Return to Transcripts main page
55th Anniversary Of Bloody Sunday In Selma, Alabama; Patient In Washington State Is First Confirmed Coronavirus Death In U.S.; Joe Biden Wins South Carolina Primary By Nearly 30 Points. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 1, 2020 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin in Selma, Alabama where 2020 Democrats are among those you see, hundreds of people gathering to mark the 55th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
While there, they are participating in the Annual March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and now, we're learning that U.S. Congressman John Lewis will be among them there in Selma.
Lewis has been battling stage four pancreatic cancer after being diagnosed late last year, and on Friday, we were told that Lewis was not expected to attend due to his health, but today, one of his representatives in his D.C. office telling me that he is indeed there.
He will be at the apex of the bridge. And then he will have an opportunity to exchange greetings with marchers there. He has been there virtually every year as a tradition.
And let's go now to Arlette Saenz who is in Selma at the march. Arlette, what is the mood like now? And how inspired are people to learn that Congressman Lewis will be there?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Fredricka, it will certainly be a very emotional moment here in Selma when Congressman John Lewis shows up for today's commemorations. It had been uncertain whether he would actually be able to attend this year's anniversary commemorations as he is undergoing treatment for stage four pancreatic cancer.
And it was 55 years ago when a young John Lewis in his 20s led a march of group of demonstrators across this bridge as they were voting or as they were marching for voting rights, and some Alabama State Troopers ended up beating and teargassing many of the protester demonstrators who were here on site 55 years ago.
John Lewis himself even sustaining a fracture to his skull in that event that was ultimately called Bloody Sunday, and he will be here on site in just a short while.
This march is about to kick off in about 30 minutes and in addition to John Lewis being here today, several of the 2020 Democratic contenders are also on a hand for today's commemorations. Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg School spoke just a short while ago down the street from the bridge at the Brown Chapel AME Church.
Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar among the Democratic contenders who are also expected to march across this bridge today, but certainly the high point for the hundreds of people that are gathering here today, that emotional high point will be when Congressman John Lewis appears.
WHITFIELD: Yes, and Arlette, I mean, Selma, you know, is a very condensed and compact space, but it has so many churches that virtually it could have a church on every corner. But that Brown Chapel is significant because that is where Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others, you know, foot soldiers in the Civil Rights Movement would meet before particularly the march from Selma to Montgomery.
And then at that Brown AME Church, a number of candidates have come there. You mentioned, you know, Joe Biden, but also billionaire and Democratic candidate, Michael Bloomberg. He was there. He spoke, but he didn't receive a warm reception from everyone.
SAENZ: No, not from everyone in that church. He did -- Michael Bloomberg did receive a bit of a frosty reception from some members who are attending that church service this morning, as he was talking about his economic justice plan for black America, a few parishioners there stood up in their pews and turned their back to Michael Bloomberg.
There has been questions about what kind of support Michael Bloomberg might get from the African-American community as we are heading into Super Tuesday, he has poured a lot of resources and spent time here in Alabama, which is one of those Super Tuesday states.
And also speaking this morning was former Vice President Joe Biden, who is fresh off a victory in South Carolina and believes that he could perform well in southern states like Alabama, particularly because of the importance of the black vote here.
African-American voters made up a majority of the Democratic primary electorate back in 2016 and that is something that Biden is hoping that he can get some -- a group that he's hoping that he can get some support from.
He did quite well among African-American voters in South Carolina yesterday, but Michael Bloomberg did receive a frosty reception during that church service this morning.
WHITFIELD: All right, Arlette Saenz. Thank you so much. Of course, it looks like hundreds if not thousands of people are there to commemorate 55 years. It was just five years ago, it was President Barack Obama, Representative John Lewis, Reverend Jesse Jackson, so many who were there to reenact once again walk across that bridge, hand in hand and here we are now at a 55-year mark.
Thank you so much, Arlette. We'll check back with you.
[15:05:10] WHITFIELD: All right, meantime, we turn now to growing concerns about
the spread of coronavirus. Here in the U.S. today, the President announcing new screening procedures for people arriving from high risk countries.
This coming as we're learning of new coronavirus cases being reported in Washington State and Rhode Island that brings the total number of us cases to 74.
In Kirkland, Washington, our Omar Jimenez is with us now. Omar, what are you learning about this potential outbreak at a nursing facility near Seattle?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. At this life care nursing facility just behind me right now, you look at this place alone, you have two people that have already tested positive for coronavirus, a health worker in her 40s and a woman in her 70s that was a resident here.
