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Apparent Suicide of Jeffrey Epstein Under Investigation; Pro- Democracy Activists Gather in Hong Kong's Victoria Park; Riyadh Sends Warning to Separatists in Yemen; Pyongyang Slams South Korea for Hosting Drills with U.S.; U.S. Presidential Candidates Take Part in Gun Violence Forum; Opposition Protest in Moscow Draws Thousands; Richard Gere Works to Help Migrants in Mediterranean. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired August 11, 2019 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ahead this hour, accusers demand justice after the death of Jeffrey Epstein as questions grow about why he was taken off suicide watch in prison.

Plus, we'll go live to Hong Kong, where new protests are underway with marchers defying a police ban.

And as victims of back-to-back mass shootings in the United States are buried, CNN finds out how other countries fought gun violence and won.

Welcome, these stories are all ahead this hour. I'm Natalie Allen and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: Thank you, again, for joining us.

Public and political outrage is growing following the death of Jeffrey Epstein, who apparently managed to take his own life in a New York City jail cell. This just weeks after being taken off suicide watch.

He is the multimillionaire who counted the world's rich and famous among his friends and was then accused of running an underage sex trafficking ring. U.S. attorney general William Barr has ordered an inquiry; he says he was appalled at Epstein's death and that it raises serious questions that must be answered.

Republican senator Ben Sasse goes further and sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding an investigation adding obviously heads must roll.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani agrees, telling CNN, it is ridiculous that he was taken off suicide watch. He's a suicide possibility until he completely cooperates and says everything he knows.

A bit earlier we spoke with CNN's crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz about why Epstein was off suicide watch.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: That is obviously the biggest question here right now. What happened from the time that he was found with injuries on July 23rd to just a week, it appears, he would be on suicide watch, where the psychologist and the officials at this Manhattan jail, this federal facility, were monitoring him, were assessing him on a daily basis.

And then something changed. And all of a sudden, the officials decided that, you know what, they were going to take him off the -- off suicide watch and now put him back into the unit he was in before. It is a unit that keeps him segregated from the general population because of the notoriety that he's getting from this case, the nature of the charges, the significance of this charges.

The jail went out of their way to try and protect him. So the question now is what happened and how is it he was able to do this overnight, early into the morning, when officials found him unconscious inside the jail cell.

We still don't know the entire circumstance of how this unfolded, how he was discovered, still a lot of questions that officials have not answered.


ALLEN: Retired detective Mike Fisten spent one decade investigating Jeffrey Epstein. He tells CNN's Ana Cabrera, Epstein's suicide could mean his accusers never see justice.


MIKE FISTEN, LAW ENFORCEMENT VETERAN AND PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: After 10 years of investigating this individual and hoping we finally were bringing him to justice, it's basic justice denied.

In one hand, you know, everyone including myself and all the victims wanted to see him brought to justice and go through a trial, expose so many things that has not been exposed yet that would come out during this trial and, of course, no one is going to have that now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Right. As far as his death itself, we've learned he was taken off suicide watch at the end of July. We know he had been on suicide watch after that official incident in which he had some marks on his neck last month. Federal officials say foul play is not suspected but now we have multiple investigations into how this could have happened.

Do you have any questions about the circumstances of his death?

FISTEN: Well, this was inevitable. If anyone didn't think that this was going to happen -- he tried a few weeks ago.

Jeffrey Epstein lived his life -- [05:05:00]

FISTEN: -- not in a 4-by-4 cell and he knew he only had two options, one, if he turned and cooperated against every person that indulged in his illegal behavior and he became a witness against these people, or he was just going to spend -- he knew he was going to get convicted, spend the rest of his life in the cell. And there was no way this individual, knowing who he is and how he has lived, was going to do that.

So, yes, this was inevitable. To me, at least it was.


FISTEN: I was very surprised that they did not have him in a suicide cell, suicide watch, you know, at this point.

CABRERA: How does Epstein's death now impact the ongoing investigation and outstanding lawsuits?

FISTEN: I think it really helps - unfortunately, it helps the ongoing investigation because, just like when I was investigating him for all of these years, I ran into stumbling block after stumbling block of people that wanted to talk but couldn't talk because they were, number one, afraid Jeffrey would come after them, both civilly and they were also afraid that he had the power to hurt them.

