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Riots Erupt Over Demands That Cops Be Charged In Death; Trump Tweets Sympathies, Stokes Cultural Wars As 100,000+ Die. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 28, 2020 - 13:00   ET



CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: And so, I think you'll see a shift in that today. So, I'm always hopeful because it's the same community that has supported me from it.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, you have been listening here to city officials in Minneapolis, they have been speaking on the violent riots that have erupted in the city over the death of an unarmed black man in police custody. His name is George Floyd.

And the video shows an officer pinning him down by his neck even as he pleaded that he could not breathe, even as he was already restrained. He died shortly after.

And there were riots erupting overnight. At least 30 fires reported, some buildings burned to the ground, stores were destroyed and looted.

Let's go to Omar Jimenez for a report on the very latest here. Omar, this was the police chief saying that even though the police department has let the community down, he's not going to let there be harm done to the community that's going to adversely affect individuals there.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We just heard from the police chief, Arradondo, and then, of course, the mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey. And they spoke about a change in dynamic that we saw in regard to the protests last night as opposed to the ones from two nights ago.

The ones last night did largely start peaceful but then eventually devolved into rioting and looting, which you are seeing the aftermath of today. I mean, this AutoZone, or at least what used to be AutoZone, was fully functional last night, less than 24 hours ago. And then just within a matter of hours was eventually on fire and burned down to the ground. It is a place that has had flare-ups over the course of the day. You see fire crews continuing to work on it as we speak.

And you mentioned fire department reporting at least or around, I should say, 30 fires reported during just the protests alone and in just these few blocks here. And that was a scene that we encountered when we got here in the early morning hours. There were multiple buildings on fire, fires that seemed to be jumping from building to building. And then on top of all that, we have this dynamic. Over here, this is the Minneapolis Police Precinct, what has essentially been the centerpiece, the center location for these protests. You see how boarded up this precinct is basically because all the windows were smashed over the course of the past two days. They have now put up these fences that just went up over the course of this morning.

And you see this group that is newly gathered here on my right shoulder here, they are gathered in front of what appears to be a line of police officers standing, again, on the edge of their property. So even days after we've seen the death of George Floyd, there is still heavy, heavy tension within this community, tension that we have seen play out over the course of clashes with police and protesters, as we see more police coming in to the scene here.

We've seen them in some cases trying to bribe (ph) support for the fire department in case they were unable to do their jobs safely.

But when you get back to the crux of why these protests are happening to begin with, it comes down to how George Floyd died and how his death is now being treated. While we have seen the four officers involved fired, the sense here from the family, from protesters and even, as we have heard from the mayor of Minneapolis, is they want to see charges filed against these officers, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. The mayor said there was no reason, there was no protocol for the officer to have that hold on George Floyd. And we heard from the police chief there an apology. How far do you think that is going to go, Omar? And what do you think that could mean for where things go next, as you have a lot of folks saying they want criminal charges?

JIMENEZ: That's right. Well, the apology doesn't go nowhere. It definitely helps out for relationships here. And the fact that they fired these officers as quickly as they did, which, by the way, we don't typically see a firing at that speed in cases like this, you just look at all the ones we have seen across the country over the past few years, this one is pretty unique in that aspect. So that definitely helps.

But even with that, the firings happened before -- largely before the first protests even began. And now, we have seen two nights of protests that have gotten progressively worse and more violent. And, again, the elephant in the room, so-to-speak, is whether we will see charges either at the federal level while this FBI investigation plays out or even down at the state and county level, as the state investigations plays out.

Because, again, it is that next step that seems to be driving a lot of these protesters here to come out and demonstrate because only then will they feel like justice is actually served.


Because, as one protester put it, these police officers are still at home with their families while one man, George Floyd, will never get the chance to go back to his. KEILAR: No, his family is devastated. We spoke yesterday with Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who had spoken to them. Listening to officials there, they -- as they are -- they're certainly urging calm. And just give us a sense of -- I mean, we've seen that AutoZone and I think there is a lot of concern about people being injured, of course, as this happens. But, do you get a sense that this is going to be continuing in to the evening? Is there any way to gauge that?

JIMENEZ: Well, we've already seen -- we are already seeing protests being organized on social media for this evening. And we are right around this point yesterday when we were kind of having the same question, Brianna, as what are we going to see tonight? And, again, it was around this time we started seeing protests organized. And even now, this -- we didn't even see this yesterday at this point.

