Return to Transcripts main page


National Guard Troops Occupy Streets of Minneapolis After Protests Sparked by Death of George Floyd Lead to Riots; CNN Crew Arrested in Minneapolis; Minneapolis Attorney General Keith Ellison Interviewed on Possible Case against Police Officers Involved in Death of George Floyd; Third Night of Violent Protests & Fires in Minneapolis. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 29, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: 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 along now with National Guard troops, have taken over the streets, as you can see on your screen. Buildings are burning south of downtown. That includes a police precinct that was set on fire overnight.

At around 6:00 a.m. eastern, a line of Minnesota state police surrounded our CNN camera crew, which was reporting on the protests, and our correspondent Omar Jimenez, our producer, Bill Kirkos, and our photojournalist Leonel Mendez, were arrested by Minnesota state patrol. Here is how that moment played out live on NEW DAY.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, do you mind telling me why I'm under arrest, sir? Why am I under arrest, sir?

We told you before that we are with CNN.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Omar and his crew were just released from custody about 30 minutes ago. CNN management spoke with the governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, who apologized and took responsibility for the arrests, which he called inadvertent.

Omar Jimenez is now back doing what he wants to be doing, which is reporting live from downtown Minneapolis. Omar, give us a sense of how you're doing and what you went through.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're doing OK now. There were a few uneasy moments there, I think is probably the best way to say it. But what we are doing is essentially we are reporting right outside the Minneapolis police third precinct that we saw go up in flames literally hours ago. And when we got to the scene, there was another building completely engulfed. And one of the things we were noting was that there was no law enforcement there, there was no fire department there. This building was just burning while people were all running throughout the streets. So once the state patrol rolled in along with other local law enforcement as well, the protesters scattered. You could tell everybody was definitely on edge because it has been a very on edge type of week for the community, but also law enforcement as well as they've tried to get a handle on the protests that have led to rioting and looting in some cases.

So as we moved out of the way for the patrol to, again, move forward and take care of what they needed to do, we felt we were out of the way enough, but clearly once one person ran past us, we were surrounded. And they made the move to initiate an arrest.

Now, we never really got a clear answer on why that arrest was actually happening, even though you heard me ask a few times there. And the officer that was walking with me who, again, was very cordial throughout this, I asked him, hey, what's the deal here? What happened? He said, I'm just following orders. So it is still unclear who gave those orders.

But when we got here, we were transported downtown here to the Hennepin County Public Safety building here, once we were taken out of the van, we were processed for a little bit, aka, they just sort of got our names down, and then we were put back in the van. It seems like they were trying to confer among themselves. It sounds like also there were some calls going on behind the scenes as well that we were eventually let out and they gave us our stuff. And we were literally steps from the entrance to the building here. In fact, I think our camera happened to be rolling as it got signal as we were rolling out. We didn't have a chance to turn it off really because we were taken away so suddenly.

And they were saying, just get off the property and then you're good to go. And we were literally right across the street. And when you talk about just the situation in general, I think for us it was -- I am thankful that it happened on live TV so that you are able to see it, I was -- I lived it, and people around the country were able to watch and see how it unfolded so there is no doubt as to what happened.

But no doubt in general that this has been a tough week for the city of Minneapolis. Days into protests now, there are parts of this city that are unrecognizable. And right now until we see any sort of announcement of charges, it doesn't seem like there is going to be any slowing down from at least the protesting side. So we'll just have to wait and see.

BERMAN: Omar, we are so glad that you and your team are OK. We're so grateful to you for your and your team's terrific reporting. Thank you, and keep up the great work.


JIMENEZ: Thank you. BERMAN: CNN Correspondent Josh Campbell is live in south Minneapolis,

near where the third police precinct was on fire. And, Josh, bring us up to speed on what has happened over the last 12 hours in Minneapolis.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, overnight, just an utter chaos here in this location, we're not far from precinct three, not far from the location where George Lloyd was killed. And obviously overnight we have been showing you these images from the precinct of dramatic footage of the police station itself being lit on fire. One thing we did not see overnight was a very forceful police presence. In fact, we rarely saw any police officers. They opted to let that building go, not wanting to further inflame tensions by their presence.

A different story today, as you can see behind me here, we have the state police, they're out here in full force now. They are just one of many agencies that we have seen, including the National Guard, as is well as other law enforcement agencies. And beyond them you can see that buildings still burn. This chaos that we saw last night wasn't relegated to one police station, but indeed to businesses and locations in and around this area. And that now is subject to cleanup.

