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Thousands Flood Streets of Boston in Dueling Rallies; "Declassified" Airs Tonight; Suspect in Car Attack Charged with 2nd- Degree Murder. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 19, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[13:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people want a pure Aryan nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are going to do anything to punish and kill people who are not part of the white race.
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FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, Mike, I think there are a lot of people who feel like I do that, you know, I feel like I've been very naive not knowing there were so many different names for hate groups. The Klan, Skinheads, Aryan Nation, know about that, too. But now there's The Order and there are other names we learned particularly this week and, you know, most recently.
So tell us about, you know, this group, The Order, it's association. What it took to bring it down if, indeed, you can say it has been brought down.
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. You're always going to have some of these groups. They are driven by this ideology. Matter of fact their bible is something called the Turner Diaries, which is a novel, but it describes people who are anti-Semitic and racist and full of bigotry should take down the U.S. government. Zionists against the government, if you will. So what they are trying to do in this particular episode, this was a group that decided to use violence, robbery, mayhem, murder in order to finance their ideology. And what was interesting, Fredericka, is that they took the money, didn't take it from themselves, and they stole a lot of money. One particular heist over $2 million. They use that money to buy weapons, to buy pamphlets and ways to communicate their message of hate and bigotry and this notion that they were going to take over the United States government. So these groups do exist.
What's interesting is that the people you saw in Charlottesville, based their ideology a lot on this same Turner Diary. It's the same concept that they use. Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma, took his inspiration from the Turner Diaries. That's how they did it. There was an arrest this week in Oklahoma where somebody who took an example of the Turner Diaries, who is part of this Neo-Nazi white supremacist tendency group, to try to blow up a bank for the same purposes. For people who show up and say they represent all these different groups have that same ideology. I urge you it's dangerous. And tonight, people will have the first opportunity to look inside how they operate. And how the FBI did a masterful job of getting in and bringing them down.
WHITFIELD: All so enlightening.
Mike Rogers, thank you so much.
Tonight, "Declassified," don't miss it.
Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with us. Live pictures right now of Boston. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We're following breaking news out of that city where thousands are marching against hate. The city is also preparing for possible violence if, indeed, dueling demonstrations turn out to go the direction that nobody wants it to go.
This morning, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh met with counter protesters 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. Again, there are dueling demonstrations. I think everyone is learning as we go what is being represented by these dueling groups. We have one group that says it's marching in the name of peace and unity. Another group that says it is demonstrating in the name of free speech.
So let's gets to CNN's Sara Sidner.
Sara, who do you have with you? What's going on there?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPODNENT: Two things. We're standing with this man, originally from Trinidad. He moved to Massachusetts 40 years ago, familiar with the situation here in Boston.
I want to start with you. We have a crowd coming our way. Boston Common right behind us. This crowd has been marching. They say they are with Black Lives Matter, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WHITFIELD: But there are mostly white people that are in the crowd. What do you think about the crowd's diversity today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what America looks like today. For people that are now, this is what America looks like. You look around. You see people of different diversity here. A lot of people saying -- I always say people not only Black Lives Matter, all lives matter, you know. A lot of people think that when someone come out to support a cause, it's obviously going to see black people or white people. You'll see people diverse of the world. We live in the year 2017. I want people to understand this. 2017 we are living in. And we still living back in slave time. We still living back in the days when they used to lynch you just for looking at someone. We have made great strides in the world. People of color have made great strides. They have done so much. At one time, I was at Harvard, I heard a man speaking about --
[13:05:12] SIDNER: There's a helicopter overhead.
I want to ask you specifically. You're wearing a mask. When a lot of people see this bandanna over people's faces, it makes them think you're going to do something illegal or violent.
SIDNER: Tell me about the mask.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm about love and peace. And the mask, this is not a maverick, this is the flag of my country. I'm from Trinidad. And a lot of people who are wearing it, but wearing it because of, in case of tear gas or anything like that. So I put mine on to represent my country. Also in case of something happening.
But I also want people to know that we can't be afraid. We can't stay at home and hide when there are things like this. When there is evil we have to do something to make a difference.
SIDNER: Thank you so much. I don't want to get run over here with the huge crowd.
SIDNER: Thank you. Thank you.
So that is what you're hearing from people who have lived in Massachusetts for a very long time. It's very loud. (INAUDIBLE)
WHITFIELD: All right. Sara Sidner, there with a very large crowd of people kind of drowning out the sound there.