And a lot of them had these outlandish NDAs, these non-disclosure agreements where -- I remember one instance I went to interview a guy in Palm Springs who worked for Jeffrey for years and he cried that he wanted to -- he cried tears, he wanted to tell me everything that happened in that house, that he wished he could forget everything he saw in that house, but Jeffrey had such a tight NDA on him, he said he would be sued, lose everything and he wouldn't talk.

So I think those people are now going to all come forward.



ALLEN: Lisa Bloom is the victims' rights attorney that represents several Epstein victims and joins me now from Los Angeles.

Thank you for being with us.


I want to begin with a tweet. You sent this out, a statement from one of your unnamed clients. Here it is.

"I will never have a sense of closure now. I'm angry as hell that the prison could have allowed this to happen, that I and his other victims will never see him face the consequences for his horrendous actions.

"I hope that whoever allowed this to happen also faces some type of consequence. You stole from us the huge piece of healing that we needed to move on with our lives."

I'm going to get to the prison in a moment but first, his accusers have been hurting for some time but what about now with this outcome?

BLOOM: It's a very emotional, painful day for them. It's been a long journey just for them to call me, to find out what their legal rights are and we have been working with law enforcement behind the scenes helping law enforcement while protecting their anonymity.

They have been thinking about filing a civil suit for months but we thought it was best to work with the criminal system first because that was more important and now this. We are resolved to go forward with a civil case. His death means any criminal case against him dies.

But civil cases can go forward for money damages and those cases are focused on the victims and how they have been so hurt, the broken trust, the relationship damage, the psychological injuries and ruined careers. And we plan to go after his estate and make sure that the victims are fully and fairly compensated from those monies.

ALLEN: Right. Let's talk about the challenge there. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said Epstein was the mastermind and without him it becomes harder.

How much harder will it be to prosecute any potential co-conspirators?

BLOOM: On the criminal side that may be true. I don't know what evidence the Southern District of New York might have against other potential co-conspirators. So far only Jeffrey Epstein was charged with crimes, even though one of the crimes was conspiracy.

I always thought it was odd that nobody else was charged in that conspiracy but I look at it from the point of view of victims. You read the statement from one of my victims. How upset she was about justice being denied.

But another woman that called me today, said I have a sense of relief. I don't have to worry about him coming after me anymore. Even in jail they were worried he might retaliate against them. So there's different emotions for different people. There's many different people he has harmed.

ALLEN: And were victims in all kinds of different ways, in different homes, in different states, in different countries for that matter. So it's not like there's one collective victim here.

I want to talk with you about --


ALLEN: -- the fact that he was on suicide watch in prison. And that he was taken off of suicide watch and then apparently committed suicide.

What are your thoughts on that? BLOOM: It's highly irresponsible to take him off of suicide watch. This is a guy that had bail denied. More information was coming out about him every day. He was spending a lot of time with his attorney, that was keeping him up to date with all of the developments.

So people like that who lose so much so fast are always a suicide risk. I think the whole thing smacks of negligence. It may be just simple incompetence. It may not be some conspiracy theory, like some people are proposing on social media.

It may just be that a guard was not looking out when he or she should have been. But something clearly went wrong here.

ALLEN: Right. So what are the chances that the women that you represent will see some sort of justice now, do you think?

BLOOM: I think the chances are very good because we're not giving up. We're going to fight. I have fought other predatory billionaires before and beaten them. I just got an $11 million verdict for one woman in a case a couple of months ago against another billionaire, that's accused of preying on many, many women.

So I'm used to fighting these guys. I'm used to the fact that they try to hide their money. But this is different because Jeffrey Epstein is now gone and his money is presumably left in a will or a trust to his family, his friends, his colleagues.

And I'm calling upon them to do the right thing, to hold those assets and let the victims come forward with credible claims and prove their claims and give the victims in Jeffrey Epstein's death the justice and the compensation that they were denied in his life. I'm sure that people around Jeffrey Epstein, his family, his friends are better human beings than he was.

After all, that's a pretty low bar. They probably feel mortified and embarrassed that they were even associated with him. Now is their chance to do the right thing. Throw out the legal technicality arguments, like the statute of limitations, and let the victims get compensated so they can go on with their lives.

ALLEN: Speaking of those associated or allegedly associated with him, what about the rich and powerful and in some cases famous men implicated in the documents that were unsealed.

Are these men free and clear now?

BLOOM: Well, there are continuing investigations and the local prosecutors are still conducting criminal investigations. Those investigations turn on victims coming forward.

People call me every day and they say, I have information, Lisa, I don't want to get involved. I'm afraid. I say the only way the justice system can work is if people speak out. The only way I can win a trial is with witnesses.