And so, this, to me, is an indication that as we descend into the evening hours, as the sun begins to go down, we're going to see these numbers grow. And what we have seen every single night that we've been out here for these protests is that when these numbers grow and they begin to crowd some of these officers, that is when they begin to use some of the crowd-dispersing mechanisms they have. That's throwing tear gas at some cases into the crowd. We have seen some stun grenades used as well, even some non-lethal pellets.

And once that happens, then the dynamic escalates just a little bit between the two sides, and you see some of the scenes played out that we have seen over the course of the past few days

And, again, while protesting seems to be something that officials here have pushed for and said, it is every (INAUDIBLE) within your right to do, it is that next step of rioting and looting, that even attorneys for the Floyd family, Benjamin Crump, saying, they don't want to see that. They want Floyd's memory and his position and his heart to be heard throughout of the community of these people.

But it's that next step, again, that worries officials, and you heard it from the police chief and the mayors that next -- next dynamic, I should say, they worry about seeing for a third night here in Minneapolis.

KEILAR: Yes. Officials seemed to be stressing, look, there were a lot of people who were there assembling peacefully in protests but obviously there were people who were not. And we heard from the family, Floyd's younger brother actually spoke to CNN, and he shared this emotional plea.


PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: We need justice. Those four officers need to be arrested. They executed my brother in broad daylight. People had to film that. People had to see that. People pleaded for his life. Kids were out there seeing this. Nobody want to witness that, nobody. Nobody should have to witness that.

And I understand and I see why a lot of people are doing a lot of different things around the world. I don't want them to lash out like that, but I can't stop people right now, because they have pain. They have the same pain that I feel.


KEILAR: Now, he's saying obviously that this is coming from pain and it's coming from anger. And you can see how he is certainly suffering both there. I wonder, Omar, can you tell us a little bit about -- I guess I'm curious about the Minneapolis Police Department, I'm curious about these officers. I think a lot of people are. What kind of pass do they have when it comes to perhaps excessive use of force? What is the culture there in the Minneapolis P.D. known to be?

JIMENEZ: Well, within this police department, as we have seen troubles within police departments across the country, there are histories of excessive violence and you talk to anyone in this community and the majority black community, you don't have to go far to hear some of those stories.

Now, one of the officers in particular, when you look at the cell phone video that, of course, has been circulated, harrowing at this point, it is the officer that is standing in front of where you see Floyd pinned down to the ground. We do know that there is an excessive force situation with him in 2017. It was eventually settled. But that alone seems to be a red flag for many people in the community that you have an officer that even though it was settled prior, now involved in a situation where a man is losing his life.

So those are going to be some of the things that likely investigators are going to be looking into as well when they try to piece together if there was any potential motivation leading up to this. That's something we typically see on the federal side of this when they're looking at civil rights violations.

Now, in regard to the pain that the family and that this community is feeling, it is one that you still here, as people come and walk by.


We heard just some chants a few moments ago. And, again, all of it stemming from what ended up being George Floyd's final moment and some of his final words saying, I can't breathe, and within a matter of minutes transitioning from saying those final words into what became an eternal silence, Brianna.

KEILAR: Omar, if you can just standby, I want to play some of the sound that we just heard from the police chief. If you are joining us, what we just heard was from Minneapolis city officials, we heard from the police chief, because here you see this, especially this night we just heard Omar reporting on, there were fires, there were injuries, and this is a community in a lot of pain after the death of George Floyd. So let's listen to some of what the police chief said.


ARRADONDO: -- first by saying that I'm absolutely sorry for the pain and the devastation and the trauma that Mr. Floyd's death has left on his family, his loved ones and our community here in Minneapolis and certainly across the country in the world. And I know that our community is trauma and that they are trying to find ways to heal.

From the very beginning, I wanted to make sure and ensure, and we'll continue to do that, that those who are wanting to express their First Amendment rights and go through this healing process, that they will absolutely have that from me, and that is a guarantee from your chief. With that being said --

KEILAR: Joining me now is Steven Belton. He's the president of the Urban League Twins Cities. I want to ask you, Steven, something, as I listened to the police chief there. I mean, I'm curious just about your general reaction of what he said.

On one hand, there is an apology. He's saying the police department has injured, has hurt the community. On the other hand, he's urging calm. And I don't think anyone wants to see what we have been seeing happening in Minneapolis. But I also think that as we have now observed situations like this one, it seems for years now and city after city, it gets to this point because of a lot of things that proceeded.