But we get the gist that a number of people have turned out in downtown Boston. The goals are not all consistent. You heard one gentleman who talked about being there in the face of unity.
Now let's turn to CNN Polo Sandoval.
Polo, what do you see from your vantage points what the rally or demonstration is -- what the goal of the rally or demonstration is from where you are?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, what's interesting is probably about 10, 15 minutes ago, some of these free-speech demonstrators that had taken their spot there in the bandstand itself, eventually left a little while ago, being escorted by law enforcement.
At the height, we saw a shouting match, if you will, where you had some of those demonstrators yelling at what is the massive crowd here, Fred. Sara Sidner is somewhere in here. These are hundreds of counter demonstrators that have come together. Many of these obviously representing more left-leaning organizations, Black Lives Matter, for example. A little while ago that was that chant that was being yelled at.
Let's see if we can get closer. You can see what seems to be this seemingly endless flow of people just behind law enforcement. These are the marchers that made their way here from a location about two miles away. And now that they've arrived here at the Boston Common, the group has nearly doubled or tripled in size.
What was the most heated moment was when the free-speech demonstrators, protected by law enforcement, were taking their posts but since left, about 45 or 50 minutes from what I can see.
WHITFIELD: Polo, just for clarity, your vantage point is from a separate location where there are more counter demonstrators. Have you seen anyone that represents the rally in which these counter protesters, you know, are trying to convey a message, meaning that the rally that is calling itself the Boston Free Speech Coalition?
SANDOVAL: Absolutely. I was able to snap a picture of a gentleman wearing an American flag and wearing a "Make American Great" hat. He walked down the path that you may be able to tell behind me. He was surrounded by police as he was silently walking, surrounded by these counter protesters. They are wearing all sorts of things, from "Shame" to "Boston hates you." That's what they were chanting. Then they initially cleared out. Those were some of the most-tense moments when some of those members tried to walk through this crowd and met by these counter demonstrators.
I should point out, Fred, there were a couple of small pockets of conversations that were actually happening. I was able to witness a Trump supporter wearing a Jersey that said "Trump" on the back speaking to a Black Lives Matter representative. They were having a conversation. Granted there wasn't too much of that, but the fact that was happening, that offered some promise and hope. For the most part things have been peaceful except for a few tense moments when some of these demonstrators met face to face with their counterparts -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: The hope is that it does remain peaceful.
Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.
So for more on this rift within the U.S., really these impassioned feelings bubbling to the top, I want to bring in Tanzina Vega. She is a CNN digital correspondent and "CNN Money" national reporter for race and equality.
Good to see you, Tanzina.
You've been covering race across the country. What has, I guess, been your impressions of what we've seen in the past week? [13:10:00] TANZINA VEGA, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT & CNN MONEY
NATIONAL REPORTER FOR RACE AND EQUALITY: I think this past week has given us a look into the deep, deep unhealed wounds over racism in this country. We in many ways -- we've talked about this was a big narrative in the 1980s about the culture wars. What we're seeing now is a real -- a real sort of struggle and maybe a fight for what this country represents, whose history we're talking about, what that history looks like, particularly when we're talking about removal of Confederate statues and Confederate monuments. There's a lot of concern about, you know, what, are we trying to rewrite history. And I think what we're doing -- I'm sure you have been to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. One of the striking things when I visited was seeing both a Ku Klux Klan hood and also the shackles that slaves were brought over to this country. So I think we really -- we're at a reckoning point with our history, with what it means as Americans and what that looks like going forward.
WHITFIELD: Perhaps it's a realization to people there isn't one history. I mean, what an incredible tapestry that America has and various representations of history and experiences. But then as you look at the people who descended there in Boston, and seeing how many people have come out. And we're calling this dueling demonstrations because you have one that's permitted by a group that says it's there in the name of free speech and then another semi-black group walking the streets who is there as a sense of unity.
What is the -- if there's a singular objective that you see here by these demonstrators, what would that be?
VEGA: I think we're really struggling to define who we are. This conversation started a very long time ago. I don't think -- I think for the most part -- for many white Americans, the idea of post- racialism was very attractive coming out of the Obama presidency, the idea that we had sort of crossed a lot of these boundaries, that the days of water hoses and, you know, very, very overt racism were sort of over. Then we started to talk about microaggressions and covert racism. Here we are in 2017 confronting hate groups, and at a level I don't think we've seen in a very long time. There's this big conversation we're having about who are we as Americans. What do we look like as Americans? A lot of what we're seeing, the undercurrents of this -- and these are more extreme views. But that undercurrent is fear. Based on fear of the, quote, unquote, browning of America. The fact that not only was our presidency, you know, held by the first African-American president that we had, but also our demographics are shirting. We can look at that. A large percentage of Americans who say that's a wonderful thing and we want to move forward in that. You're seeing that on the ground. But people are very afraid of what that means. And that's what a lot of the rhetoric we're hearing around this campaign and this administration, unfortunately, has sort of winked to. I think you're seeing that really taking effect in these hate groups.