You have 25 firefighters and two police officers who are now being quarantined as a result of responding to calls at this facility. You have more than 50 people, both residents and workers here at this facility that are being tested for potential coronavirus, and on top of that, you have a number of people who are already showing respiratory symptoms and/or signs of pneumonia.
So you can see why both state and Federal officials are so concerned about this site. They are treating it as a potential outbreak and we know that investigation is going to continue over the course of today as the C.D.C. has now sent a team of experts out here to help support the state health investigators to try and get a handle on how exactly and where exactly this potential outbreak may have come from.
WHITFIELD: And the first U.S. patient to die from this virus is also from the State of Washington. What more are you learning about the victim?
JIMENEZ: Not just from the state, but here in this specific county, King County in Seattle. The first person to die as a result of the coronavirus here in the United States was a man in his 50s. He did have underlying conditions according to county officials here.
But one of the major points of concerns is that this person didn't show any signs of a travel history that would have put him in front of one zones or places that has been really heavily hit by this.
So that points the fact that this was likely a community spread case. And of course, that is one of the major points of concerns and just a little bit earlier this morning, we learned of two new cases that popped up here in this county bringing the total to six and obviously something officials are going to keep an eye on as we get into this week -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Omar Jimenez, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it. I want to bring in now CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay
Gupta. So aside from this death in King County, Washington, there are now at least five other cases of coronavirus in that county alone. So what more do we know about these cases? If there is any connection at all.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there may be connections between these cases, but it can be hard to parse out, you know, just along what Omar was saying there.
You know, there's this idea of community spread, people not having any known contact with people who have been infected. This man in his 50s who died, he was treated at the same hospital as a resident from that long term care facility and a person who worked at that care facility also has been diagnosed as positive with the coronavirus.
Then there is a Postal Worker who has been diagnosed, there is a person who has had traveled to South Korea, we know of two men in their 60s who are in critical condition in that area due to the coronavirus infections.
So what they all have in common is hard to say and look, at some point, you know, this is what public health investigators do. But as the numbers grow and all of these overlapping circles of connection continue to grow, it's going to be more challenging to figure out how they're connected.
If there is community spread, Fred, at some point, then that question and that answer doesn't matter as much. At that point, we know, the virus is in the community.
WHITFIELD: So President Trump, you know, announced new screening measures, which would include screening people from high risk areas, both before, you know, they board; after they arrive in the U.S., this is a virus and it doesn't necessarily, you know, show all the symptoms right away. So how will they know who to target?
GUPTA: Yes, it's really challenging. And I mean, you know, it certainly makes sense because people who are going to be most at risk for having contracted the virus are people who are traveling to areas where the virus is spreading. That part makes sense, but it can't be in isolation, it just can't be the screenings.
They are screening before patients get on the flights and then when they land, you know, checking for basic type, flu-like symptoms to see if someone sort of fits that bill.
But to your point, and we were just looking at this, Fred, there's been more than 46,000 people who have been screened as of February 23rd, eleven travelers were referred to a hospital and tested and only one tested positive for coronavirus.
GUPTA: So, you know, in terms of actually finding people, it doesn't work that well, but I think these passengers also get educated. Look, here's the things to watch out for. You should isolate yourself if you start to feel sick, and things that might help curb the spread.
WHITFIELD: There have been a lot of questions, you know, about readiness, you know, for a large scale type of testing. Have a listen to what Vice President Mike Pence, you know, told CNN earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm happy to report that this weekend, more than 15,000 testing kits have been released. Also, the F.D.A. has approved a testing regimen that state and local officials can be using.
And beyond that, we actually are working with a commercial provider with a new testing framework to send another 50,000 kits out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So for now, 15,000, fifty thousand later, are those comforting numbers?
GUPTA: Well, look, I have to say, I think we've been pretty far behind on this, the testing. You know, I've been talking about this for some time. You know, our public health system does so many things in this country so well, but if we don't have surveillance, we don't know who actually is carrying this virus in their bodies, it becomes very hard for all the other aspects of the public health system to work.
I mean, I think we have some of the numbers here. You can see in South Korea, for example, they've tested some 65,000 patients in the U.K., some 7,000 patients in the United States, closer to 500 so far, and, you know, again, there's a lot of people out there who may have been exposed to this virus that we will never know about as a result of simply not testing.
So this helps getting the testing kits out there, but the time that was bought by China, you know, actually imposing these quarantines should have been used to get these testing kits out earlier.
I mean, that's just plain and simple and I think compared to other countries, we didn't do very well here.