And we are not just even talking about the death of George Floyd. It's about sort of a systematic issue that is there. And at this point, once things boil over, it is very hard to calm the situation. What did you think about how the city officials are responding to this?

STEVEN BELTON, PRESIDENT, URBAN LEAGUE TWIN CITIES: The chief is responding responsibly and predictably. He's trying to thread a line between preserving and protecting the community, at the same time, preserving and protecting the infrastructure that this community relies on along with everyone else.

I'm absolutely outraged and angry by what we've witnessed in the video in the -- basically, state-sponsored murder of a human being, the taking of that life without due process.

At the same time, I am also angry at the way a few of the demonstrators that hijacked this moment, that taken us out of our grief and our indignation and our mourning, and then put the focus now on their lawless activity. This angers me, because this is a sacred moment when all of us have an opportunity to reset, to consider the systematic issues that brought this about and allowed this to occur. Well, we're now diverting our attention and our time to dealing with the aftermath of this.

Among all the things that were destroyed last night was construction of an affordable housing unit in a community that direly needs affordable housing. They destroyed or damaged a Target in an area that has been subjected to systemic and long-term disinvestment, threatening of the livability of a community that is already traumatized and has already victimized. It has to stop and it has to stop now.

We have a right to focus our attention on the family of George Floyd and his friends, who deserve our support. He deserves better. His family deserves better. We can do that. KEILAR: Yes. And his siblings are just really communicating, I think, how that family is feeling and the pain that they are feeling at this moment. You mention there that this, in your view, a state-sanctioned execution. You have said that that's what it is no charges are filed here. What is your expectation about what will happen versus what you want to see from city officials? Do you think that they're going to file charges?

BELTON: I live between this tension between history and hope. Our history is that the FBI comes in to investigate and returns no charges. They find that the police acted within their warrant of authority. Our history is that the state law enforcement infrastructure, including the state attorney and the county attorney and Minneapolis Police where they investigated their own have returned no indictments. And that's the history.


Our hope is that in this moment, after Philando Castile, after Jamar Clark, after Michael Brown, after Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, that we will see a change and we'll see a difference. And so my expectations are little but my hope, as always, is high.

KEILAR: Steven Belton, thank you for joining us, the President of the Urban League Twin Cities. Thank you.

BELTON: You're welcome.

KEILAR: We have much more on this as we are watching what is happening on the ground, a story that is still developing here.

Plus, the president breaking his silence on 100,000 Americans losing their lives to the coronavirus yesterday, but at the same time stoking cultural wars.

And just in, the governor of New York making a move involving masks. That's the complete opposite of the president's actions.



KEILAR: We're monitoring Minneapolis. Turning now though to the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump finally commenting on the 100,000 lives that the coronavirus has claimed here in the United States in the past four months, and you can see here some of the faces of those that we have lost.

This is the most devastating national tragedy in modern times. It has taken more American lives than any known or natural or manmade disaster as well as any U.S. war since World War II.

The president broke his silence this morning. The country hitting this 100,000 deaths milestone yesterday around 6:00 P.M. Eastern, and the president facing sustained criticism for not weighing in. He tweeted around 9:00 A.M., quote, to all of the families and friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy and love for everything that these great people stood for and represent. God be with you.

But as the president offered sympathy today, he has also tweeted in opposition to the use of masks, which reduce the transmission of coronavirus significantly. And in doing so, he has defied his own administration's guidance.

The governor of New York taking a different route, allowing businesses to deny entry to anyone not wearing a mask.

CNN National Correspondent Brynn Gingras joining me now. And, Brynn, tell us more about this.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. I mean, Governor Cuomo really taking a firm stance on what has become this political sparring issue. As you just laid out for your viewers, this executive order essentially allows business owners to deny entry to a customer from coming into their business if they are not wearing a mask. And it essentially is protecting the health of that business owner and that person's business but also from any retribution that could happen if that person was denying customer's entry because of not wearing a mask.

I want you to hear more from what the governor said about this executive order.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We're talking about reopening stores and places of business. We're giving the store owners the right to say if you are not wearing a mask, you can't come in. That store owner has a right to protect themselves. That store owner has a right to protect the other patrons in that store. You don't want to wear a mask, fine, but you don't have a right to get into that store if that store owner doesn't want you to.


GINGRAS: And this is Cuomo essentially doubling down on something he has been firm about many times before in his news conference. And even his Twitter handle, Brianna, the tweet says, healthcare workers wear masks for five-plus hours, you can wear one for 45 minutes, essentially saying, you know what, they work, wear one.