We need live witnesses who are willing to take that risk and, as attorneys, we circle around them, we protect them. We help them. And so many women have already gone before when it comes to Jeffrey Epstein and been brave.

So if there's other women out there that are also Jeffrey Epstein victims or simply seeking compensation or want to know what their rights are, now is the time to reach out to an attorney. And they should feel relatively safe and secure because the primary perpetrator, the predator, Jeffrey Epstein is now dead.

ALLEN: We appreciate your insights, victims' rights attorney Lisa Bloom. Thank you, Lisa.

BLOOM: Thank you so much.


ALLEN: We want to take you now live to Hong Kong where pro-democracy protests are underway yet again for the 10th straight weekend.


ALLEN (voice-over): Thousands of people are marching in the streets and apparently, as you can see from this video, there is tear gas being used on these protesters.

Of course, many want to bring their pro-democracy demands to the world, they're also staging a sit-in, they have been at Hong Kong's International Airport.


ALLEN: We have got two reporters covering the story, Ivan Watson is at a march in Kowloon and Ben Wedeman in Causeway Bay.

Ivan, what have you been hearing about the tear gas we're seeing?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this location we have a confrontation lining up right now. This is a police station here, where the officers are clearly on alert, nervous, sending warnings repeatedly.

They have blue flags, saying they could use force, telling demonstrators not to point their lasers, to back off, and warning residents to close their windows. And down this deserted street, a standoff, like an urban O.K. Corral, you have demonstrators with their umbrellas, helmets, masks, they have --


WATSON: -- ripped out traffic barriers to create these makeshift barriers here and this is a standoff that has been going on for about 20 minutes, half an hour now.

And the police stations in this city, as this kind of 10-week civil disobedience phenomenon has continued, have increasingly become a target for the hardline protesters, who engage in vandalism and periodic clashes with the riot police.

At this location we have not yet seen any tear gas; there have been reports in another location. It is worth noting that, in this part of town, the demonstration began; it was an unauthorized assembly, according to the police.

But thousands and thousands of protesters peacefully marched, chanting things like, "Down with the police" and "Comply with our five demands" to the Hong Kong government and now we clearly have a group of hardliners here who are engaged in this face-off with the police.

I'm hearing sirens in the distance. I don't know if those are ambulances or police but what a remarkable scene you've got now, where the police are hiding behind the walls and spikes of a police station.

And this, of course, is a force that is supposed to be protecting the community. Instead, they're taking shelter from demonstrators about 100 yards away. -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, you mentioned the lasers, we can see them there, we see the people wearing the tear gas masks in case it comes to that at your location.

Let's cross over to Ben Wedeman, to see what the situation is where you are -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Natalie, since we last spoke when we were in an authorized gathering, we are now in an unauthorized march. This is Hennessy Road, one of the main thoroughfares in Hong Kong; this is Causeway Bay, a major shopping center.

The roads are no longer operational at the moment because there are thousands of people who left Victoria Park and have now streamed onto this road and continue going down.

Now unlike where Ivan is, however, there are no police to be seen yet. Certainly given that this major road -- it is like blocking Fifth Avenue in New York -- is now nonoperational as a commercial area, we can expect the police to come in at some point. But certainly this shows you sort of the dynamic of the protests here.

They start off at these authorized gatherings and then, when those are officially over, they go out into this street and it is a whole different situation. And this is where the problems can begin. -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Many of these protesters, the ones at the airport as well, have been predominantly young people.

How would you say the mix of these crowds are where you are today?

WEDEMAN: At Victoria Park, it was a real mix. We spoke to parents and their children; there were older and younger people, it was a real mix. Here, even though there still are some people of a certain age among

the protesters, the vast majority are young. And they are obviously more prepared to go into the streets but as you can see -- hello -- not everybody is young out here and they are coming to where, indeed, there could be trouble shortly -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, two situations we're watching. Ben Wedeman is there as is Ivan Watson, we'll stay in close contact with both of you as this story evolves there in Hong Kong.

Next here, North Korea is launching more missiles. It is also railing against war games held by the U.S. and South Korea. That's a yearly occurrence. But we'll tell you why the U.S. president says he agrees with the North.

Also, as the U.S. and Mexico mourn the victims of two more mass shootings, the world asks why the needless bloodshed is allowed to go on.





ALLEN: The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it has attacked what it describes as a target posing a direct threat after armed separatists captured the presidential palace in Aden. Aden is home of the internationally recognized government backed by Saudi Arabia; it was ousted from the capital, Sanaa, in 2015.

