Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN Special Report: "I Can't Breathe: Black Men Living And Dying In America; Protesters Clash With Police In Atlanta; Protests In Atlanta Turn Violent; Families Of George Floyd And Ahmaud Arbery Speak To CNN As Protests Escalate From Coast To Coast; Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin Scheduled To Appear In Court Monday Afternoon, Jail Records Show. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 31, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is a CNN Special Report, "I Can't Breathe: Black Men Living and Dying in America." I'm Don Lemon.
And we come on the air tonight, America is in crisis from coast to coast. Curfews are in place in many major American cities. The National Guard called out in many states and a nation on edge right now. Legitimate protests that have become in some instances riots. Inexcusable looting in too many places.
It has been just six days since the death of George Floyd, the unarmed black man pinned down in the street on Memorial Day by police officers. One with his knee on his neck. But don't make the mistake of thinking this is all about riots. OK? We have seen peaceful protests like this one. This is in New York. Protesters cheering as police kneel with them.
We have seen looting and destruction. We have seen police get aggressive with protesters. But let's not forget what this is really all about. Let's not forget the lawlessness and violence that took the life of George Floyd. Calling for his mother, crying out, "I can't breathe." It's so hard to listen to this. But this is the terrible reality of what happened just six days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE FLOYD, VICTIM: Mom, I love you. My face, don't. I can't breathe, man. Please. Please let me stand. Please my hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Let's not forget the lawlessness and violence that took the life of Ahmaud Arbery, chased down and shot to death while he was jogging in a Georgia neighborhood. I'm going to talk to Ahmaud Arbery's mother and George Floyd's brother tonight.
But how can you condemn the lawlessness and violence that we saw in some, not all, not all those protests, without condemning the lawlessness and the violence that have taken the lives of so many black folks. How can you do one without the other? The burning cars, the breaking glass, they get our attention but they don't tell the story of a whole city.
Rioters and protesters are not the same. And this is all of our problem. Not just the problem of black people. OK? This is the America that we built. We should be as concerned about lives as we are about property. We should be as concerned about how people are treated by the law as we are about law and order.
And we can't let what's happening in America drown out the cries of "I can't breathe." We can't let it drown out the names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Brianna Taylor, Eric Gardner and so many more that we will discuss. Our time here on CNN this evening.
Let's bring in CNN's Alex Marquardt, though. He is live for us in Washington, D.C. as you could see him walking there with protesters.
Alex, you were just a few blocks from the White House. Give us the very latest, please.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, this is a protest that is influx. It is one that is on the move. You can see all these protesters behind me. And they are walking straight down 16th Street. If you're familiar with this, this is the main artery that heads, as you can see there, straight to the White House. And this has been ground zero for the protests all day today. Not just today, but over the course of the past few days.
Of course it is no accident that the protesters are ending up here at the White House. They have a very strong message from President Trump, who they have heard talk about the protests that are going on across the nation. But they are clearly not hearing the words -- the message that they want from the president. There's a lot of anger from these protesters that have been directed at the president.
And so this is Lafayette Park, Don. This is federal land. And the protesters earlier today pushed forward, pushed those metal barricades that we've seen forward into the park where I'm going to ask my cameraman Jim and Michael to keep follow me in here. This has -- Don, we have to reiterate has been a peaceful protest all day long.
This is one that started at Howard University, which as you and many of our viewers know, is one of the most important and historic black universities in the country. But, Don, as we've seen over the course of the past few days, as we've seen in past protests, things can change over the course of these protests.
Things can change as the night wears on. The sun is about to set in D.C. over the past few nights. That means things have started to get violent. They have started to get unruly.
Today we have seen projectiles going back and forth between the protesters and the police. Nothing on a serious scale really. Bottles of water, eggs, that kind of thing. Some pepper spray has been fired, but there's always, Don, that potential for escalation. Last night there was tear gas that was fired. There were restaurants and businesses who saw their windows destroyed. There was a significant level of destruction in the city.
And of course, Don, as the sun sets, as these protesters come back to the White House, the fear, the nervousness is going to be about these protests turning from a peaceful demonstration into lawlessness, which of course is a word that we have been using a lot over the course of the past few days.