WHITFIELD: All right, maybe there's an opportunity for some catch up. All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thank you so much.
GUPTA: Yes, thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, with me now, Reid Wilson. He is a national correspondent for "The Hill," and author of "Epidemic: Ebola and the Global Scramble to Prevent the Next Killer Outbreak." Reid, good to see you. So how concerned should Americans be in the wake of these new cases of coronavirus in the U.S.?
REID WILSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE HILL: Well, it's clear that there are going to be more cases around the country. Some researchers studying some of those Washington State cases that Dr. Gupta was mentioning have found that they are genetically pretty identical to the first case that came to Washington State back in January.
And that suggests that this virus has been spreading in the community for about six weeks now, and the researchers suggest there may be as many as 1,500 people who have gotten the virus in Washington State.
Now the good news is, those 1,500 people didn't show up at hospital, so they probably had relatively minor symptoms and that goes to the broader point that about four in every five people who get the coronavirus that we know of show no or relatively minor symptoms.
So there's some good news. But it is clear as the President said over the last couple of days, this virus is going to spread and you just consider the wide range of places where we've seen new cases -- California, Oregon, Washington State, Illinois, and now Rhode Island.
WHITFIELD: But how much do you worry about those cases that may have indeed have been cases but not identified as coronavirus cases, as you just said, they may have been, I guess, categorized as something else.
WILSON: Yes. Or maybe these people didn't even go seek treatment because they just thought they had a common cold. And that's where the danger of this virus spreading comes from.
Dr. Gupta mentioned the community spread when somebody comes into the U.S. who has the coronavirus, if they get -- come into contact with somebody else who then maybe exhibits low level symptoms, you might lose the threat and you might not be able to trace just where these virus -- these cases are coming from and where the resources need to be for hospitals and medical facilities to be ready for an influx of cases if and when that happens.
WHITFIELD: And Reid, the President held a news conference yesterday in an effort to show the administration is taking the outbreak more seriously and to try to get a perhaps even, you know, tamper down any panic that has already set in in some corners.
So he plans to visit the C.D.C. this week in Atlanta. Does it appear the President and his administration is now taking this outbreak threat seriously, and how important is it to have the backdrop of the C.D.C.?
WILSON: Yes, I think it's clear that the President's initial -- the administration's initial approach to this was to downplay it to try to pretend that this virus would not spread around the country. That's not the right set of messaging here.
You have to warn people about what might be coming in case that it actually does come. This is what the Obama administration did when the Ebola outbreak happened. What the Obama administration did when H1N1 spread across the country.
Remember, Michelle Obama coughing into her elbow to show people the proper sort of etiquette to make sure they didn't get the flu.
Tell people what to expect so that they can prepare, so that they can increase their, you know, washing their hands and coughing into their elbows and anything that might prevent the possible spread. That's good.
WILSON: And the President is now focusing a lot more on those C.D.C. experts. You know, Dr. Robert Redfield, who runs the C.D.C., Tony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Infectious and Allergic Diseases, so that's good.
The experts seem to be on hand. They seem to be -- they seem to have a direct line to the President. And that's good, not just for the administration, it's good for all the rest of us who are going to get that real scientific knowledge that they have to spread.
WHITFIELD: Yes, it sounds like you believe that it's really important to hear from them directly, the scientists, the doctors, to help pacify the general populace.
WILSON: Yes, well, -- to inform the general populace and let us know that this disease is in the United States and it is possible to get it. However, here's how you can protect yourself. You can wash your hands, you can cover your coughs and just not come or try to avoid contact with people who are sick. It's a great reminder.
And the experts are there. They have decades of experience in this. Let's listen to them.
WHITFIELD: All right, Reid Wilson. Thank you so much. Good to see you.
WILSON: You've got it, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, coming up. A big victory for Joe Biden in the race for the presidency. How will his win in South Carolina affect Super Tuesday and his Democratic opponents?
Plus, at any moment, Civil Rights leaders will march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark 55 years since Bloody Sunday.
And we're expecting to see Congressman John Lewis, who was on the front lines of the fight for voting rights in 1965, and many times thereafter and of course, you're seeing some Democratic presidential candidates.
You see Amy Klobuchar there also meeting with Reverend Jesse Jackson, not a candidate this time, but he has been a presidential candidate before. All of them are there.
And we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right, Joe Biden energizes his campaign with his first victory of the 2020 Democratic primary season. The former Vice President telling Jake Tapper that his nearly 30 point win over Bernie Sanders proves he is best fit to take on President Trump in November. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won every single solitary county in the state, and as you said, we won conventionally. That doesn't mean I'll do that everywhere.
