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Third Night Of Violent Protests And Fires In Minneapolis; Arrested CNN Reporter Omar Jimenez And Crew Released From Police Custody. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 29, 2020 - 07:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Police carrying our camera, and we think they are walking out.

And let's just see what happens here. It looks as though they have just walked out of police headquarters or at least a police precinct in Minneapolis after spending the past hour in custody. Our camera has frozen for a second.

So, as you know, CNN management and our legal team immediately went to work talking to officials in Minneapolis to get our crew released because they were only doing their First Amendment job and their First Amendment right, and it appears that they've been released.

Bakari, sorry to interrupt you. I'll give you more information as soon as we get it.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (via Cisco Webex): No, I was just pointing out the fact that you had a person of color who has all of these protections. It has -- he behaved appropriately. I'm using air quotes here. He has the backing of CNN. This is on video.

But there's so many people of color who do not have that same infrastructure, who do not have that same backing, whose arrests are not on camera.

And then law enforcement in this situation lied. We literally saw before the entire world why there is a mistrust, why there is a fracture. And I'm not sure -- you know, I'm not someone who wants to paint law enforcement with a broad brush. However, there is a culture in Minnesota right now that has to be dealt with.

Now, we have a scourge of racism that is perpetuating itself throughout the country from Breonna Taylor and no-knock warrants to the good old-fashioned South Georgia father-son lynching we saw with Ahmaud Arbery. But to now, this.

And so, the way that that interaction went down -- I mean, you literally -- I think that when black folk in this country saw Omar being arrested, our hearts began to beat loudly. I was screaming to my (audio gap) -- Omar, quickly, put the -- put the microphone down, put the microphone down. I did not want him to give them a reason (audio gap) because we saw

what happened earlier this week when George Floyd allegedly did nothing -- didn't resist arrest, and we know he did nothing wrong. (Audio gap).

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I have to say, that's still our camera which is still on live right now. This is the camera of our team that was taken into custody by the Minnesota State Patrol.

And I have to say this is a metaphor for journalism in America right now. The camera is always on, right? We will get the story.

And there's Omar right now. We're going to try to call him so they know that we are seeing them right now. Clearly, they've been released. Let's listen for a second to see if we can hear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they keep calling.

BERMAN: Actually, you know what? I don't want to listen in because they've -- they don't know we can hear them right now. I want to make sure that we don't hear something -- a private conversation. So he's going to talk to our legal department and will get on that in a second.

Instead, though, as we are waiting to hear from Omar, I really do want to step back here. I really do want to talk about what has happened in Minneapolis over the last 12 hours -- the buildings burning, the police precinct set on fire.

The pain that we have seen from the protesters on the streets there and around the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Again, an officer with his knee on his neck as he was pleading that he couldn't breathe.

And then the news yesterday from Minnesota prosecutors that they are not yet ready to arrest or charge the officers involved in this.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: (via Cisco Webex): Yes, I think it's important to keep that context.

Before we get to that, I want to say that as someone who knows Omar and has been thinking about him, it's good to see him released. And I can say, I think on behalf of all black journalists, that it is -- we're proud of how he has acted in that situation and the professionalism and work he's been doing throughout the coverage.

To your question, this is a continuum and it's important to see it as such. For -- from the perspective of the protesters, the violence did not start with the looting of buildings or with the -- with the destruction of a police precinct. It started with the death of George Floyd and it started with a police force that communities have said has been unjustly targeting them for a long time.

This is something that we see reflected as we have these unfortunate instances over and over. If you go to Georgia or Missouri or Minnesota where these events are happening, they seem like individual flashpoints.

But when you -- there's always a second-day story, a third-day story that listens to the voices of the community that this has been something that has been building for a long time and that this is culmination (audio gap) of the governor said is (INAUDIBLE).


You have heard things like it's inexcusable, but it is explained. It is -- it is a -- it is the kind of logical meeting of forces of systemic equality -- inequality of racism and the lack of justice that these people feel that they have received. And so that has been what we have seen here today.

