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Anger and Protests Continue to Rage in Minnesota Over Death of George Floyd Under Police Custody; Minneapolis Mayor Speaks Amid Violent Protest; Minneapolis Police Precinct Burns As Protest Grow; Brazil Sets Record With 26,000+ New Cases In One Day. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 29, 2020 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I am Michael Holmes. Right now, we are following breaking news out of the United States where anger is boiling over in Minnesota.

Protesters have torched a Minneapolis police precinct and dozens of other buildings, as well. Thousands of demonstrators are flooding the streets, demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody. The mayor has declared a local emergency unsurprisingly.

Now, in nearby St. Paul, fires broken out as stores are being looted. Police have responded to protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. More than 500 National Guard soldiers are being called out and sent to the area.

In response to the violence, President Donald Trump tweeting for the Minneapolis mayor to "get his act together and bring the city under control, or I will send in the National Guard and get the job done right." Of course, the National Guard had already been ordered in by the president. He then says, "These thugs are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd."

CNN's Josh Campbell is in Minneapolis. I spoke with him by phone in the last hour.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): There were a number of protesters who gathered outside this precinct, Precinct Three is the name, just not far from where the death of George Floyd occurred, which we know was the African-American man, who in the dramatic video that we showed before, showed him on the ground with the police officer, his knee on his neck.

He later died. That is obviously been the subject of a robust investigation by local officials, as well as the FBI. But it is that incident that has now sparked such outrage here in this community, leading to a number of protesters gathering outside this police station, what started as peaceful, then turned into very confrontational situations, where you have protesters outside who are throwing rocks at the police station.

We did see a number of police officers on the roof who are returning fire, not with lethal weapons, but with tear gas. We ourselves were gassed at one point and had to move back. But they were trying to push people back from this police station.

That continued to escalate through the night as night fell here in Minneapolis to the scene that you saw on your TV there with flames ravaging the building outside and protesters clearly unhappy with the police, clearly taking their frustration and outrage out on the police department.

I think it is important to note also that as we've been covering this and been on the ground, there appear to be different camps. You have people who are clearly focused on criminal activity. They are trying to burn down government buildings. But we have also seen protesters out there who are nonviolent and have been expressing their outrage at the death of this black man at the hands of the police here in Minneapolis.

It is that dichotomy that we have seen. It is such a powder keg here. We have people who are so unhappy. When you think about the police, Michael, and what we seeing on the screen, with the police department that is now being torched, the police department has clearly lost this part of the city.

We have seen these images in so many locations around the United States tonight, people protesting, the police deciding that they are not going to go in and enforce what is being taken place, they're not going to push the crowd back, they're not going to conduct arrests. They are apparently going to let this building burned to the ground.

Their calculation, likely, being that their presence would likely inflame the situation even more, which, again, when your presence is going to cause even more outrage, you clearly lost this part of the city, Michael.

HOLMES (voice-over): Josh, speak to that a little more, because you reported this earlier to, that you are surprised, though you certainly noted, that police, at least where you were, were not out in force. Do you think that was a tactical decision?

CAMPBELL: Yeah. When you think about policing and obviously, you know, there are more residents than there are police officers, we were, my colleague Sara Sidner and I were there outside the police precinct, surrounded by thousands of people, thousands of protesters, rioters, looters, and obviously people who are conducting criminal activity that we saw on our screen by breaching this building, there is no way that law enforcement officers were going to come in in full force in that type of volatile situation.

You know, our estimation is that they probably decided that, again, coming in and trying to arrest people or trying to move the crowd back will probably lead to even more violence and possibly death. Again, if you are police official, your job is to enforce the peace, to calm society.


CAMPBELL: That is not what we saw taking place. Again, this is going to continue throughout the night. This protest continues. We've seen it in a number of cities around the country. Still yet to be seen how long this takes place.

We did get news just not long ago that the National Guard here in the state of Minnesota has been called up, some 900 soldiers. For our viewers around the world, the National Guard is controlled by local state officials. They usually are involved in disaster response. They also provide troops to foreign wars, as well.