We should note that the mayor of D.C., Muriel Bowser, has called up the D.C. National Guard. They have been assisting the D.C. Park Police, sorry, the Federal Park Police here in Lafayette Park in terms of keeping these protesters away from the White House. Along with Secret Service and D.C., like many other cities across the country, has imposed a curfew. There is a curfew that's due to go into effect at 11:00 p.m. tonight, Don. We will see of course whether these protesters obey that.
LEMON: Just getting some information in here, Alex, that I want you to talk about. Again this is just coming across. It says, as protesters gathered outside the White House on Friday night in Washington. President Trump was briefly taken to the White House underground bunker for a period of time. Again, that's according to a White House official and a law enforcement source. He was there for a little under an hour before being brought upstairs. It is not clear -- it is unclear if Melania Trump and Barron Trump were also taken down with him.
Things got a bit serious. He was there for a short time. Tell us about that. That is only done when there is a real emergency at the White House, Alex.
MARQUARDT: Yes. That's just an extraordinary development. Yes, you're right, Don. We've just learned about in the past few moments, reported by CNN's White House team. So what happened, this is about 48 hours ago when really D.C. saw its first protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. And seeing a lot of the anger directed towards President Trump.
So what we're hearing from law enforcement is that the president was taken to an underground bunker at the White House, which I don't know if you can see, Don, but that's just a block away on the other side of the park. The president was taken to an underground bunker, presumably by Secret Service. And as you mentioned, it's unclear whether that was along with his wife Melania and his son Barron.
Stayed down there for around an hour. And that does show that there was a significant fear of the situation that was unfolding out here. And Don, it might explain some of the messages that we saw from President Trump the next morning. He sent off a flurry of tweets on Saturday morning talking about the protesters outside, saying that Secret Service -- praising Secret Service and saying that they were ready to unleash what he called vicious dogs and ominous weapons.
Those terms of course bring back all sorts of imagery, all sorts of symbols from the fight for Civil Rights and was met with fury. It really was fury from the mayor of D.C. who today all but accused the president of inciting violence. Don, there's a very tenuous relationship between the city of
Washington which hosts the federal government and the mayor has relatively during this pandemic been quite soft on President Trump, but she unleashed on him, saying that he was scared and alone and, like I said, all but accuse him of inciting violence saying that he's being extremely divisive. So of course the hope is that these protests which as I've noted have been almost entirely peaceful today, don't devolve into more violence.
But clearly those around the president on Friday night felt that the protests had gotten violent enough to warrant taking the president down into that underground bunker in the White House -- Don.
LEMON: We hope that holds. Alex Marquardt, reporting from Washington, very close to the White House, thank you very much for that.
I want to get to New York City now and CNN's Shimon Prokupecz with the very latest there.
Shimon, huge crowds where you are. Tell us where you are and what you're seeing.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: The biggest crowd, Don, certainly that we've seen since these protests began here in New York City. I want you to take a look and really everyone kneeling here now are silent. I'm just -- I'm going to let you listen to the silence for a few seconds here as people take a knee.
And this is how it's been at several stops across New York City today. And we were gathered earlier, we walked from Times Square to here. They took a knee there in Times Square. It's been a very peaceful day here so far for New York City. You see the thousands of people who have been marching here. They have been going from Union Square to Times Square and now here.
The police have been on the outside, not really interacting with the protesters. They have been letting them march in the street, march on the sidewalks. And there really has not been any confrontation.
There was a remarkable moment you can see here as police are standing around. What happened was as we were marching along 7th Avenue, someone threw a bottle. This is the same area we were at yesterday where there were fire, scrap wood on fire, someone threw a water bottle at the police who was standing on the side.
And the protesters actually rushed in to protect the police and to keep the protesters from getting closer. And also to diffuse the situation. And that is a lot of what we've been seeing here today. The protesters here wanting to diffuse the situation. Not antagonize police. And the police have been standing back and allowing them to march through the streets. And you see now, this is the Manhattan Supreme Court. This is the courthouse in Lower Manhattan.
Some may be familiar from "Law and Order." But this is where they are now gathered, Don. And it's been a remarkable day here so far for New York City.