The separatists agreed to calls for an immediate cease-fire by the Saudi-led coalition. Riyadh is demanding the separatists withdraw from government-held positions seized in recent fighting. Let's go to Sam Kiley who is covering the story for us from Abu Dhabi.

You've been in Yemen before reporting and now it seems, if it is possible, the situation continues to deteriorate, Sam.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, deteriorate is definitely the right word, perhaps not even strong enough, because what we've got now is -- and we have just spoken to Nizar Haitham, the spokesman for the Southern Transitional Council, claiming they now are in control of pretty much all of the city of Aden and that includes, they say, the airport and the port.

I also have spoken to a U.N. official, who says they are maintaining their presence on the ground and they are very concerned that the port may get closed as a result of these clashes.

What is behind the clashes?

You have an extraordinary situation, effectively pitching two sides of what is generally known as the Saudi-led coalition against each other. On the one hand, you have the STC, the Southern Transitional Council, that, up until now, had been backed by the United Arab Emirates against a militia backed by Saudi Arabia.

Now the militia more broadly is associated with the government; technically, both sides and the United States and the international community support but the Southerners say is now infiltrated by a group called Islah, which they allege has elements of Al Qaeda within in it and whom they accuse of using heavy weapons during the fighting over the last few days.

Now Medecins sans Frontieres, which has a hospital there, said the hospital yesterday was in danger of being overwhelmed with casualties. Today, though, the reports are that the situation has been dialing down. Just one last thing, Natalie, the Southerners are saying they will go to peace talks in Riyadh.

ALLEN: All right, well, we'll end on that note for sure, Sam Kiley, thank you so much.

North Korea is slamming the South for hosting joint military drills with the United States. It is even threatening to lock Seoul out of future talks with the U.S. if the war games continue.

The North is also showing off what it says is a new weapon, personally overseen by its leader Kim Jong-un. It released these pictures on Saturday and they appear, you'll see in a moment, to show Mr. Kim --


ALLEN: -- grinning, pointing and watching a missile launch. Pictures like these have led to the U.S. and North Korea trading threats in the past but U.S. president Donald Trump looked to downplay things on Saturday.

On Twitter, he said the North Korean leader wrote him a very nice letter and wants to meet as soon as the drills end with South Korea. He also said the North Korean leader was sorry for missile tests and he looks forward to seeing the dictator in the not too distant future.

Let's break this down with David Culver, live for us in Seoul.

It is this back and forth and back and forth, it is hard to make sense of what these two leaders are really thinking -- David.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question, Natalie. It seems that North Korea here is using President Trump's words and his tweets to justify these recent launches.

As you point out, the president does not seem overly concerned with these short-range missile launches. He says these are not intercontinental ballistic missiles, not nuclear tests.

But it is worth pointing out they still violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and they're raising tensions here on the peninsula. Now the North Korean officials seem to feel that this is something that they're right to do, that they are in the OK to go ahead and launch these missiles as an act of defense.

We're going through a few of the statements that were released a short time ago from North Korea. And one of the senior government officials cites President Trump's words and his characterization that a sovereign nation has the right to protect itself; so that's exactly that they say they're doing.

In those same statements, they slam South Korea for their involvement in these joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. So a lot of back and forth that no doubt will continue as we continue to monitor it.

Right. And they also always slam South Korea for participating in the yearly drills with the United States. All right, David Culver, watching it for us from Seoul, thank you, David.

A presidential candidate is overcome by emotion as a hurting nation tries to heal from mass shootings and gun violence. We'll have that coming up here.





And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen with our top stories this hour.


ALLEN: Many of the Democrats running for president in the U.S. were in Iowa Saturday to present their ideas for curbing gun violence in the U.S. One of the most emotional moments came when a mother asked a question of candidate Andrew Yang.

She told him her 4-year-old daughter had been killed by a stray bullet. Yang, who has two small children, reacted this way.


QUESTION: As president, how would you address unintentional shootings by children?

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for that. Can I give you a hug?

I have a 6- and 3-year-old boy, I'm imagining -- I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw it. That scene that you described, I'm sorry, it is very, very affecting. When there is a gun in the household, you're more likely to have a child get shot or the owner get shot than to kill, let's say, an intruder into the house. Those are just numbers. Those are just the facts.


ALLEN: The woman had just told him about losing her child to that stray bullet. With each mass shooting in the U.S., renewed calls for tougher gun controls and a ban on military-style assault weapons.