Behind us, which you can't see because we have been pushed back farther and farther by police officers as they set up this perimeter, is you're now starting to see tow trucks come in and pull some of the vehicles out. Our CNN truck is sitting next to me with two flat tires as we tried to get through some of that rubble. It's just utter destruction behind us.

Let's not forget why this all happened, John and Alisyn. This happened because of that dramatic video we recall seeing from cell phone footage of a police officer with his knee on the neck of a black man, on George Floyd, which actually resulted in his death. Thus far we have not heard from authorities that they are going to be pursuing charges. They're saying that this investigation continues. That obviously not sitting well with certain members of the community who want to see justice. They have seen so many of these types of incidents where people of color are victimized by police officers, and they want to see some type of justice, law enforcement saying we need to conduct a robust investigation before we move forward.

I think, lastly, it's important to point out, and this is so important, and I want our viewers to understand this. As you look at some of the video and the footage of the destruction, this is but one segment of the group that we have seen out here. There were a large number of peaceful protesters who were here with signs, trying to peacefully express their outrage at what happened to this black man in Minneapolis. But there was another segment of protesters here and demonstrators who opted to commit violence, setting this police station ablaze. So I think it is important to keep that in mind, that we're not talking about a large violent group. There is a subset of that who opted to set some of these buildings on fire, John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Josh Campbell, thank you very much for all of the reporting overnight and bringing us what is happening on the scene.

Joining us now is Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Mr. Ellison, thank you very much for being with us. I know it has been a long night for you as well. You heard Josh Campbell just say saying there that the protesters, the demonstrators are upset that no one has been arrested yet, that these officers haven't been arrested, and they want to know if charges are going to be filed. Do you believe that charges will be filed?

KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have every expectation that they will be. It is important to note that it is not my office that is the primary jurisdiction. That's the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. We are standing by and helping in any way that we can. But, yes, I anticipate there will be charges. I hope they're soon. But that is the prerogative of another prosecuting authority. They are trying to be careful. They are trying to make sure that their case is strong, airtight.

They're mindful of how the Freddie Gray case, nobody ended up getting conviction, how Walter Scott in South Carolina, the state case hung and there was no conviction. They want to make sure they have a case that sticks, and unfortunately that is taking more time than any one of us want.

CAMEROTA: Yes, just yesterday at that press conference, the U.S. attorney came out and said that she apologized for the delay. She thought she was going to be able to have an announcement, but there had been some sort of obstacle or impediment to that. And she started by saying that they had been in touch with you. And so can you just tell us about those conversations and when you think -- if you're confident that charges will be filed, will that happen today, do you think?

ELLISON: I really am not at liberty to tell the world what I talked to another prosecutor about. There's some things that we just need to be able to plan.


But I can say this -- everybody is outraged, everybody believes that this is a grievous violation of Mr. Floyd. And I believe that everybody wants to see these charges filed as soon as they can be. But, again, I do want to just say we have seen cases that seem so clear go south. And I will note Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, even Philando Castile was not -- the person who killed him was not convicted. So we've got to make sure that we come with a strong case.

And I sympathize with everybody who is demanding charges, but I hope that they just know that we can make that charge now, but if it's not a solid case, we will be sorry later. So I just want to point that out to people. But we are pushing to get those charges filed as soon as we can.

CAMEROTA: The mayor of Minneapolis was asked what he -- from what he knows if he believes that this was murder, and he said, yes. Do you think from what you know that that was murder of George Floyd? ELLISON: Well, the mayor is channeling the feelings, the sentiment,

and the viewing of that tape of his constituents. I am in a position where I -- I have a role to play in the case. My office represents the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Commission of Public Safety. For me to make a legal comment on what the evidence will show would not be in the best interest of the prosecution. So it's fine for the mayor to say that. For me, I have to say we are investigating this case expeditiously, we will charge it appropriately, and we will seek the proper consequences.

I do believe that causing the death of another with reckless disregard is a real problem and has legal ramifications. I hope you allow me to leave it right there. But I will say this --

CAMEROTA: Mr. Ellison, I hear you being circumspect, and I understand why you're being circumspect, and you have to, and your role necessitates that. But I guess that what we all want to know is, is there something in a toxicology report, is there something that the medical examiner could say that would change what we have all seen with our own eyes, and that's Officer Derek Chauvin, ex-officer now, with his knee on the neck of George Floyd after George Floyd said repeatedly that he couldn't breathe? Is there any more information that you think will change what we have seen?