When that type of action is being taken place where you have now the state officials calling up the National Guard to try to protect these facilities, this has clearly moved into a very different and a very dangerous phase.


HOLMES: All right. Now, I want to take this moment that the anger boiled over and bring it to you. This is at the police precinct that Josh was just talking about. CNN's Sara Sidner was there when the fire broke out.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those are fireworks being fired off by the protesters. We are watching them being fired off, directly in front of me. All of those sparkling lights that you see up ahead, if you can see that, that is from fireworks. But we are definitely now seeing a fully on fire third precinct here. That is clearly what is happening there.

There have been boards that have been put up outside of the third precinct and those boards are on fire. But it looks like the fire has gotten even bigger at this point in time, and you can see protesters so close to the fire, that they are getting hit with sparks from the fire coming off of that building.

So, that is what is going on right now. It is official that the building is on fire, the third precinct is on fire. We do not know where the police are.

(On camera): We see the (INAUDIBLE) Liquor. It is on fire on the other side of the street. We see a fire behind the precinct. We also see protesters throwing fireworks at the precinct and the fire alarm is going on inside of the precinct. This is a scene that has completely changed from earlier today, when things were peaceful, Don. People are cheering and more fireworks going off as literally the police precinct is burning.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: And I spoke to Sara Sidner a short time ago about what she has seen in Minneapolis over the last few hours.


SIDNER (voice-over): What has really changed here, something I had actually never witnessed, and I have covered dozens upon dozens of protests, the thing that is different here is that I have never seen a situation where police have completely left the area and literally let it burn.

Usually, you at least see fire trucks that come. You see a bigger contingent of police pull back and then all of a sudden you have all the troops come in from all parts of the city. In this case, it is clearly a calculated move from the police. They moved back to the precinct. We watched that happened yesterday night. And today, they never left the precinct.

And then as night fell and the fires grew, they finally set the building on fire. The officers were gone. We have not seen them for hours. What we have seen, is fires now burning in other places. So now, just across the street where there is a huge parking lot, people have been firing off lots of fireworks.

You are seeing the Target engulfed in flames. You are seeing across the street from the police department, the liquor store engulfed. It is burning hot and it is burning large. You are seeing other businesses start to catch fire because those fires are burning so hot.

But I have never seen a situation like this. I've never seen a situation where a precinct, a police department precinct, is on fire, and there is absolutely no authority out there to try and control the situation. So now, it is literally just the protesters who are out in the streets and they are -- some of them just standing and watching, others are cheering.

Many times, you will see lots of fireworks that are going off overhead. You hear cheering. People are actually trying to break into the precinct, but it is on fire. So, there is a great danger there, as well. Now, we can smell gas as we were leaving the scene. We are hearing from the city that they believe that a gas line has been ruptured. That is excruciatingly and extremely dangerous because if fire gets near that, we will have an explosion.



HOLMES: And I'm joined now by Cheryl Dorsey. She is a retired police sergeant, formerly with the LAPD, author of the book "Black and Blue." Good to see you, but sorry it is in these circumstances.

I mean, when you look at images like that, the burning of a police station, and that is also after a number of buildings were vandalized or torched, in fact, I will say that St. Paul police just put out a statement and saying 170 businesses were damaged or burned or looted this evening. I mean, speak to what you saw unfold and what you made of it.

CHERYL DORSEY, AUTHOR, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: Listen, certainly I don't condone violence. Let me just say this first. Let me offer my sincere condolences to the family members of George Floyd, whose life was tragically taken by way of murder. Let me say that.

In regards to what is going on, clearly, they were not prepared for this. This situation was very different in my mind because this is the first time that we have actually seen someone take their last breath on television, on a recorded video.

And so I personally have seen chatter on my social media platforms about things that were problematic and concerning. I do not know what kind of intelligence they may have over there on that police department. I don't know how they could've been caught off guard by this. But surely, someone should have realized that this situation was very different from other incidents.