WHITFIELD: I want to ask you about something else that's just coming in. We're looking at moments happening right now in Boston. We one right now Duke University has removed its Robert E. Lee statue, which stood at the entrance of Duke chapel. And we've seen this week after Charlottesville, Virginia, some cities have either covered or taken down, or some citizens have taken it upon themselves to take down Confederate statues. What does this say to you that Duke University would do this as this debate of the removal of statues, memorials have heated up this week?
VEGAS: I think what this tells us is that this conversation has gone beyond, you know, the average every-day American. This is now -- we're seeing businesses responding to what this means. We're seeing universities responding. We're seeing the federal government being forced to respond to the imagery that they have in these statues and what these statues represent. Again, this is not a push to rewrite history. It's to look at American history and reckon what does that mean. For black Americans, in particular, for Americans of color, more broadly, looking at Confederate imagery and Confederate statues sends s very different message. And I think the Smithsonian, the African-American Museum of the History of America, the Smithsonian Museum yesterday really had a wonderful Twitter stream about how fear and imagery was used to essentially threaten African-Americans and keep them complacent after slavery.
VEGAS: So, right, exactly. So to really think about that and what that means if you're seeing this every day -- no one is saying we're going to rewrite history, but we'll re-examine what that history means. We want to look at it and say look how wonderful we are. We're Americans. We're great. We stand for freedom and liberty. And, hopefully, we continue to do those things. But the fact is we need a reckoning of who we are and what our past has been. And we're seeing that right now.
[13:15:20] WHITFIELD: Tanzina, thank you so much for your perspective. Appreciate it.
We'll continue to watch the imagines there. A live view of these dueling rallies as well. All of this one week after Charlottesville, Virginia's, unrest.
[13:19:40] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're keeping an eye on these extraordinary pictures out of Boston where thousands of people are demonstrating, whether it be in the name of free speech or in the name of unity. We continue to monitor and bring you developments as they happen.
Meantime, all this taking place one week after that deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now charges have been filed against James Fields Jr. He's been charged with second-degree murder as well as other felony charges. He also is expected to face federal charges.
I want to bring in our legal panel here. Avery Friedman a civil rights attorney and law professor in Cleveland, and Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor from Las Vegas.
Good to see both of you.
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Hi, Fredricka.
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Hi, Fred.
# Gentlemen, we heard the U.S. attorney general say he believes this fits the definition of domestic terror.
And, Avery, you have been involved in domestic terror cases before. In your view, this Charlottesville case, is this domestic terrorism that needs to be facing federal charges?
FRIEDMAN: Well, it is absolutely domestic terrorism. The question is there is no federal domestic terrorism law. What the Justice Department can do is cobble some existing federal civil rights provisions, which provide for criminal penalties. By doing that, there's something that the Justice Department could do. So while Jeff Sessions may or may not have known that there is no domestic terrorism law, there are federal laws that can be utilized to do something, especially if they can connect Mr. Fields to the organizers and participants in the Unite the Right rally. And that's something that the FBI is going to have to do.
WHITFIELD: So then, Richard, in your view, there's no way that domestic terrorism charges could be pursued. Why not, when there is precedent of domestic terrorism. Think of the scale of Oklahoma City, you know bombing. Clear-cut domestic terrorism. Why is this complicated as it pertains to domestic terrorism laws, either existing or not, on the federal level?
HERMAN: Well, with the highest level of respect, Fred, the Oklahoma bombing was not brought under domestic terrorism charges. It was not. That's because, as Avery said, they don't exist. They only exist for enumerated groups, about 60 groups, mostly Islamic terrorists. If you don't fall in that category, Fred, can't bring charges.
Having said that, that's under domestic terrorism. But you have second-degree murder here. You're going to have hate crimes. You're going to have civil rights charges brought against him. You have mowing -- I mean, the man will die in prison. No question about it. So technically, you can't bring domestic terrorism charges. Let's not get all up in arms over that. The legislature, Congress may modify to include this type of hate group or groups. But as we sit here today, it's impossible to bring domestic terrorism charges against this individual for the Charlottesville act, unless, after the car crash, he stood up and said, I did this for Islam, then you couldn't do it. But he didn't do that. Can't do that.