ELLISON: No, I'm right there with you, but I have not seen that report. I'd like to see it as fast as possible. But I just want to tell you, having not read the report, I can't imagine what would be in there to change my personal opinion of what things show. But I will say to you that we still need to get that report, and that's going to be an important piece of how we move forward in an effective way seeking justice.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood. And when do you think that medical report will be available?

ELLISON: I wish I could give you a time. Everybody tells me as soon as possible, in an expeditious way, days, not weeks, hopefully only hours. But I can't even say that.

CAMEROTA: Keith Ellison, Mr. Attorney General, we really appreciate you taking the time. Obviously, we will wait for that report and be watching what happens today in Minneapolis. Thank you very much.

ELLISON: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: OK, breaking news all morning, hundreds of state police and National Guard troops now on the ground in Minneapolis. Where does this city go from here? Where does our country go from here? We'll be right back.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The breaking news -- a night of pain, a night of demonstrations, a night of violence across the country, especially in Minneapolis as people continue to call for justice following the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody after an officer put his knee on his neck. He was pleading for his life that he could not breathe.

Overnight, demonstrations, violence, looting, a police precinct set on fire in Minneapolis. You're looking at live pictures there now. You can see police on the streets in force. You can see the smoke billowing behind them.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Van Jones, and host of the executive producer of CNN's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," W. Kamau Bell.

Friends, thank you for being with us.

Van, I want to start with you. As we're looking at these pictures, as we're doing the reporting as what happened overnight, you say you have not heard the calls that you're hearing now since 1992, since Rodney King. You have not felt the feelings that you felt since 1992 in Rodney King.

We're trying to get Van's communications up.

In the meantime, Kamau, if you can address that, it does seem that something is different now. Something is raw about the feelings across the country.

W. KAMAU BELL, HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, CNN'S "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": Yes, I mean, next day too I thought, this is going to mean something, there is going to be profound something that comes from the Rodney King riots in L.A., that didn't happen. In Ferguson, feels like this is a profound moment, I think America finally gets it, something positive will come of this. That didn't happen.

So, as much as people right now feel it's happening again, there's like there's no history in this country of things like this happening will lead to positive change. It feels like it led negative change for the black community when things like this happen.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I understand why you feel that way, Kamau. I mean, what the conversation often turns to is, well, we need more police training. We just need more police training. Obviously, if these guys had been trained properly, they wouldn't do that.

But, Kamau, there is something else. To have a knee on a neck with a man pleading for breath and pleading for his life and everyone around -- I mean, cell phones out and everyone around saying get off of him, you're going to kill him, what are you doing, people regular citizens having to plead with that officer, what is that? I mean, is that just -- is that sadism? Is that straight up racism?


What is -- that officer has been trained. What happened there?

BELL: I mean, I think it is a profound conversation about what policing is in America and also about the history of officers getting away with -- if you can get away with it, you're going to keep doing it. It's not officers in any one community. It's officers around the country are in position where they get away with this all the time. So why change the behavior?

Right now, we're all hoping the officers are -- that these officers are charged, but even if they're charged, black communities, like, we don't believe they're going to be convicted. This is a case and a legacy of white supremacy in this country.

And the frustrating part is when it happens on a video like that, you still have people -- people out there arguing about the fact that, well, what was this guy doing, why was he doing this? What was his back story, same thing with Ahmaud Arbery, same thing with Michael Brown, same with Eric Garner, even though to black folks, and people who love and bleed black folks, it's an execution.

BERMAN: I do think we have Van Jones now with us.

And, Van, I just want your reaction to what you saw overnight, and more importantly when you've heard over the last 48 hours and what you felt over the last 48 hours.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, we're seeing a curtain pull back. I think that's the hardest thing I think for my white friends to understand, well-intentioned -- well-intentioned, is that this is every day. Black people being choked off from dignity, from opportunity, from humanity, from understanding, from empathy, it happens in doctor's offices, where people walk in with the same symptoms, and white people get great treatment and black people get told it is all in their heads, that's documented.

So as painful as this is, what we saw was a lynching. That's what a lynching is. We saw a white man deprive a black man of his life in public, with the entire community staring -- horror struck.

The world witnessed a lynching. There have been lynchings happening in America for hundreds of years. This is what we have lived with. When you see the police arrest our colleagues in broad daylight, well, daylight, but right there, when they weren't doing anything wrong, that happens every day in America, to black people all the time, the arbitrary and capricious abuse of authority.

Now, because it was on television, it was handled quickly. But that is -- there is another reality here, which you're starting to see. You thought maybe the world worked one way because police are nice to you, because these things don't happen to people you know, but the whole time there is a whole other America and the reason that you see people now doing the things they're doing, we have no idea who set those fires. It could have been provocateurs, it could be anybody.