And people are tired. People are fed up. If truly police departments around the nation want something different to be done, then they need to do something different.

HOLMES: The point being, I suppose, you know, interruption like this, a powder keg like this, does not come out of nowhere. This has happened before. The question being asked on the street there is, you know, when do we stop having to deal with this? And things systemically change. Do you have empathy to that sort of point of view? The people are just fed up with a system.

DORSEY: Absolutely, because listen, nothing has changed. I mean, we can go back to Rodney King, not much changed after that, and then of course the span of killings. It started in 2014 with Eric Garner and Mike Brown and the protests in Ferguson, and everything that has happened since then.

And so as long as there is no accountability, we are going to continue to have these kinds of issues. We are going to continue to have errant police officers, much like Derek Chauvin who reportedly has been involved in three shootings in his career. It is not they don't know who he is, the officer who stood sentry while he took the life of Mr. George. Officer Thao had been involved in something that caused the city to settle for $25,000.

So these guys have a history. The Department knows that. More importantly, they were intellectually dishonest when they first reported that Mr. Floyd had died because of some kind of medical incident and did not really speak to what had actually happened.

And so folks are tired. My concern now is based on things I am seeing and hearing, listen, I'm not really looking and checking, but this anger could very soon turn towards police officers.

HOLMES: That is a terrifying thought. I mean, if there is this loss of trust, there is this obvious frustration, there is the repetitive nature of what we are seeing. I'm talking to a (INAUDIBLE) in the last hour.

I mean, it's not that these things are new. It's that there are more cell phone cameras around. That is what troubling people. How to rebuild the lack of trust? How to get to a point where we are not having this conversation every year or twice a year?

DORSEY: Well, first of all, there needs to be action. There needs to be -- in this instance, there needs to be criminal charges. And so I understand and appreciate that the district attorney wants to have a solid case before they go forward. They may only get one bite at the apple.

And we know now, according to reports, that Derek Chauvin, the officer who kept his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for nine minutes, is being represented by the same attorney who represented Officer Yanez, the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile. And so I get that they want to have their ducks in a row over the DA's office before they present a case.

But this is very frustrating to the family. It's almost further exacerbating situations because it gives the inference that maybe they are not doing anything, maybe they don't care, much like they didn't do anything about this errant officer in the three other prior shootings that he'd been involved in, and who knows how many he uses a force that just were never reported or never made national news?

HOLMES: Yeah. I really do appreciate you coming on, Cheryl Dorsey, retired police sergeant.


HOLMES: Thank you so much.

DORSEY: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. We have to take a short break. When we come back, just ahead, more than 500 National Guard soldiers are on their way to Minneapolis and St. Paul as the protests spin out of control. We will be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back. Let's get you up to date on our top story this hour. More than 500 National Guard soldiers are on their way to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, to help deal with violent protests. They were going to be sent before all of this happened, as well. Demonstrators are setting fire to a police precinct and several other buildings.

Minneapolis officials are warning protestors to actually move away from that area because there were reports of the smell of gas and the possibility of a severed gas line. And so, people were ordered to back off for their own safety. It's not just Minnesota, either.

[02:19:57] HOLMES: Protestors have been out in force in cities across the U.S., including Denver, Colorado, Louisville, Kentucky, and Memphis, Tennessee. They are angry over the death of an African-American man in police custody on Monday. Four officers have been fired. Prosecutors say, though, they're not ready to bring charges.

Joining me now on the line is Cedric Alexander, former public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia. I want to ask you, Cedric, do you think that is the key to this? There was a news conference of city and state attorneys earlier and they held this long news conference. Everyone expected charges to be announced and it did not happen. Were you surprised at that?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTOR, DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA (via telephone): I was surprised. If you were to ask me, which you just did, do I think that have anything to do with what we may be seeing and experiencing tonight in Minneapolis, very much so possibly.