And you throw in the amount of people, you throw in the kind of lawlessness we have seen that the reporters are describing on the ground, and that makes just a dangerous situation all around.

CAMEROTA: Astead, while I have you I just want to -- because you cover politics, I just want to quickly touch on what the president did at 1:00 a.m. last night.

President Trump tweeted and I don't know if he thinks that this is going to help the situation on the ground but he called the protesters thugs. He said the ..."thugs are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd and I won't let that happen. I just spoke to the governor 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," he says.

And I just want your thoughts on that.

HERNDON: Yes, that obviously is going to be a phrase that we remember kind of politically all through the election. I would imagine it's one of the phrases that along with dying people on both sides, along with kind of send her back, that this is a kind of defining moment of the way this president has used identity and race as a political cudgel.

And this is something that is -- I don't think anyone who read that is surprised, but it is something that I think it's important to note even when we think about political strategy going forward.

This is a president who thinks he can make inroads with black voters when we saw him previously come out swiftly for a federal investigation of the George -- of George Floyd's death. (Audio gap)

I think anyone who sees that video would be upset. But even politically, we have heard from folks --


HERNDON: -- and particularly Republicans, who think that they can peel off black voters -- some of them -- as a place for growth going into the election. But you have to wonder if those are good-faith efforts when the next day --


HERNDON: -- or in the morning, (audio gap) something that is seen as (ph) language --


HERNDON: -- specifically targeting black folks.

And then you have that phrase --

CAMEROTA: Astead, sorry to interrupt --


CAMEROTA: Astead, sorry to interrupt you. We just have word that Omar --

HERNDON: No problem.

CAMEROTA: -- Jimenez is now available. He is back in position.

Omar, it is so good to see you. That was quite a scene, what you've just endured for the past hour. Can you tell us what happened?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw a lot of it play out on T.V. there. There seemed to be a little bit of confusion as to what was supposed to or what was allowed to happen.

Now, as we were reporting, we had been in verbal contact, at least it seemed, with some of the police officers, saying all right, where can we be? We had heard -- we played some of it as they were giving out commands for people to clear the area, and we saw that as protesters completely cleared out. And that, of course, came after -- there was an hour and a half -- or at least where we were standing there was no sort of police presence.

So as people came down we saw them walking down the block. And whether we're press or not, we wanted to make sure we were out of the way so we -- so we basically stepped onto the corner, is where we were.

And I think the moment before the arrest actually happened was we saw at least one protester or at least someone who as not media sort of run past us, and that person was cornered by -- state patrol was the -- was the main unit that seemed to be there.

And after that person was apprehended they then turned toward us. Now -- and that was the first moment, I can say, that police had gotten behind us. So in a sense, we were sort of surrounded by state patrolmen and it seemed like Minneapolis police officers as well.

But again, it was that moment where all of a sudden, someone runs past. And they're already on edge, based on the absolute destruction that's all around them and that arrest happened just right in front of the Minneapolis third precinct that, of course, went up in flames last night. BERMAN: Omar, I'm not sure you know this but our cameras were not only rolling the whole time you were taken into custody, but the cameras continued to roll, frankly, for the entire ride to the precinct. We could see the picture for the whole time.

Now, first of all, let me just pause to say, Omar, what an amazing job you did throughout that. Your composure and your ability to keep your cool is a testament to your professionalism, which we already knew about by how great of a job you are doing covering the story on the streets there.

JIMENEZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: You and your team did a terrific job.

Know, what we did not hear, even though we saw the transportation, is from the moment you were led away until the moment you were just released.


BERMAN: So you can please tell us what took place while you were in custody?


JIMENEZ: Well, everyone, to their credit, was pretty cordial after that happened. So it seemed --

I was actually talking to the officer that was leading me away. I was like hey, man, we're going to be out here for the next few days. What is the guidance of where we should be? If you don't want us that close, where should we be because we were under the impression that was OK?

And he said look, I don't know, man. I'm just following orders. So I don't know who was potentially giving that order in that particular moment.

But as far as the people that were leading me away, there was no animosity there. They weren't -- they weren't violent with me. We were having a conversation about just how crazy this week has been for every single part of the city. And like I mentioned, a lot of these people are on edge.

