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Violent Protest Over Death of George Floyd; Minneapolis Police Precinct on Fire Amid Protests; COVID-19 Takes Deadly Toll on African Americans; China's Hong Kong National Security Law Triggers Backlash; Brazil Sets Record with 26,000+ New Cases in One Day; Countries in Europe Go Ahead with Further Easing; England to Ease Restrictions as Cases Decline; Parks, Beaches, Lakes to Reopen Across France. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 29, 2020 - 04:30   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: George Floyd died Monday in police custody after a video showed an officer kneeling on his neck. President Trump tweeted his distain for the unrest recently. Dismissing the protesters are thugs.

Twitter soon flagged that tweet as a violation of its rules but it didn't block it completely. The President also called the city's mayor weak and that provoked this response from the mayor a short time ago.


JACOB FREY, MINNEAPOLIS MAYOR: 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.


ALLEN: It is very rare to see a police precinct set on fire in the United States. CNN spoke earlier with the Minneapolis fire chief. He says it's frustrating to watch parts of his city burn.


CHIEF JOHN FRUETEL, MINNEAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT: You have so many great communities in Minneapolis and to see, you know, the type of communities that have, you know, such a need for, you know, for groceries, for, you know, a store to buy clothing and buy medications, especially during a pandemic time. And to see these structures that are being destroyed in a community that provides such an important service to and they have such a need, that it is really extremely disappointing and it's very frustrating because I would just hope that we can come to a point where we come to this level of angst and this destructive action just sort of just stops.

I really would like it to stop. I grew up in Minneapolis, a long-time resident of Minneapolis. So you hate to see your city burn. And that's -- it's really disappointing not only to me but all my firefighters and all my staff and everybody, all the residents in the city, it's very disappointing to all of us.


ALLEN: Well let's talk more about it. Earlier my colleague Michael Holmes talked with Cheryl Dorsey. She is a retired police sergeant formerly with the Los Angeles police department and author of the book "Black and Blue."


CHERYL, DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: This situation was very different in my mind because this is the first time that we've 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 don't know what kind of intelligence they may have over there on that police department. I don't know how they could have 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. And if truly police departments around the nation want something different to be done, then they need to do something different.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And the point being, I suppose that, you know, an eruption like this, a powder keg like this does not come out of nowhere. That this has happened before and 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 point of view, that 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 spade of killings that started in 2014 with Eric Garner and Mike Brown and the protests in Ferguson and everything that's happened since then. And so, as long as there's no accountability, then we're going to continue to have these kinds of issues. We're going to have errant police officers, much like Derek Chauvin who reportedly has been involved in three shootings in his career. It's not like they don't know who he is. The officer who stood at century while he took the life of Mr. George, officer Tau had been involved in something that caused the city to settle for $25,000. So these guys have a history. The department knows that.

And more importantly, they were intellectually dishonest when they 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, and my concern now is based on things that I'm seeing and hearing. And listen, I'm not really looking and checking but this anger could very soon turn towards police officers.


ALLEN: The circumstances of George Floyd's death isn't the only reason so many are outraged about it. It's also because it is the latest in a string of killings of African-Americans in the U.S.


CNN's Laura Coates explains people's outrage.


LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What you're seeing from Kentucky to all parts of the United States including Minneapolis and St. Paul is because unfortunately there is a George Floyd in each of these jurisdictions. This is not an anomaly. It is not a one off. It is part of a systemic issue that they're having where there is a combination of the devaluation of black lives in this country. Combined with qualified immunity the Supreme Court has articulated and emboldened in many ways and an disincentivized the police department to do something about it.

And so, you're seeing a combination. And part of that powder keg is beyond Mr. George Floyd and it's beyond. But it now, as you're seeing, is devolving into the rioting and looting that we have seeing. And you know, we all remember Watts, Baltimore, some of those places have never recovered.


ALLEN: So we've been talking a lot about race in the past two hours involving this developing story there in Minneapolis, but we also want to talk about race in regard to the coronavirus and its impact on African-Americans. We continue to get a clearer picture of how the virus is impacting African-Americans compared to other ethnic groups. They're suffering from disproportionately high rates of COVID infection and death. My colleague Abby Phillip takes a look at new research that may help explain this disparity.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Terrance Burke was a doting father, a Navy veteran and a hard charging high school basketball coach.

ARNETHA BURKE, DAUGHTER OF TERRANCE BURKE: He was really big on family. He loved coaching.

PHILLIP: In March the Prince George's County, Maryland resident became one of the first people in the state to die from the coronavirus.

BURKE: It's just very surreal. I didn't really expect it to happen like -- my dad should be like the example for the state of Maryland.

PHILLIP: Burke's death was a canary in the coal mine and for his community in the Washington D.C. suburbs and for the entire nation.