Probably, what they should've done was really take more time to get their acts together in terms of what procedure, what it is, they may have had some intentions of doing as it relates to arrest or indictments. And they did not really look very well organized. They really did not tell people very much.

And I think the DA there in the Hennepin County made some statements to the effect of, well, it may not appear there may be much here, and I think that really bothered people. Just three days ago, all of us saw a horrific crime take place in front of us. So, it becomes very difficult when you make that kind of statement very prematurely, and then you find in yourself later on having to walk it back.

But regardless of that, this type of violence is not acceptable. Regardless of what was said, what was not said, burning a property, putting people at risk, the economic impact this will have upon that community, it will probably be like many communities already compounded with COVID.

But what we are seeing tonight is reckless on behalf of those folks who are out there rioting. It truly does take away from the main message of an event that took place and that has shocked this nation and this world. The focus comes off of that. It comes on to this. The president stated earlier, he wants to make sure that the focus stays on Mr. Floyd. I think we all have to appreciate that.

But at the end of the day, in all of this, what we see here going on tonight is reckless. But at the same time, we have to understand where this anger and frustration comes from, because for a period of time now, all of us have witnessed these types of events that have created so much concern, hurt, anger, and then we get to another tipping point, to where we are now, which brings us to where we are tonight.

HOLMES: You are a former public safety director in DeKalb County. I mean, we touched on this last hour. This is a conversation that just recurs and reoccurs and reoccurs. What does need to change systemically because we could be having this conversation in six months?

ALEXANDER (via telephone): We could be having this conversation next week. We could be having it again tomorrow. We don't know what is going to -- what the day is going to bring. But I do know this: That we as Americans, have to get through what we are experiencing right now. At this very moment, there are some concerns that people have about policing in America and what it is that we can be doing better.

I tell you, someone who has been a large part of my life as a police executive in two major cities in this country had been in situations in which officers were involved in events, some that were good, some that were not so good, and I understand the stressors that come along with that, and what kind of concerns it can cause for any city or municipality in which you may demand authority over public safety.

HOLMES: Right.

ALEXANDER (via telephone): But when we look at what is going on in Minneapolis tonight, one of America's great cities, and in St. Paul, many of the concerns that are going on in other cities across the country, we are going to have to step back because we cannot allow ourselves not to begin to have the conversations and address the real issues around the shootings that are taking place in this country, more specifically with young African-American men --



ALEXANDER (via telephone): -- that created major concerns, not just for the African-American community, but for America at large. If you look at that crowd out there tonight, you look at crowds in other cities across America, you are going to see a diverse group of people who are hurt, who are angry, and who want something better from their state and their government. They deserve it. We have to be able now, again, because this takes me back --


ALEXANDER (via telephone): -- to Ferguson back in 2014, being there on the ground in Ferguson, being there in the ground in Baltimore. We made progress in many ways, but somehow we have slipped back. What we saw on Monday was horrific. It was truly horrific. All of us, millions of us watch that video. We watched. A man's life was taken from him, right in front of us.

HOLMES: And we are seeing the anger that has resulted from that, as well. We are right out of time. Cedric Alexander, I appreciate you being on with us. Thank you. Do stick around, everyone. We'll have more on our breaking news after a quick break.


HOLMES: All right. I want to take you to Minneapolis. The mayor is speaking now. Let's have a listen.


MAYOR JACOB FREY, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: The symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life, of our officers or the public. We could not risk serious injury to anyone. And we will continue to patrol the third precinct entirely. We will continue to do our jobs in that area. And, you know, brick and mortar is not as important as life. I'm happy to answer any questions on this topic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Did you receive word earlier in the day that people may be interested in protesting that, or going into the third precinct?

FREY: We have received reports regarding many attempts to get into the third precinct on numerous occasions, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): What is your response to President Trump's tweets, saying that looters should be shot? Have you seen the president's tweets?

FREY: No, I have not. Could you --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I have to bring it up here to quote it exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Mayor, what's the plan here? What are we doing?