But what's happening is that, look, people aren't looking for a revolution, in my view. What they're looking for, is they're looking for results. They're looking for getting things done.
And Bernie doesn't have a very good track record of getting things done in the United States Congress and the United States Senate. And, much of what he's proposing is very, very much pie in the sky.
He is talking about spending $60 trillion, and not raising taxes on the middle class and being able to get it done quickly, and so on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, joining me right now, Hilary Rosen, a CNN political commentator and democratic strategist; and Andrew Gillum, a CNN political commentator and former Florida gubernatorial candidate. Good to see you both.
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Fred.
ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You, too, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. So Hilary you first, you know, Joe Biden and his campaign certainly energized. But how will they repeat in 14 states, Super Tuesday what they just accomplished in South Carolina?
ROSEN: Well, it's hard because obviously Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, for that matter, has been spending a lot of money in Super Tuesday states, whereas the Biden campaign had a retrenchment and ended up sort of throwing everything they had into South Carolina, but I think you'll see the campaign getting more resources over the course of the next 48 hours, and I think that they will be competitive whether they can do that on the ground as good a ground game as Sanders has, I don't know.
But you know, I just want to go to that --
WHITFIELD: Is that the key though? Because I mean, you heard James Clyburn, you know, over the weekend, who says he believes Biden's campaign needs to be retooled.
Yes, he celebrates with him a South Carolina victory. But that, you know, some restructuring needs to happen.
ROSEN: Well, I'm not sure that it's about the restructuring of the campaign. I think they just need more resources. You can't -- you can't win without getting -- having people on the ground that get your folks to the polls in a primary that's -- you know, essentially where we are right now. But I also think that Vice President Biden has to get a little more
inspirational. I think telling people they shouldn't have dreams is not going to be a good long term message. Cutting down someone else's dreams is not a good long term message.
Talking about results is good. But I do think that part of Sanders appeal is that, you know, he gives people, you know, a roadmap to a better life. And I think that Joe Biden has that in his heart and I think he has the credibility to do that.
Over the course of the next couple of days, I think that's as important as anything else.
WHITFIELD: And Andrew, you know, CNN exit polls show that Biden you know won over 60 percent of the black vote in South Carolina, while only one in five black voters supported Bernie Sanders.
The Sanders campaign made a strong effort, you know, to reach out to black voters in South Carolina this year, but it didn't translate into victory, at least, you know, for South Carolina.
But, you know, these upcoming races will still be a test on some diversity. Alabama, you know, among those states; North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, is it fair to look at the candidates and say one has an advantage over the other when you look at those states?
GILLUM: Well, I mean, there's no doubt that Vice President Biden get a pretty important shot in the arm on yesterday. Your questions are appropriate. We are about to move into Super Tuesday in just three days and you're talking about states you know, that are massive.
You've got southern states in there, but you've also got the states of California and Texas, which are huge, where media markets really do matter, where organization matters.
WHITFIELD: And there's diversity in California and in Texas, but we're also talking about a very different -- you know, a very different electorate. You know, there's no monolithic thinking among, you know, voters who are black or Latino.
GILLUM: No, but for sure, there's no monolith without a doubt, and we even saw in South Carolina amongst younger voters who we all knew, at least when we were being honest about it, that Bernie Sanders had a much stronger foothold with that younger demographic.
And it looks like coming out of South Carolina, that both Biden and Senator Sanders pretty much split that younger African-American vote where Senator Sanders however, I think, has an advantage going to the Super Tuesday as he has had folks on the ground organizing in these states for quite some time.
He has built a campaign that was one that was built to last and to Congressman Clyburn's point, he is pointing out that look, we've got to now get ready for a national campaign.
This is a long road ahead and I just want to opine just a moment on a comment that Hilary made because I could not agree more. And I got a little bit cautious about it when I heard Senator Biden speaking this morning, please, please, please don't run the rest of this race, telling Americans what we cannot accomplish.
I would ask him to reach into, I think the optimism that does exist within him, while yes, we want people who can provide results. We also want to make sure that we're getting voters to get out there and vote for something and not just against something.
I think an aspirational tone can certainly be co-located with a term that says we also want results, but results that move this country forward. I think that's an important part of his message going forward.
WHITFIELD: Yes, success to most candidacies, you know, the route is inspiration. People want to be inspired by a candidate.