And as you heard him say there, it's because this state is beginning to open up even more. Many parts of the states are already in that phase one of reopening. New York City is just weeks away which, of course, has -- going to have the largest population of people congregating in the city. So the issue is major here for Governor Cuomo and for the people in the state.

KEILAR: It is a big issue. Brynn, thank you for brining to us, Brynn Gingras.

And as we are coming now to grips with these 100,000 dead here in the U.S., let's not lose sight of the people and the stories that are behind this number. There are 100,000 families who are grieving, most of them unable to hold a proper funeral or hold the hand of their loved ones as they passed away. The virus touched millions of Americans mourning the deaths of friends, mourning the deaths of neighbors and colleagues.

Americans are looking to the president for words of comfort and hope are instead finding a president consumed with Twitter, tweeting conspiracy theories, spreading fear about a rigged election and shaming people who care enough about the people around them to wear a mask.

After a day of silence, President Trump this morning tweeting, quote, to all of the families and friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy and love for everything that these great people stood for and represent. God be with you.

Leaders, of course, emerged in times of crisis. We have seen that over and over. We saw it with George W. Bush on 9/11. We saw it with Barack Obama after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Bill Clinton after the bombing in Oklahoma City. Even in the midst of this pandemic, former President Bush released a video that was reminding the country that, quote, empathy and simple kindness are essential powerful tools of national recovery.

Tim Naftali is CNN's Presidential Historian. And I guess, Tim, why is the president avoiding speaking about these Americans about speaking in, I think, the emotional terms that would describe how so many people are feeling and in a way I think that's something people need but it would also be something that would serve him, wouldn't it?


TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it would certainly serve him. I can't explain the psychological makeup of this man but I can contrast his behavior to that of every other modern American president.

The country is hurting. We're hurting because of 100,000 lives lost. We are hurting because of the many people who are sick, who are still dealing with the consequences of having had the virus. We are dealing with the fact that many Americans are fearful, understandably, of contracting the virus. We are dealing with the fact that many people are suffering deeply and economic pain as well. All of that is a time -- signals, at least historically, a moment of crisis.

In the past, presidents have tried to take the burden of grief and pain and fear and carry it on their shoulders usually by using words and appearances to send a message, not only, I care but I understand. Franklin Roosevelt at World War II, George W. Bush, as you mentioned, after 9/11, Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City, Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster. These are moments when we demand and expect our presidents to be heads of state.

Donald Trump, with all that history behind him, has chosen to advocate those responsibilities and to focus on his re-election, it seems. Instead of dealing with the fact that this happened on his watch, he is pretending that it's someone else's fault and he's delegating responsibility for dealing with it, for recovering from it, for preventing a second wave to the states who do not have the resources to do so the way in which the national government ordinarily would do.

Why is he acting this way? Well, if I were a psychologist, I might have an answer. My sense is, from having watched now for three years intently, that he'd not only doesn't have empathy, he doesn't really care.

KEILAR: It does make you wonder and it's hard to know you can't get inside his head but he has not demonstrated empathy on so many occasions where he has had the opportunity where something that would serve the country and quite honestly would serve him politically which is something that he seems to be tuned into, right, looking at the political advantage and yet he seems to not be capable of digging into that place where you show empathy.

And one of the other things that we've noticed is the political opportunity that he is seeing in this moment is in stoking culture wars. That has becoming very clear, from politicizing masks, to talking about social media, politicizing social media and politicizing churches and the reopening of churches. What do you think about this, Tim?

NAFTALI: Well, Brianna, that's on us, I'm afraid. And that's on us, the fact that a political figure can believe that he might win a presidential election by dividing us. The sense that he has no political gain to be made from seeking to be a unifier, from finding some common ground, from reaching literally across the aisle to others who might not have voted for him before, that he has decided that he doesn't need that, that he can actually win and hold onto the presidency just by being sectarian, that says a lot about this political moment.

I hope he is wrong in a sense that I hope that unifying is a much better political approach than dividing. But he's now doubling down on dividing, and he thinks that will be enough for him on November.

KEILAR: Well, we will see. Tim Naftali, thank you for your insight.

President Trump is upset that Twitter is fact-checking him. So he's signing an executive order against social media companies, but does this order have any teeth? We will delve into that.

Plus, a Pennsylvania lawmaker is livid, accusing Republican colleagues of hiding a positive test of one GOP member from their peers. He is going to be joining us live.