FREY: With regard to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Clearing the streets. Lots of businesses have been burned down. Lots of livelihoods have been hurt. We have not seen -- we have seen very little police out there, just the general, at the third throughout. I'm just wondering, what is the plan and who is in charge right now in the city?

FREY: There is a lot of pain and anger right now in our city. I understand that. Our entire city recognizes that. But what we have seen over the past several hours and the past couple of nights in terms of looting is unacceptable. Our communities cannot and will not tolerate it.

These are businesses. These are community institutions that we need. These are banks that people rely on to get cash, grocery stores that people rely on to get food. These are pharmacies that people rely on to get medicine. They are essential to our community. We need to make sure that they are protected.

And so we are working with our officers right now. We are working, of course, with resources provided by the state.


We've authorized mutual aid and a unified strategy so that we can work with different jurisdictions in the area. You know, it was clear as of last night that we needed additional help. And we got that additional help some from the state and we are expecting more as well. I'll say this. We additionally need help from our community. We need

to make sure that -- we need to make sure that people are looking out for our city right now. It's not just enough to do the right thing yourself. We need to be making sure that all of us are held accountable, to make sure that we're holding up the highest ideals that we stand by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor, there are people out there tonight that were saying things like where are the police right now? Where are the firefighters right now? Where's the National Guard right now? Those are all fair questions. Where were the police, firefighters and National Guard to protect that third precinct and to protect that neighborhood?

FREY: As you already know, there were more than a few fires that our firefighters had to put out. There were more than a few incidents of looting that our officers had to attend to. We are doing absolutely everything that we can to keep the peace. We have officers that are -- that are stationed around the city in several different locations. We have, in many instances, assistance from the state that -- to prevent looting at some of these community institutions that we know will be necessary to get through this pandemic.

You know, this is one of the most difficult situations that our city has been through. I'm not going to stand up in here and tell you that there are easy answers to it because there are not. What I can tell you is that through this pandemic, Chief Arradondo has my 100 percent support. Chief Fruetel and the Fire Department has my 100 percent support. We're going to be united as a city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where is the National Guard and how is it being deployed? Who's got that control? Who's making those calls?

FREY: So many of these questions you're going to want to direct to our chief, who has been working consistently with Harrington from the state. And many of the National Guard, as I mentioned, were stationed and are being stationed in locations to help prevent some of the looting that we've seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like what? Like what station?

FREY: Banks, grocery stores, pharmacies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor, I have the President's tweet here he sent out to -- just in the last couple hours. One personally attacking you, the second one --

FREY: Can you read it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and I told him that the military is with him all the way, any difficulty, and we will assume control. But when the looting starts, the shooting starts." This is the President of the United States tweeting just a little bit ago. What's your reaction to that?

FREY: What was the other tweet? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was an earlier one calling you a radical

leftist and a weak mayor and to get the things under control, and I have it here. "I can't stand back and watch this happen to a great American city. A total lack of leadership, says the president. Either the very weak radical left Mayor Jacob Frye get his act together and bring the city under control, or I will send in the National Guard and get the job done right." That was the first of two tweets from the president.

FREY: Well, let me say this. Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult time period? Yes. But you better be damn sure that we're going to get through this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor, some people have questioned whether you made a conscious decision to let people go into the third precinct and offering office, kind of one of these healing spots that you had referenced earlier in the day. Is that how you were approaching it?

FREY: No. The decision that I made was for the safety of our officers and the safety of the public. The symbolism of a -- of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life. It's a decision that I did not take lightly. I understand the importance of a precinct, but we are able to regroup and continue providing the same service to the third precinct as a geography.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor, at what point did you make that decision?

FREY: I don't remember the exact time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it earlier in the afternoon or just a couple hours before it was taken.

FREY: As situations started to escalate more and more, as we saw more and more people breached the perimeter, as we noted, we have to have our officers at many locations throughout the city to prevent looting and crime. It became obvious to me that safety was at risk. And it became obvious to me that we could take a different route that would better assist both the public as well as the safety of our police officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor, any idea if officers were in that building when it was breached?