And as we were walking by we saw a person on the edge of sort of the perimeter that they had formed, and this wasn't a protester. This was just a random, it seemed, citizen who was saying hey, I need to get back into my place over there and where were you when this neighborhood completely got destroyed?

I mean, we saw where they were. They were in the middle of what became a focal point of anger, passion -- violence, even at times, and they were forced to retreat. And then this morning, literally within a matter of minutes, we saw all of them swarm back in, clearing out these protesters from the city level. That's where we saw the fire department and police department come in, and then the state patrol was advancing as we were seeing up that street toward our location.

Now, where we were standing, basically, to my right was were all the protesters were outside or in front of the building that was on fire, and then to our left is where they were advancing. So we were basically just going to try and step back and let them continue to advance down the street. But again, you saw what unfolded there.

But as far as what happened in between, again, they were pretty cordial. Once we were in the trucks, as well, they were -- we're downtown, obviously. This is the Hennepin County public safety building here. They were all pretty good with us in conversation.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's a relief Omar because you could not have been more professional. You were doing your job by the book. You presented your credentials, you told them that you were a journalist, you told them that you were with CNN.

You told them they were -- you were live on the air. I mean, you did them the courtesy of explaining that we were live on the air at that moment.

And I'm just wondering after you and your crew were arrested, at what point did they -- I mean, did they ever say sorry, that was a mistake? Or when they released you, was there an explanation of -- that that had all been a big --


CAMEROTA: -- misunderstanding or a mistake and you're allowed to report?

JIMENEZ: There -- that conversation may have happened above some of the people that we are with. For us, it was literally a situation of tell me who you are, as far as identification purposes. Then they left.

And they came back and said you're with CNN, correct? Yes, and then we explained the two other team members that were with me -- three, including the security that we -- that we hired for this. And then they left, came back, and then let us out of the van. We were inside the van handcuffed the whole time.

Then we were sat down, waited for a little bit more. And then from there, that was when they eventually came back with our -- with our belongings that they had -- that they had confiscated over the course of this. They had -- they unclipped our handcuffs and then that is when we were let out.

And again, to answer your question, there was no sort of sorry, this is a big misunderstanding, blah, blah, blah. Because it seems that conversation may have happened but it didn't happen with us, in particular.


JIMENEZ: And it's also -- it's a difference in jurisdiction -- sorry.

CAMEROTA: Just one more question because it was a -- it was a nerve- racking moment --


CAMEROTA: -- for all of us watching.

You know, Bakari Sellers just described watching it, saying that it was really emotional and heart-pumping for him because he was scared for you -- and other people watching, given the backdrop of everything that's happening in Minneapolis. He was scared for you at this moment when you were being taken into custody.

You know, I should also let you know that Josh Campbell, who was reporting a block or two away from you, was not taken into custody. He was treated quite politely.

Were you scared when this was happening and do you have any idea why you were arrested and not Josh Campbell?

JIMENEZ: Well, there was a moment, I would say, minutes after it happened where things started to sink in a little bit.

I think -- I don't have to tell you, Alisyn or John, that sometimes when you're in this job and these scenarios there's a lot of adrenalin pumping. You're trying to focus and balance so many different factors. In a case like this, I'm trying to balance what the actual story is, how the storyline is advancing, while also trying to be aware of our surroundings, which at times can get dangerous. So, there's that mentality.

And then, the arrest happened. I was still trying to communicate with you all as this was going on because I was just as confused as you. We had been showing our credentials throughout this entire week and especially in the moments leading up to that, so I couldn't really understand what was going on.


But as we were walking away and you were sort of taking in the entire neighborhood that had been completely decimated again from the passion of the protesters and unfortunately, some of the rioting and looting that we had seen, it did cross my mind that what is really happening here? And the one thing that gave me a little bit of comfort was that it happened on live T.V.