All right, Andrew Gillum, Hilary Rosen, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
ROSEN: Thank you, Fred.
GILLUM: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Oh, stick around. I'm going to have you back. Let's talk some more. We've got lots to talk about.
Coming up this week on CNN, in fact, a one day 14-primary Super Tuesday is the most important test yet for the candidates and no one brings it to you like CNN. Special live coverage starts Tuesday, four o'clock right here on CNN.
All right, coming up, remembering a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, people gathering at the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark 55 years since Bloody Sunday, and this year, the Democratic presidential candidates are out in force there.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Joe Biden getting a major boost with a huge win in the South Carolina primary, but he is still behind in the fundraising battle.
Senator Bernie Sanders says his campaign raked in over $46 million in February. That's more than double the $17 million Joe Biden claims he hauled in last month, including the $5 million, he says was donated just overnight.
CNN reporter and producer Paul Vercammen joining me now from Los Angeles where Sanders will hold a rally next hour. So Paul, what more are you learning? PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that this convention
hall can hold 17,000 people, we don't know that that many will show up, but certainly, the Sanders camp trying to whip up a lot of support here today.
And as you pointed out, his fundraising going very well. And in fact, Bernie Sanders took a shot at Joe Biden for collecting money, as he says from billionaires.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not only -- it is not only the amount of money that we raise, and that is a phenomenal amount, it is how we raised it.
We don't have a Super PAC like Joe Biden. I don't go to rich people's homes like Joe Biden. I think Joe has contributions from more than 40 billionaires.
What we have done is receive more campaign contributions from more Americans than any candidate in the history of the United States, averaging $18.50. This is a campaign of working people and by working people, and I'm extraordinarily proud of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERCAMMEN: And of course the Biden campaign countering that it is whipping up its own support that Biden is emerging among some Democrats who are uncommitted as a more viable or electable candidate.
Sanders, meanwhile, would say hogwash to that, and later on in this convention center, among others, we're going to see Public Enemy perform. We will also hear from Dick Van Dyke, an older actor who says, much older people should vote for Sanders.
We'll hear from Sarah Silverman, all of that coming in the next few hours. Fred, back to you.
WHITFIELD: Oh, that's interesting, Paul and with Public Enemy, there was a little bit of a kerfuffle with Flavor Flav, who wasn't necessarily happy about some of the songs being associated with the Bernie Sanders campaign. So you'll have to fill us in on more detail on that next time I see you, CNN correspondent, Paul Vercammen. Thank you so much.
All right, still ahead, 55 years since Bloody Sunday. Right now, Civil Rights leaders and presidential candidates are gathering to mark a pivotal moment in Civil Rights history. We'll talk about it next.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Right now, live pictures, hundreds gathering in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 55th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday when Civil Rights marchers were beaten by police. Among those on hand today are 2020 Democrats running for the White
House and Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis, who was among the injured that day back in 1965.
And until Friday, Lewis was not expected to attend because of his health. The 80-year-old has been battling stage four pancreatic cancer since being diagnosed late last year, but we are told that he is at today's event. His spokesperson actually telling me that he will be in attendance at the bridge and will meet people. That's the most we're getting right now.
But people are very excited about the fact that he is there and that he is feeling well enough to be there.
Back with me now, Andrew Gillum, along with Michael Eric Dyson, author and Sociology Professor at Georgetown University. Good to see you both.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Good to see you, too.
WHITFIELD: Well, this is always an incredible event and a very meaningful gathering of people. People who were part of the Civil Rights Movement, a witness to it, who helped make history, including, of course, Congressman John Lewis, and then people who are bringing their children, their grandchildren to understand and really grasp this part of history.
And so Michael, I wonder, you know, for you, if you could just help people understand, why is it, particularly that Congressman Lewis is considered, you know, the real conscience of the U.S. Congress and for this nation?
DYSON: Right, well, he is, Fred, because, after all, this man as a young man, in his early 20s endured one of the most heinous assaults upon the physical bearing of a protester in the history of this nation along with Amelia Boynton, who on that first march was waylaid by police and a photograph was beamed around the world of her being brutally beaten, and laying prostrate on the ground.
DYSON: So the reality is, John Lewis is one of the great heroes of this movement because he too, was battered, bludgeoned by the brutal forces of not only police brutality, but resistant white supremacy.
WHITFIELD: And there is Martin Luther King, III who is walking in the crowd there. I don't know if you have a return on your monitor, but I'll just chime in every now and then as we spot people, but continue.