FREY: You have to talk to the chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a calculus in terms of property versus engaging protesters or being more overt with force? Is there -- is there a decision-making process in terms of building versus engagement?

FREY: I don't understand the question. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, you have a decision to make whether the

building, the third precinct in general, some of those businesses on that corner to just be like, no police responding to it, or do you engage the protesters and clear them off the streets by you know, any means necessary, the tools that are at your disposal in terms of a heavily, you know, tooled urban police force, I would imagine, have the tools to clear streets.

FREY: I'm still not following. The decision comes down to public safety, period.


FREY: I'm going to take one more question. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what do you tell the public in that community that doesn't have that precinct that -- to work from, to help protect the other homes or other businesses?

FREY: The resources that we will offer to the people of the third precinct will continue, period. The building is just brick and mortar. It's a building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if it does get worse? You talked about the community needs the help. But what if they don't, what is that plan to address that?

FREY: I've been in touch with Governor Walz at the state. Again, we have expressed the need for resources. We are appreciative already of the assistance that we've gotten in the form of state patrols. And as you know, we've requested the National Guard as well. And, you know, we anticipate that those resources will be increasing as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor, everybody, thank you.

FREY: Thank you, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The mayor of Minnesota, Jacob Frey there speaking, making make a couple of very pointed comments. He said, when it comes to the police station that was burned down, he said that the symbolism of a building doesn't outweigh the loss of life. He said he made the decision to pull police back and basically let that building burn for the safety of officers and the public.

He pointed out that the looting that we have seen in the arson that we have seen is unacceptable. St. Paul police had reported earlier that 170 businesses were burnt or looted or in some way damaged by rioters. And as the mayor pointed out, a lot of these was a target. They were grocery stores, they were banks, they were pharmacies and so on and so forth, and saying -- the mayor is saying the looting is unacceptable. These businesses and community institutions that we need. Cedric Alexander is still with me. He's the former public safety

director in DeKalb County, Georgia. You heard what the mayor had to say. I should point out too, you also responded to Donald Trump's tweet earlier, which was critical of him and calling him a weak radical left mayor which brought politics into it, of course. The mayor is saying Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis.

Let's skip over the Donald Trump tweet. We'll dissect that later with Brian Stelter. But your reaction to that news conference of what the mayor had to say.

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTOR, DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA: Well, you know, as someone who has served as the deputy mayor in a major city in this country, I can only imagine what he must be going through. But let me say this about Mayor Frye. He has been courageous. He has been smart. He's doing the very best that he can under the circumstances in which he has to provide leadership in that city.

He's got to make decisions. He's made those decisions. He did that in concert with his command staff and fire and police and other public safety sectors. It is a time for us as a nation to recognize that Minneapolis just does not belong to him, Minneapolis belong to all of us. It's part of the great United States of America. We're only separated by imaginary boundaries, but this is one land one country.

So as he is in pain tonight, as much as he is hurt and angered of what occurred in his city, I think it becomes very important for all of us as Americans, and I can tell you this, having been in public service over 40 years of my life, it is important for all of us to stand with him and stand with that city and other cities across this country as we go through this horrific time. And that is compounded by the COVID virus, which we all are still working through and trying to survive through.


HOLMES: African Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID and also by the job losses that the country is seeing. Cedric, we're running out of time. I got to leave it there. Cedric Alexander, former public safety director in DeKalb. County, my county. Thanks so much for being with us, Cedric. I do appreciate it.

Now we're going to move on and talk about other things, Donald Trump's tweet, also social media, which of course has been a powerful tool for the protest movements and really brought what happened to George Floyd into a sharp focus and brought into the public eye.

Let's bring in CNN's Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter to talk about all of this. And I just got to go back to the President's tweet and get your thoughts on this because it's a two-part tweet. And you can break it into about 10 areas that are pretty concerning.