Avery, you disagree?
FRIEDMAN: I absolutely disagree. Look, we've had domestic terrorism- type federal prosecutions in the past. The problem is there's no law that has that name. But there are plenty ever federal statutes for both civil and criminal that can be utilized. For example, you got a guy like Fields who is from northwest Ohio. All right. All of a sudden, you find him in Charlottesville, Virginia. The question is, and this is a fact question, is he tied within the organizers of Unite the Right? Was there a conspiracy to injure? Was there a conspiracy to do worse? Those are fact questions. If they are, there are laws that go back to the 1800s that the Justice Department has utilized in pursuing these.
WHITFIELD: Richard, while he faces the second-degree murder charges on a local level, will that be simultaneous to how the DOJ moves forward or investigates what federal charges it would be able to impose against him or does it have to come after the local charges are resolved?
HERMAN: Well, Fred, in fact, most likely the state will defer to the federal charges that are brought against him and let the feds go first, because they will bring civil rights charges and hate crime statute charges against him. The domestic terrorism statute, as it exists today, those charges will not be brought against this individual.
But, Fred, as we watch today what's going on live on television, the crowds look bigger than the inauguration crowds, Fred. And I got to tell you, the president was just an abomination this week. There are no fine people walking with racists and Nazis. None. Such an embarrassment. Every week. It's exhausting, Fred.
[13:25:06] FRIEDMAN: It has nothing to do with the law, though.
HERMAN: There is no law for these charges.
WHITFIELD: Avery, as it pertains to, you know, these charges, second- degree murder charges, you mentioned against this individual, you did talk about whether he was inspired by the group. If he was inspired by the group or not, might the group that assembled the demonstration be potentially facing charges itself?
FRIEDMAN: Well, only if you can show that there was an intent to injure or kill. There are federal statutes that deal with that. And they ordinarily usually protect jurors, they protect federal judges. The question is -- and thank you for saying, Richard, that we're trying to be creative. We are. Because this is a serious matter of domestic terrorism. We don't need the name. We've got enough of a battery of federal laws to deal with this. And whether or not there's an effort on the part of this group, the participants, the organizers, to hurt somebody remains to be seen. That's what the FBI has to go to work.
WHITFIELD: We'll leave it right there.
HERMAN: The question is, if there's conspiracy by this group to violate the civil rights --
HERMAN: -- charges can be brought and there will be.
WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there.
Thank you so much, Avery, Richard. Always great to see you. Appreciate it.
HERMAN: Good to see you, too.
WHITFIELD: Stay with us as we continue to watch all of the developments out of Boston. We'll be right back.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think all of us need to stand up on the side of lover and justice and peace, and be united, and tell the word that racists and hateful people are not welcomed in Boston. If you do come, you'll be overwhelmed by a mighty force for love and justice and peace.
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[13:31:16] WHITFIELD: We're following breaking news at this hour. Thousands of marchers flooding the streets of Boston for a free speech rally. They say today is about taking a stand also against racism and hate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority of people in our city and our world and our nation are peaceful people and we want to get along. And it's a shame that hateful forces have sort of hijacked the debate and have been abetted by the president of our country. It's a real shame. I'm glad such a large and overwhelming number of people are standing up for what's right in the world.
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WHITFIELD: This comes on the heels of a tense week across the U.S. where the nation's divide about race has been put on full display. You're looking at live pictures now of Boston this is one week after the deadly clash last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Let's talk now about all of this with Michael Blake, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. And Niger Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, and executive director of the teaparty.net.
WHITFIELD: Michael, to you first.
Your impressions of the demonstrations taking place in Boston? We understand there are dueling demonstrations. One group that say it's there in the name of free speech. Another group is there in the name of unity. What are your impressions.
MICHAEL BLAKE, VICE CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: It's powerful to see people standing up for something positive and say we reject racism and bigotry and hatred and reject the rhetoric that has been continually perpetuated. To say that someone will stand on the side of supporting the Confederacy is absolutely something that we all reject and should reject. That's the reason why as we see in Boston thousands are saying we will not stand for this. We stand for love. We stand for unity. We stand for coming together.
This is part of a broader effort that's happening around the country. Rise and organize. It's an effort we have in the Democratic Party, 160 activations and events across the country supporting and mobilizing in.