ANGELA ALSOBROOKS, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Oh, my god. It was so terrifying. PHILLIP: Just miles outside of the nation's capital, one of the

wealthiest majority black counties in the nation has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

ALSOBROOKS: We heard what the aggravating factors were, we started saying, oh, my god, you know, that's us.

PHILLIP: In Prince George's County black residents like Burke have been contracting and dying from coronavirus at alarming rates.

STEPHEN B. THOMAS, MARYLAND CENTER FOR HEALTH EQUITY, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: We have some of the highest per capita PhDs, college educated black folk in the nation, and it is not protecting us.

PHILLIP: And the data shows it's a trend playing out all over the country in urban, suburban, rural, wealthy and poor areas and in more than half of the country according to a recent study by the nonpartisan APM Research Lab.

In Detroit, 65 percent of cases and more than 80 percent of people who have died of COVID are black. In Washington, D.C., black residents account for nearly 75 percent of coronavirus deaths. In New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, 26 percent of deaths have been among black residents, even though they are just 14 percent of the population. And in Maryland, black residents account for 42 percent of COVID deaths, but 29 percent of the population. Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks says decades of racism are having a devastating impact here and all over the country.

ALSOBROOKS: We also have had a really, really difficult time just trying to attract restaurants to come here, the grocers to come here. And it's not because we don't have the wealth and income. It infuriates me for people to say that people here are sicker because of our life choices.

PHILLIP: Coronavirus deaths are concentrated mostly among older Americans, and those with pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease that are common among black Americans. But that doesn't explain all of the disparities.

THOMAS: Our workers are residents of senior living facilities. Who works in those facilities? Low paid workers who have now been designated essential.

PHILLIP: Maryland officials are moving to ramp up testing at sites like these, now testing asymptomatic residents to stop outbreaks before they start. Thomas says more help will undoubtedly be needed, including from the federal government.

THOMAS: We're going to have to save ourselves. We need a national commission on the colors of COVID-19. One that addresses all people of color.


PHILLIP (on camera): And Prince George's County Executive, Angela Alsobrooks, said that the county has over the years had trouble getting grocery chains and even hospitals to expanding in that county even though they have a higher median income than the nation's capital in Washington D.C. But there is some good news. The county expects to begin to start reopening slowly and carefully in the coming days. They have seen a decline in cases and some good news on the coronavirus front.

Abby Phillip, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Not only is the U.S. President blaming Beijing for the COVID pandemic. Now his administration promises action on China's treatment of Hong Kong. We'll have a live report and what this is about next.


ALLEN: U.S. President Trump is expected in the coming hours to slap new measures on China. This comes amid his flurry of accusations suggesting that China was responsible for letting the coronavirus outbreak become a pandemic and maybe even caused it. It also follows the Chinese Parliament's approval Thursday to go ahead with the controversial security law for Hong Kong that critics say would threaten the city's autonomy. For its part China has just announced it will take necessary counter measures in response to what it describes as foreign meddling in Hong Kong affairs. We're talking about the situation with the Trump administration.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is standing by for us in Hong Kong. And hello to you, Kristie, if things couldn't get more complicated between the U.S. and China, it looks like they're about to.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's getting just more and more complicated as the tension just rachets up. You know, the pressure is building on Beijing after the passage of the controversial national security law. But the pressure point is where I am reporting from live, you know, here in Hong Kong. All eyes right now on the United States though. And what is going to be U.S. President Donald Trump's next move especially after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made that declaration to Congress saying Hong Kong was no longer autonomous.


That declaration is more than words. It opens the door to significant U.S. action including the possibility of the U.S. revoking the special trade status to Hong Kong. Which will jeopardize billions of dollars' worth of trade between the U.S. and Hong Kong. It will also undermine the international financial hub status of this city. Also, all eyes on the U.K. The British government is considering a citizenship path for 300,000 Hong Kong residents unless Beijing scraps this controversy a law.

Now earlier today we also heard through this newspaper article that was published throughout the territory from the top leader of Hong Kong, Chief Executive, Carrie Lam. This was published in every English and Chinese language daily paper today, with the exception of the "Apple Daily" whose owner is the pro-democracy media mogul and activists, Jimmy Lai.

And in it she urged the people of Hong Kong to accept and to welcome this new legislation that was just passed. She also condemned external forces. Let's bring up the quote for you. She said this.

External forces have intensified their interference in Hong Kong's internal affairs, passed laws relating to Hong Kong and flagrantly glorified the illegal acts of radicals all of which seriously jeopardize our nation sovereignty, security and development interests. Hong Kong has become a gaping hole in national security, and our cities prosperity and stability are at risk.

