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Right Now: Protests Across the Country Over George Floyd's Death; 8PM Curfew Announced for Minneapolis. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 29, 2020 - 16:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right now, demonstrations are happening across the United States in response to the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota, including in New York City, where several protesters have already been arrested and multiple police officers have been injured, according to NYPD.

Crowds are also growing in Minneapolis, the site of Floyd's murder, where fiery protests erupted last night.

Laura Coates, Van Jones, Redditt Hudson are back with me now.

And, Redditt, now that there is an official curfew for the city of Minneapolis, what might happen tonight? Legally people cannot go outside to protest but I don't know how much that will stop people who are -- who are understandably very upset.

REDDITT HUDSON, CO-FOUNDER, NATIONAL COALITION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS FOR JUSTICE, REFORM AND ACCOUNTABILITY: I don't know that it's going to stop them either. I mean, I think it helps that an officer was charged, at least. But I was there several years ago when Philando Castile was murdered. I remember sitting in the living room with his mother, with some other folks who were there to talk about steps going forward and how she was discouraged about the history of policing in that community and the lack of accountability behind abuses like what had happened with her son.

And I think this community is so deeply wounded, as we are all over the nation, with repeated instances of officers murdering black bodies, unarmed people, with no accountability.


And the expectation is that initially we may seem going through the motions, we may see charges. But until you see a conviction and some prison time for an animal like Derek Chauvin, I don't know that the crowds are going to be calmed. I don't know that they're going to be peaceful in the way that they approach reacting to what they saw.

TAPPER: And, Van, we heard activists say this afternoon that they've been trying to warn city leaders for years that there were major issues between police and the black community. The governor acknowledged what he called decades of pain and anguish. How does a community so angry, so hurting, how does -- how does -- how would community leaders even begin to try to calm tensions?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, it's tough. As you know, I was very close friends with Prince, who was from Minneapolis, from the Twin Cities area, never abandoned that small part of the world, did all of his great work from there. So I spent a lot of time in Minneapolis.

And the situation between that police department and the very small black community there is atrocious and has been atrocious. There is a longstanding fear in the black community that there are active white supremacist elements in that department. To give you a sense of how much tension there is, the bus drivers in that town are refusing police orders to move protesters because the bus drivers are that mad at the police, that they won't even transport.

These are the kind of things I'm hearing from people on the ground. And so it's a deep, deep wound.

And I think that the problem is simply this -- you know, if you speak up and you're not heard, you might yell. If you yell and you're not heard, then you might scream. If you scream and you're not heard, then you might throw something.

And what's happening is, you've gotten an escalation of frustration so that now you're at the point where in order to even be seen as believable and complaining about this department, you have to have an eight-minute videotaped lynching of a man. And so, the level of frustration is very, very high. And what I think needs to happen is a couple of things.

You know, mental health therapy, counseling, we need to get that in large numbers, the healing part has to happen. But you can't have healing until you have some kind of catharsis. And so, people are not only risking arrest, they're risking their lives to protest in a pandemic. They're protesting in the middle of a plague.

That's how much pain there is. And so, that needs to be given expression, not destroying property but given expression and respected. And then there needs to be some healing rushed in there.

And then, for the white community, this is a great opportunity to talk to your children about the history and present reality of racism. You do not -- you do not have a society that has this kind of thing happen, at this level, without it being a very long series of dominos that have been falling that we have not attended to properly.

And so, by the time people are yelling and screaming and burning stuff, and we don't know who's setting these fires, that's the reaction to inaction for too long.

TAPPER: And, Laura, I mean, we have you as an expert because you're a former prosecutor, but I believe you're also from this area of Minnesota.


TAPPER: Is this -- what Van Jones just described, does that ring true in terms of your recollection and what you hear from your friends and family who may still be there in Minnesota, about tensions between the black community and the police?

COATES: Well, it's hard to look away from the tensions or even to suggest otherwise when you have this close in time history of people like Jamar Clark, with Philando Castile, and now George Floyd. Even if the experience over time had not been what Van is suggesting, even if it had been even an iota of it, certainly at this point in time, it's hard to ignore. And everyone has been impacted and responding to it.

But I'm really concerned this evening, of course, because we've already seen, when you institute certain curfews or certain laws and penalties to try to curb protests, acts of civil disobedience, rioting, or looting, you invite the officers in many respects to now do a crackdown on the people and invite arrests when you still have three officers who have not even been charged, let alone arrested, for the killing and death of George Floyd.