DYSON: Sure. And his father Martin Luther King, of course, was involved in the second march. There were three marches all together. The first on March 7th, known as Bloody Sunday when James Bevel and others led the March that day, and they were rebuffed by a brutal force and a contingent of police people who waylaid so many of them and John Lewis was beaten bloody. And then on March 9th, when Martin Luther King Jr., took the helm of
the march, and then turned around once the police stepped aside because he didn't want to violate an injunction.
And then from March 21st on, 10 miles a day, they moved from Selma until they got to Montgomery on March 24th. And then the next day, of course, held one of the great protest rallies in the history of this nation.
This all for black people being able to vote, the '64 Civil Rights Bill had made public accommodations desegregated, but the right to vote, the precious right to pull the lever and to register your conscience in America was denied to African-American people, and so as a result of that, those people doing what they did allowed many of us to vote for the wonderful Andrew Gillum, who you have here and other public officials who now represent the will of African-American people.
WHITFIELD: And magnifying the issue of police brutality and voter suppression were both at issue before this Bloody Sunday and an impetus for why so many people gathered in Selma, and were trying to make a statement, Andrew.
And so now today, 55 years after the fact, and really along the way, presidential candidates have wanted to help commemorate March 7th, and today, a number of candidates, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, are there today again, you know, tighter shots now of Martin Luther King, III walking there, through the downtown section of Selma on the way to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
But talk to us about the significance of why it is so important for presidential candidates to be there and feel that there is real symbolism in their campaigns and being there.
GILLUM: Well, Fred and Dr. Dyson knows this as well, we have always needed and required allies in this movement space. Dr. Dyson referred to my ability to be the first black person to lead a major ticket in the race for Governor here in the State of Florida.
My story would not be possible, that a Stacy Abrams, I think about Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, even President of the United States, Barack Obama, we are standing on the legacy of those foot soldiers.
Obviously, Congressman Lewis being one of them, he is not just the conscience of Congress --
WHITFIELD: And we are looking at Reverend Jesse Jackson who is also -- sorry to interrupt --
GILLUM: No, please.
WHITFIELD: But we're also looking at Reverend Jesse Jackson as he is also battling his own health issues. But go ahead.
GILLUM: That's right. No, Reverend Jackson, obviously another major contributor, these people, not only is Congressman Lewis the conscience of the Congress, I would consider him part of the conscience of the country.
And for our purposes, those of us who have been the benefactors, he has been a footstool and a willing footstool to create pathways for so many of us.
The importance of these presidential candidates being there really reminds me of the role that Lyndon B. Johnson had to play ten days after the images of Bloody Sunday made their way around the country and the world in America had to face the horrors of that day.
It was LBJ who had to compel the Congress and say that we had not gone far enough in the Voting Rights Act of '64. But we needed to take additional action in '65. And we obviously know the evolution of voting rights all the way to this day where we, right now, I'm in the State of Florida, and confronting what it means to have to battle a poll tax for all intents and purpose where 1.4 million returning citizens were approved by 65 percent of voters in the State of Florida to say they ought to be able to come back into society, vote, participate in the process, and it's being halted in the courts because of a battle between the Republican Governor and legislature, against the Federal courts.
And so that battle continues to play out. But we've got John Lewis and those foot soldiers, some we can name and others that we can't, you know, but we thank them for laying that foundation.
WHITFIELD: And we're looking at a variety of angles of the march. And you see right there presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg, he is there walking as they begin now to make their way across Edmund Pettus Bridge.
They look like they're walking on this street -- some of the streets. On their way, we saw Martin Luther King, III who was already crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge and then we also saw in a couple of shots while you were talking, we saw Amy Klobuchar as well.
And then, you know, Michael, let's talk about that Brown Chapel AME Church and the significance. I mean, these candidates, Joe Biden, among them, Michael Bloomberg was there talking today.
I remember five years ago visiting that church talking to people there who recall vividly Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Civil Rights soldiers who would meet there at that church, you know, plotting for their non-violent movement and also plotting how they were going to make a return to that that Selma Bridge and make their way to Montgomery.
Talk to me about how significant it is that Joe Biden would have an experience there talking, feel embraced by the crowd. Michael Bloomberg had words. He also had a speech there, but some people stood up and turned their back to him.
DYSON: Right. Well, the black church continues to be the linchpin of democracy for African-American people. It continues to be a bellwether and a benchmark for the progress that black people make.