He says, I can't stand back and watch this happen to a great American city, Minneapolis, a total lack of leadership. He brings politics in by saying the very weak radical left mayor Jacob Frey who we're just listening to. He said, he needs to get his act together and bring the city under control or I will send the National Guard in and get the job right. The National Guard has already been called in.

The second part is kind of problematic in many ways. He says "These thugs, which is a racially loaded word, dishonoring the memory of George Floyd and I won't let that happen. I just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him the military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control, but when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

And you can explain the context of that, but the literal reading of that is I'll send the military in and shoot American citizens. Brian, where do you start?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a threat. There's 3no other way to read it. It is a threat. It dates back to the 1960s when the Miami police chief was trying to act like a tough guy, trying to threaten people back then, and here's the President of the United States doing it.

This is completely uncharted territory. It almost goes without saying that past presidents would have never talked to like this. Let's hope more rational ideas and voices take over in the morning. But in the meantime, we heard the Minneapolis mayor strongly responding to the president saying the president is being weak talking this way.

And look, don't take it from me. Take it from Rush Limbaugh, the President's ally. He was talking the other day about what Trump does by his stoking conspiracy theories and creating confusion. Russia, you know, the president is throwing gasoline on a fire, and he's having fun watching the flames.

Now, back then, a couple of days ago, he was talking about that conspiracy theory about MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough. Right now, there are actual flames, there is an actual fire, and the President is once again using Twitter to stoke those flames. Let's hope again, Republican leaders and others help cooler heads prevail in the hours to come.

HOLMES: Yes. I mean, just the extraordinary stuff. I did want to ask you because it is an important aspect to this on both social media but also the ubiquitous now -- nature of now cellphone cameras and the like. You know, the sorts of things that we saw happen to George Floyd didn't just start to happen. They're just getting filmed. And so that that has brought a lot of this into sharper focus, but also the use of social media and the technology today to bring the protests together and expand them in many ways as well.

STELTER: Yes. And this technology is an accelerant. It can be a force for good, it can also be a force for evil or a force for criminal behavior. And look in the past few minutes, we've seen images of some skyscrapers in downtown Minneapolis, having their lobbies assaulted, windows being broken in some of these downtown areas. This is clearly something that is taking place across different neighborhoods in Minneapolis now well past midnight, local time, talking about the 1:00 a.m. hour. People are able to organize and communicate via social media in ways they weren't able to 10 or 20 years ago.

However, that also means the mayor and other local leaders are able to communicate instantaneously as well. And this ultimately is about local leadership. We are not going to see national leadership in a situation like this. It's going to be about local leaders, church leaders, civic leaders, trying to calm the tensions there.


HOLMES: And then just quickly, I mean, you pointed out last hour too the city's newspaper, the front page, a state of agony, that really does speak to what this community is going to go through. As they do sort of go through and sort of break down what went wrong here as a city as a society, do you think that the city lacked communication, particularly when it came to the news conference this afternoon? I don't think we're expecting charges.

STELTER: I mean, that's certainly what I've seen in the past few hours. Yes, there was a breakdown of many things including communication. The police department, the fire officials were barely communicating with local residents. And I've been hearing from residents there who are very frustrated by that on top of the other issues that are at play right now.

Look, the images, what many on the outside see as violence, people there, people on the inside see as pain. And this is a story we've seen repeated over and over again, including in Baltimore five years ago. Agony is a very appropriate word for what we're seeing.

HOLMES: Brian Stelter, great to have you on up late this evening. I do appreciate it. Thanks so much. Brian Stelter there. Well, of course, we will be following this story for you throughout the day ahead.

And we want to let you know though about a CNN special on race relations and police brutality in the U.S., a new special, it is called I Can't Breathe, Black Men Living and Dying in America. It's going to be broadcast Sunday 8:00 p.m. in New York, and that is Monday 8:00 a.m. in Hong Kong only here on CNN. We're going to take a quick break. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: All right, let's get you up to date on the breaking news. Angry, violent protests in Minnesota over the last few hours. In Minneapolis, fires have been set including to a police precinct building. The police officers inside were evacuated before the blaze really took hold a tactical retreat.