Now, Natalie, we know that Beijing is currently hashing out the details of this controversial security law. That could be enacted in the weeks ahead. Beijing supports the security law because many Chinese officials see the unrest and the clashes in the Hong Kong protests as a direct threat to China's sovereignty. And when this legislation sweeps through Hong Kong it will again criminalize in very sweeping terms, the sort of behaviors including secession, sedition, terrorism and foreign interference -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, a story to watch for sure. Kristie Lu Stout for us in Hong Kong. Kristie, thank you.

Next here, as coronavirus cases continue to decline in Europe, countries are trying to return to a managed normality. We will go live to France and London next.



ALLEN: Latin America is now the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic with two countries in the region ranking in the top ten of COVID related deaths in the world. Brazil hit a record of 26,000 new cases Thursday. More than 1,000 people have died every day in the past three days. With the nationwide total that tops 438,000 Brazil now the country with the second highest confirmed cases in the world. Peru has the second highest number of cases in Latin America. They reported almost 6,000 new cases just Thursday bringing the total to almost 142,000. The death toll there just over 4,000. And Chile reported its highest death toll since the beginning of the pandemic, bringing the total to almost 900. Chile has about 87,000 cases.

We turn now to Europe. The situation there appears to be improving as countries prepare to further ease restrictions. In France, beaches, parks and lakes will reopen across the country beginning Tuesday. While England will allow children to go back to nurseries and some elementary school classes starting Monday. Scotland also was easing some of its restrictions for the first time. For more about it let's go to Nic Robertson. He's live for us in London. Melissa Bell, live for us there for us in Paris. Nic, we'll begin with you. Hello.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, hi, Natalie. The good news for people in the U.K. this is what they've been waiting for. The announcement of the Prime Minister yesterday that there will be a greater easing of the lockdown. Until now the maximum people -- maximum number of people, people to meet with, has been two and that's been in open outdoor spaces.

Now the Prime Minister has really given people something that they wanted and that is the chance to meet relatives. Six people can meet in gardens of houses and outdoor locations. They can have barbecues together, he said, however, they must maintain social distancing.

So there will be stores opening on Monday. These new meeting, you know, easing of lockdown restrictions, the groups of six people that will happen Monday as well. As well as open air retail stores, farmers markets and such, likely to reopen. But I think it really is that thing of people being able to meet relatives that's big in the U.K. at the moment.

But this comes with some big caveats and big cautionary notes from the government scientists and medical environment. They're saying the R number, the reproductive rate is still a high number between .7 and .9. They say 8,000 people a day in the U.K. are still getting infected. So the possibility of now people get out of home more, get to spend more time with more people, that this possibility of reinfections and a second wave could occur.

And another part of the concern around them is that the government's track and trace program to monitor how many people have been in contact with anyone who's been recently diagnosed as testing positive for coronavirus, that's not fully up and running. So there are a lot of concerns. I think that the scientific end of the spectrum there's concern about going into this easing of the lockdown but at the popular level in households across the country people really have been waiting for this moment.

ALLEN: Yes, they have. And let's turn now to Melissa Bell. She's live for us in Paris. Hello, Melissa.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Natalie. Here in France we look ahead to Tuesday. That is a bank holiday weekend here in France. Monday will be off. But from Tuesday there will be a substantial lifting of restrictions of furthering the easing of those restrictions. The French authorities slightly ahead on this than the British. Since they've locked down France sooner.


We were waiting to see whether the restrictions lifted so far would lead to any rise in the COVID figures. That had not been the case, Natalie. Things had gone pretty smoothly. And what they've seen is those COVID-19 figures, and specifically the numbers of people in ICUs across the country fall steadily. Hence, this further easing of restrictions, essentially France becomes a green zone apart from Paris and its surrounding and two overseas territories, which remain orange.

What it means is that from Tuesday that key part of French life, cafes, restaurants will be open once again. Here in Paris though, they will be slightly restricted. Only terraces will be allowed to open. But for many people that is a substantial relief. And of course, French authorities have just like authorities all over the world been balancing this determination to keep the COVID-19 figures down while they try to improve the economic figures.

Once again, we've had record rises here in France in the last set of figures for the last month in terms of unemployment figures. The government's looking very closely at what this means economically with a lot of focus this week on the automobile industry. It employs, Natalie, 400,000 people here in France. 900,000 when you include the services and all the extras that support the industry. And it is on that that the government's been focusing and promising 8 billion euros worth of help to the sector.

Today Renault announcing the cuts that it plans to make -- 15,000 jobs across the world, 4,600 here in France. But the condition that the government extracted in exchange for that loan that is promised, is that those should not be people sacked overnight but rather people allowed to retire and then not replaced. So the country looking very much ahead to the economic impact of this and how it can be minimized.

ALLEN: All right, we appreciate you both. We will be watching to see how it pans out. Melissa Bell, Nic Robertson, thank you.

I'm Natalie Allen. Thank you for watching. Please join me on Twitter or Instagram. I'll see you again in 24 hours right here. "EARLY START" is next.