Yet each time, the U.S. government fails to act and people around the world find that very difficult to understand. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has that story for us.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Grief is usually the backdrop to the United States wrestling with whether more gun control, after a two-decade pause, is politically possible. But much of the world looks on in disbelief.

For them, not just grief but tough action follow their own violent tragedies. Real, permanent gun control passed, sometimes in the matter of weeks. New Zealand passed a law in four weeks after the March 15th massacre at two Christchurch mosques, a law to ban most semi-automatic weapons and --


WALSH: -- a buyback scheme for some of the 1.2 million guns in the country.

JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: You can draw a line and say that that does not mean that you need military style semi- automatic weapons and assault rifles, you do not. New Zealand had its experience and changed its laws. To be honest with you, I do not understand the United States.

WALSH (voice-over): After a 1996 shooting of 35 people at a popular tourist site in Tasmania, Australia took 650,000 guns out of circulation in a buyback scheme and banned high-caliber rifles and shotguns.

JOHN HOWARD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Let there be a dramatic reduction in the number of automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the Australian community.

WALSH (voice-over): The United Kingdom banned handguns entirely in 1997 after 16 children aged 5 to 6 were shot dead with an illegally owned pistol in the nation's own Sandy Hook.

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The people have spoken. Parliament has spoken. Handguns are banned.

WALSH (voice-over): The decade before, rifles and pump action shotguns had also been banned. Illegal ownership carries a mandatory minimum five-year jail term.

Gun-related crime is lower than 10 years ago, although fatal stabbings are rocketing. Other wealthy societies, though, are less violent than the U.S. Japan has one of the lowest murder rates in the world, 0.3 per 100,000, and very complex gun controls. Only shotguns and rifles are allowed and you have to pass a mental and drug test, a written exam and all-day class where you have to get 95 percent of target practice. Police check your relatives and news for extremist links and can seize or search for weapons easily.

Japanese traveling to the U.S. were warned this week by the foreign ministry to be aware of violent instance in what it called the "U.S. gun society." More control doesn't necessarily impact the murder rate.

What about Serbia?

Once wrecked by civil war, it has the highest legal gun ownership globally after war-torn Yemen and the U.S. That's just under 40 per 100 citizens. The U.S. has 120. But its murder rate was 1.39 per 100,000 in 2016, 123 deaths in total, a quarter of the U.S. rate of 5.35.

Tests must be passed every five years for a license, a reason for a gun given as a background check and semi-automatic weapons are banned, there are also many legal weapons in Serbia, too.

The global experience is broadly that less guns in society mean fewer violent deaths. But even where gun ownership is common, few nations match the everyday violence of the United States.

Some Americans may feel a sense of revulsion toward those who take away their guns. In much of the rest of the world the same feeling is inspired by the United States' repeated failure to act -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


ALLEN: Let's talk more about this with Philip Alpers, founder of and an associate professor at the University of Sydney School of Public Health.

Thank you for joining us. That story illustrates what is going on in the United States compared to the rest of the world. Certainly gun violence is an epidemic here, yet gun control measures always fail.

Why can't the U.S. find a path out of this?

PHILIP ALPERS, GUNPOLICY.ORG: Epidemic is a very good word to use. The United States already has all of the public health tools needed to completely conquer this problem. You taught the world how to reduce the road death toll. You taught the world how to reduce the HIV death toll, the tobacco-related disease toll.

We learned all of this from America. And these are standard public health measures, which everybody has known about for a century and America pioneered them.

And yet, for ideological reasons and reasons like the mythology of the gun -- the God-given right to own a firearm, ideology is really the only thing that stands in the way in the United States. ALLEN: And with that ideology becomes fear because it always comes down to this. They're coming to take your guns. And that is that mentality, that ideology that seems to paralyze the United States.

ALPERS: Fear is at the center of it. Fear, racism, fear of the other people, brown people and a conviction, unfortunately, that more guns makes you safer. Statistically, the opposite is true. The rest of the world sees guns not as the solution but as part of the problem. And it is --


ALPERS: -- you said earlier, it is very, very hard for outsiders in France, China, Australia, New Zealand, it is very hard for us to understand why America has this blind spot when it comes to guns.

You have a road toll of 30,000 people dying a year; you have a -- you put in -- there are thousands of researchers working on that, millions, billions of dollars being spent on reducing the problem. You have 30,000 people dying from gunshot every year in the United States.

And yet the -- there is a prohibition on research. There is a Republican-led mandate that no federal research shall be funded into gun control. To outsiders, this seems completely crazy.

