying this, "I detest the legacy of division, bigotry and slavery these monuments represent.
But I think they should remain, these pieces of metal and stone, only have the meaning we assign to them. And that meaning can take any form that we like." So as a continuation of that kind of thought, you've heard a number of people, including the president who say, taking down these memorials means erasing history. And so, what's your response to that? And the use of the word "erase" in this context?
DYSON: I'm not sure, in Germany, do they have statues of Hitler? Do they have statues representing their -- their Nazi past? Do they celebrate it as a neutral objective examination of history? And the fracas and chaos that were the occasion for such battle? I don't think so.
So, let's not pretend, look, I get the fact that these are monuments that should be examined. Put them in a museum. Put them somewhere where they should be examined. Like this is a relic of our past that needs to be seen as something negative and something that undermined the capacity of all people to come together.
If that's the case, why don't we litter the landscape with memorials dedicated to a whole range of things that transgender people or gay lesbian, transgender, bisexual people or African-American people and the like, these monuments are meant to summarize American ideals.
Now that we are advanced to a point where we see that this is a shameful part of the past, they must not be allowed to remain in the present to radiate that hate. Because contrary to what the professor has indicated, what we see these statues doing is mobilizing people who want their own present form of racism and bigotry.
These things continue to be radioactive, so in that sense they are live, living, breathing reminders of a heinous past that continues to exist in America.
[11:50:10] And until we confront them and pull those monuments down, put them in a museum somewhere, talk about them in classrooms as horrible representations of who we are, we will continue to give life and breath to those bigots in America.
WHITFIELD: And now one week away from what we saw unfold in Charlottesville, here we're looking at live pictures as we speak of Boston and the hundreds, what seem to be hundreds of people who have descended on that city.
There are dueling rallies, some in the name of free speech, others in the name of peace and love. Do you believe this kind of gathering represents a type of awakening in America or how would you assess what's happening right now?
DYSON: Absolutely. You know, with all due respect to Tina Fey, who said that, hey, you shouldn't go out there and oppose them, just eat some cake, we can't let them just eat cake, we have to oppose bigotry and hate where we find it.
If Martin Luther King Jr. had taken that route, he never would have given the "I have a dream speech" or contested racist bigots, who attempted to undermine American democracy. So, I think it's extremely important that in Boston, itself a city of such tremendous, torturous race relations in America, a place where an American citizen was I think a lawyer, a black lawyer, was beat with an American flagpole.
So, the reality is Boston has its own vitriol and its own hate, and yet this becomes the site of a counter-protest that demands peace. Yes, respect for free speech is extremely important, but even more important is respect for life and the vital means by which we sustain that life.
So, I think what's going on in Boston is extremely important and the rest of the nation must reflect the same kind of resistance to the hate and disavowal of American principles that we all claim to adhere to.
WHITFIELD: Michael Eric Dyson, always good to see and hear from you. Thank you so much as we continue to look at live pictures from Boston, quite extraordinary a show of people coming together there for their common causes and to counter other causes.
All right. We'll continue to keep a close watch on all that's happening in Boston and beyond. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Live pictures right now, extraordinary show of human force. People who are marching, there are dueling demonstrations in Boston. These are peaceful demonstrations thus far.
Hundreds of people who are marching through the streets in the name of peace and love, and there are many people who have gathered right downtown Boston for a free speech rally. And these two demonstrations or rallies are to meet.
They may not be in close proximity to one another, but the idea is that one organized a free speech rally for some time and hundreds more have turned out in what they're calling a counter-protest, all just one week from what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia.
So, there was also a show of unity at last night's Seahawks game as one NFL player supports his teammate in a protest during the national anthem. Andy Sholes is here with much more on all of this.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: So, Fredricka, Michael Bennett of the Seahawks says he is going to sit for the national anthem this entire season to protest social injustice. He said earlier this week that for real change to happen some white players would also need to join in on this protest.
That's exactly what happened last night before the Seahawks preseason game. Bennett sat on the bench during the "Star-Spangled Banner" and this time center, Justin Britt, stood right next to him and put his hand on his shoulder. Afterwards, the two teammates shared a hug and after the game, Britt spoke about the special moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN BRITT, SEAHAWKS: I want to support him. I want to support what he's standing for and his beliefs. I'm not against, you know, what the flag means or anything and, you know, veterans. You know, my dad was in the army. So, I'm not putting any disrespect to them. I'm just trying to understand the issues, trying to educate myself more in that regard and showing support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: Now Britt joining Bennett's protest comes a day after the Eagles' Chris Long put his arm around Malcolm Jenkins as he protested the anthem by putting his fist in the air.
In the meantime, Colin Kaepernick remains without an NFL team and because of that, the NAACP is calling for a boycott of the NFL. The Atlanta a chapter of the organization says they don't want fans coming to games or even watching them on tv.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are a part of the national movement to send a message to the NFL and Roger Goodell. There will be no football in the state of Georgia if Collin Kaepernick is not on a training camp roster and given an opportunity to resume his career. This is not a simple request. This is a statement. This is a demand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: The Atlanta chapter of the NAACP also calling for the Falcons, Hawks, and Braves to chip in and help in removing all symbols of confederacy that exist in the city.
This comes after three professional sports teams in Tampa and former NFL Coach Tony Dungy pledged money to a confederate statue removal fund there. All three Atlanta teams released a statement saying they stand for inclusion and will respect the state and local officials and the process designed to work through these critical issues -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Andy. I'm glad you're able to bring that to us today. Appreciate it.
All right. We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM and it all starts right now.
Hello again, everyone. And thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right, happening right now live pictures of Boston, bracing for a lot of people coming together with different issues and different ideas in mind for these dueling protests.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh meeting with counter-protesters this morning at one point hugging a Black Lives Matter leader and then tweeting this, "I ask everyone to be peaceful today and respect our city. Love, not hate. We stand together against intolerance."
We have teams on the ground there in Boston. First, let's get to CNN's Polo Sandoval. So, Polo, you were following the free speech rally and there have been people who have already culminated there.
This is different from the throngs of people we have been seeing marching through streets of Boston. So, help describe what's happening there at that park with that free speech rally.
We are so sorry about that. You can see him clearly and see what's being described as a counter-protest clearly in Boston. We cannot hear Polo. We'll try and get back to him.
Meantime, our Sara Sidner -- sorry about that, not going to Sara Sidner yet either. All right. Let's talk about these dueling protests.