There has been this -- you know, when you talk within the community about, let's just say what's happened with George Floyd, there is always a discussion that what's happening isn't new, it's being filmed. And that speaks to the power of having something happen on camera because you can have people speak up for you without you saying anything. And that gave me a little bit of comfort knowing that you guys saw what was happening, I was living what was happening, and the country was seeing what was happening unfold in real time right before their eyes. You don't have to doubt my story. It's not filtered in any sort of way. You saw it for your own eyes.

And that gave me a little bit of comfort, but it definitely was nerve- racking at certain points.

BERMAN: This is not a tree falling in the woods. We all saw it happen before our eyes. And to a large extent, what's happened this entire week in that city is about seeing what's happened before our very eyes.

Just hats off to the CNN internship program also, Omar. You were a CNN intern eight years ago and so however that training happened between eight years ago and now, it certainly worked.

JIMENEZ: One way or another.

BERMAN: One way or another.

Listen, because you were taken into custody you were not able to do the one thing that I know you actually want to do more than anything else, which is to report. To tell us what you were seeing on the ground there. To tell us what had happened overnight in Minneapolis and why it's so important to the rest of the country. So I want to give you that opportunity now that was taken away while you were apprehended.

JIMENEZ: Well, better late than never, so this is OK.

But I will say in regards to that scene, it was a very serious situation unfolding there. And one of the main and central -- or I would say the biggest thing that stuck out was that there was no first-responder presence for hours.

I mean, my crew showed up at least at 2:45 in the morning -- maybe just after 3:00 in the morning and our first live report wasn't until 5:00 a.m. And at that point, just before then was when we started seeing law enforcement come in for the first time.

So I don't know what part -- point they may have left but again, for those hours, there was a building burning almost out of control -- no firefighters. There were people looting and running through the streets. No police officers, again, until that flurry of moments.

And you talk about what unfolded over the course of the night. The main central image that we saw unfold just past 10:00 p.m. here was the Minneapolis police third precinct that went up in flames, literally, in the midst of these protests.

And that had already been sort of a central focal point for these protesters, but we saw that go to another level last night where they put up fences to try and mitigate any sort of people breaking in. The fences were torn down. The place went up on fire. They were lighting fireworks into that

building as well. And if anything, it was a symbol of what the relationship is right now with that particular community here in Minneapolis.

The mayor, Jacob Frey, had called in for the National Guard to come and help with this situation and we saw the manifestation of that demand this morning as they advanced along with state patrolmen. And that presence -- that organized presence that they had once they got there, I will say seemed to be the most organized presence I have seen from law enforcement over the course of this week.

And I think that's embodied by the fact that these public officials are now saying protesting, that is OK. But when you take that extra step to looting and damaging property, that is when we have to go to an extra level, and I think we saw some of that this morning.

CAMEROTA: Omar, stand by and stick with us if you would. I know our panel has been also standing by waiting with bated breath for some sort of resolution.

And so, I just want to quickly bring in Bakari Sellers. I know you've been on edge waiting to see if Omar was going to be released and going to be OK. And so, your thoughts now?

SELLERS: No, Omar is a bad man and I am thankful that -- I'm thankful he's back on the streets doing what he wants to do, which is report what's happening on the ground.

I mean, look, you have -- I mean, here on CNN this morning, you have Omar who is doing his job. You have Laura, who is a brilliant lawyer. You have Astead, who is a top-notch, top-flight journalist. Myself, who used to be in politics.

You have all of these people of color just trying to tell the world not only our pain but from our professional perspective what we're seeing. The systems of injustice that we have in this country. The way that justice is served in two different Americas.

And so, I hope that people watching these images -- while people want to talk about the rioting and the looters, I want people to focus on the systemic problems we have in this country.


And today, what I challenge people to do is go out and have uncomfortable conversations. Make sure that George's life was not in vain.

What we saw this morning was a black reporter and his team be arrested. And he did his job prior to it and he came out of jail and he's doing his job well now.

And so I think all of us -- and I can't dare ever speak for Laura or speak for Astead or speak for Omar, but as people of color in this country, we want people to address the issues of race that are plaguing us and dividing us. We need real leadership in this country.