ALLEN: Let's talk about Australia in particular; 650,000, I believe, guns came back in, were turned in, there was a buyback. I can't imagine that happening in the United States. But it did work in Australia.

ALPERS: That was only in two federal buybacks; in total, about a million guns were destroyed in Australia or a total of 42 police and other police states. Amnesty has brought in a million guns all up. That's about a third of the guns in Australia.

And they were destroyed. And as a result, the risk of an Australian dying by gunshot dropped by 50 percent and has stayed there ever since for the past 24 years.

Now that was -- is seen around the world as a success. New Zealand has just done almost the same thing and will soon have many of the same results.

It is beyond -- it beggars belief to see that these solutions are not at least considered in the United States and there is no way in the world the United States can do what Australia and New Zealand did. It amounted to confiscation of private property and the threat of going to jail and destruction of those firearms.

To do the same thing on the same scale in the United States, you would have to destroy 90 million firearms. It is not going to happen in the United States because the country is so saturated with lethal weapons.

ALLEN: Exactly. And sadly it seems that massacres are becoming the new normal in this country. As you say, a country with so much leadership in the world but this is the one thing we can't push past. We appreciate you joining us and joining in this conversation. Thank you.

ALPERS: You're welcome.

ALLEN: We turn to Russia next because something is going on in the streets there. It is being called the largest political protest in years. We'll tell you why people are in the streets.





ALLEN: Want to take you to Russia, tens of thousands of people hit the streets of Moscow Saturday to demand free and fair local elections.


ALLEN (voice-over): You can see how some were treated there. A monitoring group says hundreds of people were arrested as some 50,000 rallied in the Russian capital. It is being called one of the country's biggest political protests in years. Demonstrators demanding independent candidates in Moscow elections, many fed up with corruption, they say, and the policies of Russian president Vladimir Putin.


ALLEN: So this could be a new day for him as these protests are very large. Let's get the latest now from our Fred Pleitgen watching it all in Moscow.

Hi, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly I think some of it surprised the authorities how many people turned up at these protests. These protests, they have been going on for a while, they haven't been this big but they certainly have shown a great deal of longevity.

What we had over the past couple of weeks is we had protests where maybe a 1,000, 2,000, up to 10,000 people would show up and a lot of people would get arrested. What happened yesterday is that these protests were sanctioned and they were allowed. And so a lot of people showed up.

As you mentioned, the organizers saying 50,000 people who took to the streets, whereas the police not surprisingly put that number a lot lower, saying it was only about 20,000.

Judging from those pictures, certainly does seem that a big crowd was on the street there. Fewer people than in the past couple of weeks have been arrested and those were mostly arrested after the sanctioned part of the protest took place, when people tried to march on, especially toward the city center of Moscow.

However, one of the things that does seem to be the case, that the authorities certainly do seem to be surprised, is how many people actually did turn up because it was horrible weather yesterday. And we know that always plays a role in how these protests pan out. And yet that many people did turn up.

You're actually -- you're right, Natalie, there are three issues that are at stake for these protesters. On the one hand, the local election where many have been barred from running and they feared it was shady reasons given, the authorities saying they believe some of the signatures gathered by these candidates were fake.

The candidates reject that. Some opposition candidates also had been arrested in the past couple of weeks as these protests have been building up. A lot of people also not happy with the politics of Vladimir Putin.

And then last and certainly not least, a lot of people saying they are unhappy with what they say is brutality on the side of the police as well.

ALLEN: All right, Fred Pleitgen following in Moscow, thanks very much.

A deadly storm ravages part of China in a series of extreme weather events hitting the Western Pacific and Southern Asia. We'll talk to you about it right after this.






ALLEN: Devastation in eastern China to show you, where the death toll has now risen to 32 people killed by what was typhoon Lekima. It's now downgraded to a tropical storm but it left destruction and heartbreak in its wake.



ALLEN: Before we go, we have a force of nature to share with you of another kind. Simone Biles, the first gymnast to land a double- twisting double somersault dismount off the balance beam. Team USA says it is history-making, jaw-dropping.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: There is a reason why she's called the best in the world.

ALLEN: The five-time Olympic medalist completed the move Friday at the U.S. Gymnastics championship in Kansas City, Missouri. As we like to say, don't try that at home.

VAN DAM: #LifeGoals.

ALLEN: For our viewers in the U.S. "NEW DAY" is ahead. For everyone else, right back with the headlines.