And let's be honest, we've had wonderful figures like Governor-should- be Gillum and Stacey Abrams and Barack Obama, but they would not exist without the sterling rhetoric, the golden throats and the silver tongues of you know, remarkable preachers, deacons, trustees, and other figures within the church who stood up to articulate their ideals, the norms that they had been shaped in as children growing up within the church that taught love for all people, that God is no respecter of persons.
And that Brown Memorial Chapel is extremely important as a meeting house and a clearing way for African-American people and their allies to think, to generate blueprints of social democracy, of figuring a way past the brutal resistance and of police brutality.
WHITFIELD: And Michael, I hate to interrupt you, but just -- we're looking inside the vehicle now and I see John Lewis in the backseat there in the vehicle and he is there and people are around the vehicle trying to take pictures of him. He is fighting, you know, stage four pancreatic cancer.
As soon as we learned that he would be there, of course, people were wondering, you know, in what capacity will he be able to? I spoke with one of his folks, people from his office who said that he will be at the bridge and he will meet with people that was the extent of it.
And now we see that he is in the vehicle and that vehicle crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. So continue your thought, Michael.
DYSON: Yes, well, very few people have exhibited the physical courage of John Lewis, very few people have had the moral temperature to adjust the society's beliefs, ideals, norms and notions as John Lewis.
He has in his own body withstood brutal pummeling for the advance of African-American people and all people who love democracy. And now at 80 years old, as this great wizened lion of the movement, rises again to defeat hopefully, a potential foe that will take away his life. He has already been accustomed to such extraordinary fights because he has been doing it all of his life.
His country once stood against him, now, his country stands up to cheer him on. And what he understands is that we're living in a society where the vicious repudiation of rights for African-American and other peoples and the recrudescence of white bigotry has once again, occasion, a call among almost all Americans of conscience of whatever color or stripe, to rise up and stand up to tell the truth.
So John Lewis's presence there is a symbolic rallying cry, a galvanizing force to remind us that the fight is not over. That the battle is not impossible, that those who are committed to truth, justice and democracy will have the last word, and that those bloody events of 55 years ago remind us that we have yet to move on in the spirit of those often nameless, often faceless who nevertheless made history on that bridge and transformed America by their noble and transformative action.
WHITFIELD: Yes, history that needed to be remembered.
GILLUM: Fred, if I could.
WHITFIELD: Yes, Andrew.
GILLUM: No, just I first of all, very eloquently put by Dr. Dyson, but frankly, every word he speaks pretty much is. I just wanted to add that, you know, it was John Lewis who gave us the term good trouble, good, necessary trouble.
And I bring those words to bear in this moment, because I think it's important to recall that every action during the Civil Rights Movement led by these amazing foot soldiers was strategic. They were morally called, but they were also extremely strategic in making sure that they were pulling and pushing the levers of power, creating the political wheel that was necessary at that time for the actual elected leaders from Washington, D.C. down to the states, felt compelled to then take action.
None of their movements were by accident. They came at great cost, but they will get into good trouble and good strategic trouble.
WHITFIELD: Arlette Saenz has been covering the Joe Biden campaign today. She has spent a good part of the morning there in Selma at the Brown Chapel AME Church.
Arlette Saenz there at the foot of the Selma Pettus Bridge right now. So, Arlette, what are these candidates who were there, what are they hoping it means for them and their campaigns that they are there marking this 55-year mark of Bloody Sunday?
SAENZ: Well, I think all of these Democratic contenders understand the importance today holds not just in the State of Alabama, but also across the country, particularly when it comes to the African-American community.
And you're seeing Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg both spoke at that church. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bloomberg will all be marching here today, but I am at the foot of the bridge right now and you can feel the energy and excitement in the crowd.
You had Martin Luther King, III walk through just right by where we're standing a short while ago.
WHITFIELD: And right now, Arlette, we are seeing Stacey --
SAENZ: Stacey Abrams --
WHITFIELD: Yes, Stacey Abrams, right now. We are looking at that picture, so go ahead.
SAENZ: Yes. Stacey Abrams made her way through the crowd and people started cheering. In fact, that car that was holding Congressman John Lewis, he was actually here at the base of the bridge and we can see people taking photos through that car, but we couldn't quite tell it was him until we got better images up at the peak of the bridge.
But certainly this is, you can feel the electricity, the excitement here as these people have gathered to commemorate the 55th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday demonstrations, and particularly the weight that Congressman John Lewis's presence here feels with everyone. The fact that he is battling stage four pancreatic cancer and he was one of those young leaders who led this march and was personally injured, beaten by his Alabama State Troopers 55 years ago.