But the reason you see people willing to risk their lives in the middle of a plague and pandemic and to go out and literally risk their lives to protest is because people are now fed up. People are telling me they're tired of hashtags, they're tired of Van Jones saying we can have a bipartisan solution, they're tired of people like me, they're tired of people saying over and over again that, you know, we're just basically one bill away, one election away from some progress.

It is not the racist white person who is in the Ku Klux Klan that we have to worry about. It is the white liberal Hillary Clinton supporter walking her dog in Central Park who would tell you right now, you know, people like that, I don't see race, race is no big deal to me, I see us all as the same, I give to charities. But the minute she sees a black man who she does not respect or who she has a slight thought against, she weaponized race like she had been trained by the Aryan nation. A Klans member could not have been better trained to pick up the police -- pick up the phone and tell the police a black man, African-American man, come get him.

So, even the most liberal, well-intentioned white person has a virus in his or her brain that can be activated at an instant. So, what you're seeing now is a curtain falling away. And those of us who have been burdened by this every minute, every second of our entire lives are fragile right now.

We are fragile right now. We are tired. And so I appreciate people who have been reaching out.


I've had people reaching out to me for two days now, expressing their empathy and and their sympathy. My only prayer, look in the mirror at how you choke off black opportunity. How you choke off black dignity. How you behave in ways that make it harder for African-Americans to rise in your profession, in your place of work, on your campus, in your house of worship, and start working on that, because this is the last domino of a whole series of dominos that have been falling for a long time.

And black people have been getting gas lit every time we point this out. And people tell us, well, maybe it was this, and maybe it was that, are you sure it was that, are you sure it was that?

You don't get to this outcome. You don't get to the point where police officers can stand around -- don't tell me about the one who has the knee in his neck. Sometimes we have psychopaths and sociopaths with power. But when that happens, you call the police. The police were there watching it and defending it and now, there is still no charges. That is the problem.

That we have allowed this contempt for black life to build and to build -- and James Baldwin said it best, white people in these situations are always innocence -- are always innocent, oh, my God, I can't believe this, teach me, educate me, help me understand, I can't let this happen, talk to me, tell me something, tell me what to do. White people are always innocent and their innocence constitutes their crime.

It is too late to be innocent. It is too late. We had too many funerals. We had too many funerals for white people to be still this innocent and this shocked.

I'm not saying that witnessing a lynching shouldn't flatten you. It has flattened all of us. But it has been flattening us for years and years and decades and centuries.

And so, now, we're all in it together. There is not an easy legal answer. There is not an easy political answer. There is a personal and spiritual accounting that all of us are now called to.

How can civil rights people like me get on TV every day and promise a better outcome and fail every day. And still have a job. What the heck is wrong with people like me, what the heck is wrong with all of us, we got to this place.

CAMEROTA: Kamau, your thoughts?

BELL: I'm starting to wonder if it is what are we fighting for in this country? When you see over and over again black people executed in video, on TV, even what happened with Omar (ph) earlier, there are people now on Twitter debating whether or not he did something wrong. And he's going to carry that for rest of his life, that moment that happened, that maybe we feel like we're past because nothing bad happened to him, but that will be with him for the rest of his life.

And I -- and right now where we are in this country with our president advocating for violence in the way a racist police officer did back to the civil rights era, we have no protections, no hope, and unfortunately we have to depend on white people right now to suddenly have some sort of green mile moment to go, I get it now.

Every time we think you guys are going to get it, you don't get it. So I don't -- I start to wonder what we're fighting for.

BERMAN: Van, as both of you have been talking, I'm struck, you know, I remember the words of Angela Davis who says, you know it not enough to be nonracist, you have to be anti-racist. And there is a difference there. And it sounds like that's what you guys are both talking about right now.


JONES: I just want to say --

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Van.

JONES: This is the key, when somebody says to you, I'm not racist, I don't see color, I don't -- I've never -- my goodness, you have run the other way. Run the other way, because that is the sign of a person who has never seriously engaged with the fact that we all see color.

It would be like saying I live -- I live in the ocean and I've never gotten wet. The level of anti-black bigotry and anti-black hostility and anti-black assumption is so thick in this country, that to pretend it is not affecting you is to deny the entire reality of black existence. To say I don't see color. It is to say I don't see the -- I don't see when I look at you that you have dark skin. And I don't imagine for myself what that means.

Well, listen, I'm going to tell you, you're lying to yourself if you believe that. It's not true. You can do psychological studies. People in this country are triggered by race.