Let's put this in context. Not just the rhetoric we heard last week from Donald Trump, which was concerning. This is a one-year anniversary of him telling blacks, "What the hell do you have to lose?" When you see what's happening in the country and you see incredibly divisive rhetoric that's what we have to lose as a people. Black people alone will not be upset by this. All of us should be upset by this.
While on one side you hear individuals talking about reject and make sure to block us out and not support us, we say let's rise and organize together. Let's mobilize together. What you're seeing in Boston and around the country is what's happening in Charlottesville, what's happening in Boston, what's happening in New York, all across the country, we refuse to accept this kind of rhetoric as acceptable. That's why we're coming together and saying enough is enough. We have to move forward in a positive direction.
WHITFIELD: Niger, what do you hope the president will learn from this? What do you suppose the message will be being sent to the president by this gathering?
NIGER INNIS, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TEAPARTY.NET: Well, I think it is a powerful message that racism is really on the sidelines within our country. Quite frankly, I think most of the media is making much to do about nothing. The Klan, David Duke, I call them clowns in dunce caps. They are a relic of the past. They are not part of the America today.
And I disagree with my esteemed colleague speaking for the Democrats. I think Donald Trump had it right when he came out and made his very measured statements as the president of the United States, contrary to the last president, who actually, unfortunately, stuck his foot in his mouth a couple of times on issues of race. Remember, he had to have a famous beer summit after he jumped the gun. President Trump wanted to make sure that he did not jump the gun in Charlottesville. He wanted to know the facts. He wanted to know the situation. He wanted to know the culpability and responsibility of the local authorities, including the governor, in not protecting decent people.
But these guys -- and you're talking --
[13:35:21] WHITFIELD: That's the message --
WHITFIELD: I'm asking, sir, the images that we're all looking at and seeing these thousands of people, you're saying the message that these demonstrators on all sides, meaning we only know of the two very clear-cut sides that are being demonstrated here, the Free-Speech Coalition -- that's the group that called itself a Free-Speech Coalition. And then demonstrators who are there in the sense of peace and unity. We're saying that's the message you're hoping is being sent to the president today? What you articulate --
INNIS: No. I think --
WHITFIELD: -- the beer summit that took place with the last administration, and that racism is on the sidelines?
BLAKE: It's offensive what he's saying.
INNIS: I think the American - I think the American -- I'm saying that the overwhelming majority of the American people reject racism. And they also reject those like, unfortunately, I believe my colleague, of using the race card. You know, there's a story of the boy who cried wolf. You're talking to a guy who leads an organization that had three martyrs murdered in 1964 registering blacks to vote, confronting real challenges of racism. You're talking to an individual -- for all the arm-chair activists, you're talking to one individual that actually, in studio, mano-a-mano, debated David Duke. OK? I won't take a back seat on confronting anybody on real racism. But I want to distinguish real racism or imagined or manifested racism.
WHITFIELD: OK, I want to continue to talk some more.
We have to take a short break, as we continue to look at these pictures, and trying to discern what is it we're seeing right now with people gathering. They are in a very tight space here. It's difficult to interpret the images we're seeing, but they are powerful images.
Nigel and Michael, I do want to have you back after the commercial break. Let's continue this conversation.
And we'll have much more from the NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A live view now of Boston. And we're seeing some conflict there on the ground. Still unclear exactly what is happening. But we do see a number of police officers, who are in black, who have their batons, they have helmets. And then you see a number of people who have pressed themselves somehow up against the police officers there. We don't know what is being said on the ground, what inspired this.
But with us now, CNN law enforcement analyst and former Secret Service official, Jonathan Wackrow, is on the line with us now.
And maybe, Jonathan, you can better interpret for me what is it we're seeing here.
Were you able to see some of the images right before this shot here where there was pushing between people?
[13:40:20] JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): Yes. Absolutely. So, you know, at the start of the two protests, the primary protest and the counter protest, this morning, what you saw was really well coordinated efforts by law enforcement to keep these groups separated. And that's really the goal of law enforcement today is to allow protesters to voice their free speech, but in peaceful means. What's happening now, you're actually seeing some of those groups co-mingle. And that's what you don't want to happen. Police are really trying to get in the middle of that so we don't have another issue like we saw last week there, groups start clashing together.
WHITFIELD: So our best understanding of the demonstrations happening here, we're got one group identifying itself as a Free-Speech Coalition. We got another collection of people who are saying that they are counter demonstrators in the name of unity and peace.