And I'm just proud as hell to have four people of color here on T.V. on the worldwide leader of (audio gap) able to tell you our pain from our perspective and challenge America to be better tomorrow than we are today.

BERMAN: I should tell you we just got word from the governor's office that he will hold a news conference at what time? That was 11:00? Eleven o'clock eastern time, 10:00 local time. So we will hear from the governor.

And, Laura, I want to go to you again with the main story here, which is hard to sometimes see amidst everything else -- although, frankly, it's all connected -- which is we are waiting to hear if, whether, or when there will be charges filed against the four officers who were there connected to the death of George Floyd.

So my question to you as a legal analyst -- as someone who has worked on both sides of the law -- what's the holdup? What is to keep them, at this point, from pressing charges?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, the word and phrase that keeps going through my mind was said by not only the U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis yesterday at that press conference, but also by the FBI special investigator, by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and also by the Hennepin county attorney.

The word we kept hearing was swift -- swift and meticulous. And the idea here that we're seeing, really, the opposite of that swiftness is really concerning to people.

Now, here is the issue. We are talking about developing an investigation, John, and you're trying to figure out -- make sure all of your ducks are in a row to ensure that you have all the evidence you need in order to perhaps bring it before a grand jury or take it all the way through trial. You do have to be meticulous.

However, we are talking about arrests being made. We're talking about a probable cause standard. That is lightyears away in many respects from a beyond a reasonable doubt which could happen at trial.

So what they are saying their delay is is about fact-gathering, asking for witnesses. They made multiple appeals for people to come forward if they saw anything yesterday.

I don't know if standing here today whether there is a grand jury impaneled in Minneapolis at this time. Remember in the Ahmaud Arbery case, Georgia was not even having grand juries impaneled until, I think, June 12th. There may be a similar delay about the availability of grand jurors who could be looking at the evidence in this case due to the stay-at-home orders all across this country. We'll have to look at that delay.

But if there is a fact-gathering distinction, that's different. Remember, as a prosecutor, when you had a police officer arrest somebody I didn't have to wait until a grand jury fully in order to be able to have an arrest to be made at all. The arrests were brought to the prosecutors and then action was taken. And then there was the corroboration and the fact-finding even more that heightened the investigation.

So one of the issues people are having here is the distinction between the call for swift and the decision to have swift and meticulous prosecution, and that we're four or five days away now from the killing of George Floyd and not even a probable cause-based arrest. That only standard is that there has to be -- that this probably happened and we know who did it.

Well, we know that it happened and we know that the cause of the person for that killing was, in fact, these officers. And so, there is a direct correlation, at least to meet that bare minimum, probable cause finding.

And just one more thing. I want to echo what Bakari said in honoring Omar Jimenez and all journalists because I want people to understand.

You know, when I was a media lawyer in private practice in Minneapolis, one of the things that people had the misconception of is that somehow the press has carte blanche to do whatever it wants. It doesn't have to comply with any orders. They can -- they have greater access, which they do statutorily in some states.

But the press has every right that any other person has under the First Amendment. No more and no less, unless a state has decided to do so. And if the public was allowed in an area -- if the public had access and there is a watchdog function of the media to have that access, to have the First Amendment rights curtailed in any way, let alone on camera, is what I would expect people to be also equally enraged over.


And remember, we watched Sara Sidner, we watched Josh Campbell last night, we watched Miguel Marquez last night, and guess what? We saw a precinct burn to the ground and no arrest was made.

We saw journalists hand a credential to show the world what was happening -- what was happening in Minnesota and all across the country -- and the First Amendment rights were curtailed.

CAMEROTA: Folks, thank you very much for all of the analysis. Omar Jimenez, thank you for all of the reporting. Nothing stops you, obviously, from reporting.

It has been a very dramatic morning in Minneapolis. We've watched it play out. It was a very dramatic night. And you can see the aftermath and you can still see the smoke -- the black smoke billowing off of a building.

We have many more questions. The attorney general of Minnesota is going to joins us next. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

A state of chaos unfolded overnight in Minneapolis. It was a third night of protests over the death of George Floyd. Hundreds of police officers in riot gear.