This is the culmination so far of protest that really grew throughout the day on Thursday. More than 500 National Guard soldiers are on their way to the area. The Minneapolis mayor said moments ago that what we have seen is unacceptable in terms of the looting and the damage done to local stores and infrastructure. And when it came to the police building and the decision to pull back, he said bricks and mortar are not as important as human life.

There were protests also in nearby St. Paul. That is the state capitol. Several fires set there as well. The police there said 170 businesses had been damaged, burnt, or looted in the area, 170. Protesters were protesting the death of course of an African American man, George Floyd, in police custody on Monday. Four officers have been fired but prosecutors say as of yet, they're not ready to bring charges. A lot of people angry about that and perhaps we're expecting charges earlier in the day.

Now let's quickly turn to coronavirus. The global death toll just stopped 360,000 and we're getting more proof that Latin America is now the center of the pandemic. Brazil reporting a record 26,000 new cases of the virus in the past day. More than 1,000 people died there in each of the past three days. They're the sorts of numbers the U.S. has been putting up in the last few weeks.

New cases falling across Europe though, France, Britain, and Spain all lifting restrictions by the beginning of next week. Turkey and the Philippines doing the same. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the desktop now past 101,000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects more than 20,000 additional deaths by mid-June.

New cases of the virus are still rising in 16 U.S. states holding steady in 10, falling in 24 others. But in some of those states, particularly in the southeast of the country, things are getting worse as CNN's Nick Watt reports.


NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This morning in Montgomery, Alabama, there were just two ICU beds unoccupied. COVID-19 cases have more than quadrupled in this county since reopening began across the state.

STEVEN REED, MAYOR, MONTGOMERY ALABAMA: We can't fast forward to the end of this movie. And we're trying to do that right now in the way we're approaching this process. And I think that's why we're seeing the spikes not only in Montgomery, but also throughout Alabama.

WATT: California today reporting its biggest-ever daily uptake in new cases 2,617. In every southern state except Florida and Texas, new case counts are climbing. Nationally, ticking down slowly for now.

CRYSTAL WATSON, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: As we reopen, if we relax too much and we don't take these physical distancing measures and take the precautions that we can, then we may see this start to go up again, not just in the fall, as there might be a fall away, but in the next few weeks as well.

WATT: The CDC has posted a model predicting an uptick in hospital admissions around June 10th. It also issued new reopening guidelines for employers. Let lots of fresh air in, No communal coffee pots, no handshakes, not even fist bumps.

And bad news today for big events. The Boston Marathon already moved to mid-September now canceled. The Wisconsin State Fair which usually draws over a million people also just canceled. New York City is still trying to make its mass transit as safe as possible. The city is not quite ready to reopen, but very close.


BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: I think it's time that New Yorkers see their hard work rewarded.

WATT: The hope between two and 400,000 New Yorkers could be back at work by maybe mid-June. Since mid-March, more than 40 million Americans have lost their jobs. That's one in four workers. And reopening won't be the end of that movie either.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Did you hear these corporations now talking about well, we're going to take this opportunity to restructure. We're going to get lean. You know what that means? That means they're going to lay off workers.

WATT: California just recorded its highest number of new cases in a 24-hour period, 2,617. There is more testing. People have been out on the beaches when they shouldn't have been. There has been some protesting. There has also been reopening. Interestingly, we heard from London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco who got into some granular detail about how she's going to open her city.

Remember that is perhaps one of the most cautious places in the country when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID. So mid-June, she's going to allow sports no fans, religious services in summer camps mid-July, indoor dining and haircuts mid-August, schools, that's good news, and gyms with some modifications.

Interestingly, she did not even give a date for when we're going to have fans back watching sports, watching concerts in big venues altogether. No date.


HOLMES: Nick Watt reporting there. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. Natalie Allen, at certain, she picks it up from here.