TAPPER: Laura Coates, Redditt Hudson, Van Jones, I appreciate you. Thank you so much for talking to us this afternoon. We appreciate it.

This afternoon, President Trump had a chance to address the killing of George Floyd and the pain and the anger and the unrest it's caused.


Instead, the president didn't take any questions in the Rose Garden. So, what did he talk about? That story, next.


TAPPER: Welcome back.

It is a sad and unsettling day for the nation, with racial tensions and further reminders of the injustice far too many Americans face day in, day out. Plus, more than 100,000 lives lost because of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

And yet if Americans were hoping that their president in a hastily- scheduled Rose Garden event might say something to try to calm nerves, soothe pain, or bring us together in any way -- well, they were likely disappointed.


The president instead focused today on the Chinese government and announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the World Health Organization. The president took no questions, though we were told it was a press conference, and he made no remarks about the protests, though, on Twitter, the president did try to clean up what seemed too many to be an incendiary tweet that -- quote -- "When the looting starts, then the shooting starts," referring to protesters as thugs, though perhaps the president's reticence is for the best, given how he responded during a similar period of unrest in Charlottesville and his infamous reference to very fine people.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins me now,

Kaitlan, President Trump's political strategy, whether on peaceful NFL protests or wearing face masks, often seems focused on dividing Americans.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And this is a time when often people look to the president for a unifying message.

And there was a question of whether or not that's what he was going to offer when he spoke to reporters earlier, Jake. That had actually been a plan under way inside the White House since this morning, for the president to address what was going on in Minnesota at that press conference this afternoon.

You can't even really call it a press conference, because he didn't take any questions from reporters, but those plans were abruptly scrapped. They wanted to focus on China, as you saw the president did. And then he turned without taking any questions.

And so, really, it just leaves it to the president's tweets, where he was saying that armed force -- could be -- armed force could be used against those rioters. He was talking about bringing the military in, something that the Minnesota governor had already activated the National Guard, actually.

And, later, the Minnesota governor said the president's tweets were not helpful to the situation that was ongoing. And so now still the president has not addressed this in person, as he was expected to do just this morning.

TAPPER: Kaitlan, the president did initially say that he didn't like what he saw on the videotape, but, obviously, most of his energy has been about condemning the protesters and the lawlessness in the protests.

In these situations, a U.S. president typically reaches out to the family of the victim. We know that the president's Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, spoke to Floyd's family. Has President Trump reached out to Floyd's family?

COLLINS: It's not clear.

We have asked the White House multiple times today whether or not that contact has been made. We know, yesterday, the White House press secretary was asked this, and she said not to her knowledge had the president yet spoken with George Floyd's family.

And that was another thing about the president not addressing this at all in the Rose Garden, which really stunned several people who even work for him, is that Joe Biden came out and said, yes, he had spoken to George Floyd's family. He offered this message to the country, talking about really the state of things. And yet the president himself has not said whether or not he's spoken to him. The White House isn't saying. And, of course, he hasn't addressed it, though we should note, Jake, he is going to be meeting with industry executives here in this hour. And there is a chance he may speak about this then, though it's still unclear what his plans are.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins reporting at the White House for us, thank you so much.

This is hardly the first time that President Trump has made comments criticized as racially insensitive, if not just empirically racist.

In fact, as CNN's Abby Phillip reports, this is just the latest example of the president of the United States seeming to stoke, rather than attempt to heal, our longstanding racial divides.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Downtown Minneapolis engulfed in fire days after a black man, George Floyd, was killed following an arrest by police.

Back in Washington, President Trump responding with middle-of-the- night tweets that once again fanned flames of racial tensions in the United States.

Trump condemning the fires and looting, but adding a threat: "These thugs are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd. Any difficulty, and we will assume control, but when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

That phrase appears to have its origin from this 1967 comment by a Southern police chief threatening black protesters with violence if there was looting.

TAMIKA MALLORY, MARCH TO JUSTICE: When the looting starts, the shooting stars, which we know is a reference to another racist time in the history of America where police abused our people.

PHILLIP: Trump now facing reelection and making a push to appeal to black voters, touting his support for criminal justice reform and weighing in on Floyd's death.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel very, very badly. That is a very shocking sight.

PHILLIP: But his own words, past and present, make that a tough sell.