And you're describing how police have tried to protect the rights of everyone assembling, to keep these groups apart so that there would not be any conflict. And potentially, what we're seeing here, as we see the officers, who are mostly in black and kind of walking slowly there, pushing these crowds back. You are saying they are using themselves as a barrier, the police officers, as a barrier so these counter -- these separate demonstrators, demonstrating groups do not come face to face and potentially then have a conflict with each other?
WACKROW: Exactly. You know what they want to do they want to create distance between the two groups physically, so, again, we don't have physical altercations on either party clashing with each other. You know, oftentimes, police have different tactics that they use, but the primary goal is to really ensure that they can keep those two groups separated, basically, so, again, we don't have any physical violence from one side or the other.
WHITFIELD: Talk to me about how complicated this is for law enforcement. This is another view. Some officers are wearing a neon- green vests and you have other officers who, you know, are all in black with helmets. But talk to us about the real complication that officers are tasked with, police officers are tasked with now, by being able to do this when you got thousands of people who are demonstrating? WACKROW: Absolutely. So when you start looking at, you know,
demonstrators and protesters, you know, things can change rapidly. The situation is very dynamic. It's very fluid. The challenge for law enforcement is actually to get real-time situational awareness of what are the groups doing right now. When two separate groups are contained, it's easy to get intelligence on what those groups are doing. Once they disperse and start to co-mingle with each other, it's a real challenge for law enforcement to, you know, garner the situation awareness of what those groups are doing. Intelligence is key in law enforcement and their action to again try to separate these groups.
WHITFIELD: OK. Thank you so much, Jonathan Wackrow, for your point of view on this.
It is a very fluid. We're watching it as you're watching it at home. And, again, there are what appears to be hundreds if not thousands of people who have descended there on Boston for these demonstrations with different points of view. One organized group saying they are there for free speech. We had a couple of guests on earlier, one with the Southern Poverty Law Center, one who is a former Skin Head, who described that group, was familiar with the group named Boston Free Speech Coalition as a group that it says is one that cultivates fear. And then you have thousands of other people who have descended on Boston, who have been marching in the name of unity and peace, calling themselves counter demonstrations.
So, Jonathan Wackrow, as we continue to look at these images here, does it appear as though it is -- I guess, this is so far considered a rather successful means ever trying to control the crowd?
Looks like we may have lost Jonathan, who was describing that police there are trying to separate the groups so as to prevents any kind of unrest.
All right. Our Polo Sandoval is there on the ground in Boston and among a number of demonstrators earlier.
Polo, you told me you were amongst counter demonstrations. Counter demonstrators. What your experiencing right now?
[13:45:27] POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESOPNDENT: Fred, we still are among those counter demonstrators. Basically, Boston police officers are creating a circle here, as they keep their crowd of counter demonstrators. What we're trying to do right now find out exactly what led to a relatively tense situation southeast of Boston Commons. What we do know, I watched at least eight people to be counter protesters, their hands were tied by authorities and taken away, currently detained. What we're trying to find out is what led to this. Several people telling me this was a point where some of the free-speech demonstrators, who they call themselves, were leaving the demonstration and, as a result, possibly went face to face with some of the counter demonstrators. That's what you're able to hear in the background, police sirens, police officers.
While things are tense, are still relatively peaceful. Just a few arrests. Still under control here. Authorities are controlling the crowd, keeping people at bay as they try to get a hold of the situation and make sure no other incidents happen here -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Right. And we were talking to Jonathan Wackrow, who said it's quite the undertaking for law enforcement there to try to keep these dueling demonstrators apart. And that is part of the effort in order to best secure public safety.
Back with me also, earlier, I was talking to Michael Blake, vice chair of the National Democratic Committee. And Niger Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of National Equality and executive director of the teaparty.net.
If you all are back with me, too, I would like to get your impressions of what we're seeing and continue our conversation.
Niger, earlier, I had asked about what you were hoping the message that the president of the United States will be receiving by watching these large number of people who were demonstrating there in Boston.
INNIS: I think the message is clear. First of all, I want to applaud the police officers in Boston and the leadership of the mayor and probably the governor of the state, a leadership that, unfortunately, was missing in action in Charlottesville. Look, in Charlottesville, you had two groups of extremists or maybe multiple groups of extremists that wanted to precipitate violence. Yes, you had the Klan. You had Neo-Nazis. But you also had Antifa, which is an anti- Fascist organization, a violent organization. Both of these groups wanted to precipitate violence. What happened is the decent people of Charlottesville, both black and white, got caught up in violence that the police officers and the law enforcement and the political leadership of that city and that state failed to do anything about. It seems like Boston, by comparison, is doing something quite different.