You can tell that people are excited here that he has arrived. I spoke with the gentleman who's sitting right next to me. He was six years old when Bloody Sunday occurred. He was telling me that his six-year- old grandson recently did a report.
So you can tell the importance and impact that this has had across generations and will certainly have for decades and years to come.
WHITFIELD: Oh, that is so true. You know, and Michael, you know, that people -- I mean, this is just 55 years ago, you know, so there are so many people in the crowd there who lived it, whether they were living in Selma, whether they were part of the march, whether they were living the experience that John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr., you know, were trying to improve.
And they are there. They bring their children, their grandchildren, as Arlette was saying, you know, it is cross generational. And it's such a pivotal, important experience to be there in Selma for this marker point, and it's actually -- it's so inspiring and actually very joyous even though it is marking Bloody Sunday.
DYSON: Yes, ma'am. Well, that is an apt summary of the African- American experience. Trauma endured the epic tide of grief washing across the horizon of black life, and yet in the midst of that, we have tenements of joy rising up, high rises of hope, that penetrate the fog to tell America that we are still here and that we will do the good thing.
And think about it, not only the great John Lewis is there, but the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and I would argue, unfortunately, and tragically, it will take his death for America to understand that after Martin Luther King, Jr., no greater leader of African-American people has emerged to carry us forward to "the promised land" as that figure right there.
And a variety of issues have blunted and distorted his meaning and significance. But it was in Selma, that Martin Luther King, Jr. first connected with this young, brilliant preacher from South Carolina, who would go on to succeed him in the minds of many people as the foremost exponent of Civil Rights in this country.
So that day is important because not only was the country awash in blood, the country is now awash in memory of that blood. But we have new battles, new stakes, new opportunities to move forward, and John Lewis and Amelia Boynton and Diane Nash and James Bevel and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the roll call of mighty heroes who have stood forth to tell the truth to America is reminding us of the poor, puny, horrible leadership in solid contrast to what these noble people will do.
They didn't have the advantage of office. They didn't have the bully pulpit at the White House and the Oval Office to declaim what they felt and to put forth their notions and ideas, but my God, out of the mud and mire of their own miserable existence, they rose up to declare that America would be better than its circumstances, and the hate that prevailed and John Lewis and Jesse Jackson, and those figures who are there today are heroes, because they remind us of it.
DYSON: That's why presidential candidates must go there. They're not going to presidential candidates -- presidential candidates are coming there to get a sense of the grief, to get a sense of the glory, to get a sense of the Shekinah glory that comes down from the suffering of the people because they were willing to, on that day, give up blood, body sinew and of the physical embodiment of their lives, to tell America the truth and now they have made America great what it is today.
WHITFIELD: And then, Andrew, speak of the capital, you know, that is gained from a candidate who gets the endorsement of a John Lewis. I mean, just last week, James Clyburn of South Carolina, also known as you know, the kingmaker, you know, for the presidential race he endorses Joe Biden.
And Clyburn had explained to me just last week about how Charleston really was intersection for him -- for he and John Lewis and Reverend Jesse Jackson and talked about, you know, this brotherhood of this support and a consciousness and their political involvement as well as their personal lives.
And then here now you have Joe Biden winning the endorsement of a James Clyburn, and now he's enjoying great success with South Carolina.
So talk to me about how important it is for a Joe Biden to be there to win the ringing endorsement of a Clyburn, and now since his victory, he is getting endorsements all across the map.
I mean, from Virginia to California, people are involved in politics, in entertainment and otherwise.
GILLUM: Yes. Well, I will tell you first all endorsements are not created equal. In the case of Congressman Clyburn, this is someone who the people of South Carolina know, they've known him over the decades. They've known both him and his wife and their family. His sacrifice and service to the state --
WHITFIELD: Terri Sewell who represents that District of Selma. Those were her words. In fact, she says, you know, I know Joe and he knows us.
GILLUM Yes, that's right.
WHITFIELD: Very similar to what James Clyburn said. GILLUM: That's right, and that carries tremendous weight, especially
when given the fact that so many people have been so tenuous about who to support in this race.
We've been really battling in our own heads who is best to be electable. And when the Congressman came out, he gave extremely moving and personal testimony about why it is at this moment, we should trust and entrust in Joe Biden our votes, our support, and help him to become the next President of the United States.
WHITFIELD: And I'll leave it right there, Andrew Gillum because we're about to lose your window, but we're seeing people now walk through the main streets of downtown Selma at on their way to Edmund Pettus Bridge. We'll be right back after this.