TRUMP: I said, please don't be too nice.



PHILLIP: In Minneapolis, activists slamming Trump's record on issues of race.

MALLORY: He said, don't be so nice to them. Hit them in the head when you put them in the car. These were his words, as the president of the United States. This is not an isolated situation.


LESLIE REDMOND, PRESIDENT, NAACP MINNEAPOLIS: You were quick to send your troops to kill us. We already been saying it's open season all over the nation. And you just opened it up even more.

PHILLIP: Last year, Trump telling a group of minority Democratic congresswoman who are all U.S. citizens to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came."

Then, a week later, attacking late Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings' majority black district as a "disgusting, rat- and rodent- infested mess."

Trump's latest tweet on looting prompting Twitter to act, leaving it up, but slapping on a label, saying the message glorifies violence. The president now backpedaling, claiming he meant that looting leads to shooting, adding: "I don't want this to happen. And that's what the expression put out last night means. It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement."

Yet Trump's comments on Minnesota are part of a pattern of the president offering support to some protesters, like the ones who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

TRUMP: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

PHILLIP: And armed protesters who opposed stay-at-home orders in Michigan, but stoking his supporters with attacks on football player Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem to protest police violence.

TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out. He's fired.



PHILLIP: A White House official says that President Trump did not know the background behind that quote about looting when he tweeted it last night.

And they have accused the media of stoking a misinterpretation of his comments. But I should note that last night a right-wing militia group called Oath Keepers -- they show up often heavily armed at these types of protests, and they're typically allied with President Trump -- actually call for him to retract the tweet, saying that they were fearful it would incite violence.

So, a lot of people saw that tweet and took a very clear meaning from that tweet last night, not just the media, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip, thank you so much.

Coming up next: the coronavirus pandemic -- the CDC out with a dire new prediction. The rate of deaths per day could increase in just a matter of weeks.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead today: The death toll from coronavirus in the U.S. is now eclipsing 102,000 people. One month ago, that number of lives lost was just over 60,000.

Now New York City, the one time epicenter of the novel coronavirus, is set to begin reopening early next month, CNN's Nick Watt reports for us now.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Plagued by this virus more than most, New York City will soon start on the long road back.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We are on track to open on June 8, which is one week from Monday.

WATT: If people are smart, he says, we won't see the numbers go up.

CUOMO: As we haven't in the Upstate regions that have reopened and Long Island that has reopened. The numbers have not gone up. Why? Because people have been smart.

WATT: One in seven New Yorkers, two million people, were infected by this virus by the end of March, according to just released results of antibody tests. That's 10 times the official count, 14 percent of the population, high, but still well short of the 60 or 70 percent needed for herd immunity, the only thing that can really stop the spread, unless or until we get a vaccine.

CUOMO: It is reopening to a new normal. It's a safer normal. People will be wearing masks. People will be socially distanced.

WATT: Washington, D.C., started reopening today.

MURIEL BOWSER (D), MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: It is not a day of celebration. It's a day of being able to do some things slowly and on a limited basis that we haven't been able to do for 10 weeks. But it's not a party.

WATT: Because CDC modeling suggests COVID-19 will kill around 20,000 more Americans in just the next three weeks.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think we're starting to see increasing cavalier behavior, frankly, in terms of preventing transmission of the virus. And that's getting worse and worse over time.

WATT: New case counts are now going up in 15 states, including some in the South that reopened earliest, Arkansas seeing a spike.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): There is a second wave. It's a combination of expanded information through testing with a spread of the virus in that Northwest Arkansas area.

WATT: Cases also climbing where we saw some of our first confirmed cases, Washington state and California.

Meanwhile, this virus continues to expose deep societal issues everywhere.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): This virus is laid bare inequalities across our state and across our country, unequal access to health care. Right now, in Kentucky, almost 19 percent of our deaths are in the black and African-American community, but it only makes up 8 percent of our population.


WATT: Now, meanwhile, here in Los Angeles, as of just a couple of hours ago, dine-in restaurants and hair salons are allowed to reopen again.

And the way it works here in California is, the county has to submit a plan to the state sort of proving that they're ready to reopen. And deep in that paperwork, we find L.A. County officials have written that it's anticipated that there will be additional waves of varying severity of COVID-19.

These waves will occur over the next 18 to 24 months throughout the U.S., including California and L.A.