WHITFIELD: All right, Michael?
BLAKE: So first of all, Niger's comments are absolutely outlandish and ridiculous for multiple reasons. Number one, let's make sure we recognize what he said in the previous segment where he said we're celebrating relics and that racism is on the sidelines and fringes, actually took a disrespecting shot at President Obama and the work that did. As someone who had the honor of working with for President Obama, someone who represents the most diverse county in the Bronx, who recognizes what's happening -- let's see what's happening here. Last week, you had individuals with torches that were showing up clearly promoting white nationalism and Neo-Nazism to clearly come in and create havoc on a community. The mayor of Charlottesville immediately responded. The governor of Virginia immediately responded. What did you have from Donald Trump? He had to wait for the facts before commenting on it, despite saying he had communicated with law enforcement.
Number two, when you listen to Niger's comments, the first person he highlighted was law enforcement on the ground. We have respect for law enforcement, no question about that. But a reason why there's such concern is you have a president of the United States who endorsed police brutality, and you have people marching today
BLAKE: -- that are marching for the purpose -- Niger stop.
When you have individuals --
INNIS: I'm listen to you respectably, too, but it's laughable.
BLAKE: When you individuals -- it's not laughable, Niger. That's the problem. The fact that you find it laughable that people talk about endorsing police brutality, as he did, that is exactly one of the reasons why people are marching.
BLAKE: They are marching for love. They are marching are unity.
WHITFIELD: Niger, I think the reference that --
[13:50:06] BLAKE: Niger, the reason why people are mobilizing - the reason people are mobilizing -- forgive me, Fred. The reason people are mobilizing out there today is they want to come together to move forward in a positive direction. We reject hate and racism and bigotry. And to have this false equivalency of saying that people standing up against that were equally at fault as Neo-Nazism is absolute outlandish. That's why, again, 160 activities are happening around the country, called Rise and Organize, to say let's come together in a positive manner. And rather than promoting discriminatory language and actually communicating that racism and activities of that are on the fringes, let's see what's happening right here right now.
WHITFIELD: Hold on for a moment.
WHITFIELD: I want to bring in Sara Sidner, whose also on the ground there in Boston among demonstrators.
And I want to get her point of view and sentiment from the demonstrators there that are near her -- Sara?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So we're in an interesting position. This is Boston Common, the oldest park in America. On my left, there is a huge group of Black Lives Matter people who had basically set this whole thing up, organized it. To my right, it's a lot of the anti-Fascists and that group that also helped to organize. We're going to walk into the crowd here.
You're hearing a lot of sirens. Police, we understand, have come in and some of them have riot gear on. But really, right now, it's peaceful. For the most part, you're hearing speeches. People talking about how they feel about America right now in light of what happened in Charlottesville, and in light of some of the comments the president has made this past week. You're hearing a lot of chants and cheering.
But we did have one moment where things seemed to get filled with a bit of tension. There was someone who from the, quote/unquote, free- speech rally, came and started talking to protesters. Police pulled him away and they were literally running after him saying, get out. They were also telling people not to engage. That was one thing I thought was remarkable, that you have a crowd with thousands of people and they're saying, look, don't engage with people. Don't let them make you angry. Stand up against racism and stand up against sexism and white supremacy but don't be violent. So far, that's exactly what is happened here, so far -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right, thanks, Sara.
Polo Sandoval, not far from you.
Polo, what's happening from your perspective.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. We at an intersection here just southeast of Boston Commons. Not too far from where Sara is.
I can tell you this, this was the scene of a fairly tense moment a little while ago, as some of the, quote, freedom of speech protesters, free-speech demonstrators were essentially leaving the area, and that's when they got too close to some of the counter protesters. Boston police and other authorities had to intervene at one point. We did see eight counter demonstrators get placed on the ground, police used zip ties, and they were taken away by authorities. Now what we're seeing are police on motorcycles and police officers and on bicycles blocking the area here.
I want to take you back to yesterday when we heard from the commissioner saying they're going to be taking a, quote, "discrete approach" at law enforcement here. Meaning they were going to basically rely on cameras and uncover officers to handle this crowd. But they said they would immediately activate plan B, which was, in essence, deploy some of these riot police officers. And that's what we're watching right now, making their way towards the park, basically making sure things don't get out of control. Compared to what we so about 30 minutes ago, things are relatively calm after those arrests were made, it's relatively calm.
Again, we're southeast of Boston Common where several people have already been placed into custody and the so-called free-speech demonstrators have left the area.
WHITFIELD: Polo, thank you so much.
Also with me, law enforcement analyst and deputy mayor of Rochester, New York, Cedric Alexander.
Cedric, as we look at these images we saw how police what appeared to be an extraordinary technique of being able to keep demonstrators apart. Meaning you've got one set of demonstrators and then you've got counter demonstrators, and the objective by the city there is to -- to help prevent any kind of conflict between them by keeping them separated.
Talk to us more about this image that we saw earlier. And we saw it unfolding live, how the officers in black there and accompanied in officers who were in the neon green, were using their bodies and, I guess, you know, their arms and batons to keep people separated. Talk to me about that technique.
[13:54:44] CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: What you'll find in situations like that, I can only imagine, is those uniforms may represent a very different role that each of those officer's play.
What's very interesting about what's occurring in Boston, and I think it was just spoken about a moment ago, there's a lot of undercover officers there on the scene. They have a relatively, probably not too much of an exposed group of officers that are in uniform, but they're able to respond whenever they need to as it relates to a specific situation.
Here again, as it goes back to what I was saying earlier, Boston has had a variety of experience in these types of situations. They have a very seasoned police department. They have very seasoned leadership. They have a very strong mayor there. And they certainly are going to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to exercise their First Amendment right, but they're going to take all precaution to make sure that no one is hurt. And so I applaud them for the work they're doing. But here again, I would say to the spectators that are out there, is that everyone should make sure that they police each other and conduct each other in a very peaceable way, which is their right under the First Amendment.
WHITFIELD: I wonder, Cedric, do you have any concerns or thoughts about the crowd/police ratio?
ALEXANDER: Certainly. In many cases, you probably will never have enough police that will outnumber people. But this is about a methodology. This is about rehearsal. This is about practice. This is about knowing that, generally, a large crowd, you will have a certain percentage of those people that may get involved in something more violent but, generally, not the entire crowd itself, because many people will seek safety and will not extend themselves.
But what's important here is that, in your community, where police are outnumbered, it becomes an important piece for community members to make sure that they cooperate, they do as the police ask them to do, and they be eyes and ears, because there are people out there who truthfully want to peacefully protest.
But hear, again, none of us are going to have any patience with hatred or violence or any type of nationalism that suggests that one group of people are better than another. This nation is not going to stand for that. And those who are standing out there and who are participating today in opposition of that, they have a right to be there and they have a right to push back on any kind of hatred, as we all do in this country.
WHITFIELD: Again, for folks who just might be tuning in, we understand there to be dueling demonstrations there in Boston. One group calling itself the Boston Free Speech Coalition, which describes itself as a coalition of Libertarians, progressives, conservatives and Independents. I had a couple guests on earlier today, one who is a former Skin Head and one whose representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center who said that this group is known to cultivate fear, and that is one of its objectives. That group and demonstration being met by counter protests, people who say they were there in the name of peace and unity. We understand from our Sara Sidner reporting that Black Lives Matter organized it. Largely, it's multi-cultural, multi- racial. And you're seeing thousands of people who have turned out in the streets.
Now we understand from police, according to the Boston Police Department, they have just tweeted that the free-speech rally is over and that that group is disbursing now. But there continues to be hundreds of thousands, perhaps even, people continue to be in the street who represent largely the counter protesters.
So that one rally is over. Does not necessarily mean that the city and police would feel like, OK, job over.
Talk to me now about, I guess, this transitional period, if you will, about what law enforcement is tasked with as people disburse?
ALEXANDER: Well, certainly, what's going to happen, the authorities there are not going to leave will in the last citizen has left from out there. So when you have a larger crowd, as you have there today in Boston, it certainly does take a little time for people to walk back to their cars, go to bus stops or wherever they're going back to in order to disburse. So they will linger around and you'll probably see some lingering. But what you will also see is the police department that will be there until the last person has left. And they will encourage people, mildly, that the event is over and they will show restraint and patience. But, of course if there are those who just refuse to leave, then I'm quite sure they will take the appropriate steps that they deem necessary under the circumstances that they would -- that they will see or experience.
All right, Cedric Alexander, thank you so much. We'll talk again very soon.
ALEXANDER: Thank you for having me.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much.