LEMON: Shimon Prokupecz, reporting to us from downtown Manhattan, we appreciate your reporting, and it is important to see these scenes of a peaceful protests because we have seen such terrible scenes of looting, and that's where the cameras go, to the looting and the burning and the violence, and the clashes with police officer.
This is what this is really all about. Peaceful protests. People -- young people who are fed up with what's happening in this country when it comes to the treatment, mistreatment of certain individuals in our society, mainly black men by police officers.
Sara Sidner is live for us in Minneapolis, the epicenter of this, for us this morning.
Sara Sidner, you have been here since really the beginning shortly after this happened. The sixth night of protests, where are you and what do you -- of protests, where are you and what are you seeing tonight?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is considered sacred ground. This is the very area where George Floyd lost his life. I want to give you a look at the scene. It is peaceful. It is prayerful. There has been song. There has been grieving. You'll see a huge circle and then a circle within a circle. And this is for George Floyd to mourn him. This is 38th -- East 38th and Chicago.
And I'm going to take you around just to give you a look at the scene. You know, you've seen some of this before, Don, where during the day, in the last couple of days, it really has been a peaceful effort. And a lot of that has to do with the community activists who have been out here for years trying to get justice, trying to get food, trying to get items to people who really need it. And they have been trying to keep the peace.
And here, because this is considered sacred ground, people have decided that this will not burn. This will not be destroyed. This is a reminder of what happened. You have this large memorial to George Floyd, someone on -- it shows May 25th, 2020, the day he died, the day he was killed. You'd see "I can breathe now" at the bottom of that.
This is really a place of mourning. It's a place of recognizing that a life has been lost but it is also a place of peaceful protest. There are notes all over here, saying, I can't breathe, which we have all heard far too many times. From Eric Garner, his family mourning this again. These bring all of their emotions back to the foreground. Back into their hearts. Prosecute the police, stop dehumanizing black people. Black Lives Matter.
You're seeing RIP George Floyd, praying for change. People are hoping, they truly are hoping that this will be the final catalyst for real change. That they won't have to come out and protest like this and stand up like this and be angry like this. They are hoping that they could finally get out of the cycle of feeling suffocated by injustices, that they see in their neighborhood due to policing of black folks in America -- Don. LEMON: Sara Sidner in Minneapolis, and she's been covering these
protests for us from the very beginning.
Our camera are trained tonight in cities all across America from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to Atlanta, to Santa Monica, to Chicago, Miami, Washington, D.C. and beyond.
But what -- what are these protests? What are they really all about? They are about the death of George Floyd. And when we get back, that's what we'll be talking about.
LEMON: Back now with our Special Report "I Can't Breathe: Black Men Living and Dying in America."
George Floyd's death at the hand of Minneapolis police officer has sparked angry protests all across the country tonight. The video of an officer with his knee on Floyd's neck as Floyd pleads for his life has shocked Americans.
More tonight from Sara Sidner, and I must warn you, the video is graphic, difficult to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLOYD: I'm claustrophobic. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts.
Please. Please. Please, I can't breathe. Please, man. Please.
SIDNER: 46-year-old George Floyd spent the last minutes of his life begging for one simple thing. A breath.
FLOYD: I'm about to die today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relax.
FLOYD: I can't breathe. My face.
SIDNER: The begging for breath goes on for three minutes and nine seconds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up. And get in the car right.
FLOYD: I can't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't win, man.
FLOYD: I'm through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want?
FLOYD: I can't breathe. Please. Your knee on my neck. I can't breathe (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, get up and get in the car, man.
FLOYD: I will. They going to kill me, man.
SIDNER: Even after Floyd becomes unresponsive, Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin keeps pressing his knee down on him. The video shows after a total of seven minutes and 54 seconds of this, Floyd stops moving altogether.
PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: I just don't understand. What low got to go through in life, man? They didn't have to do that to him.
SIDNER: The beginning of Floyd's end was the 911 call that brought him face to face with these officers. Floyd and a friend are accused of trying to pay for items with a counterfeit $20 bill at the Cup Food store on the corner of 38th and Chicago. At 8:08 officers arrive at the store.
Charging documents say the initial responding officers are Thomas Lane and J.A. Keung. They walk to the car Floyd and his two friends are in. There's a brief struggle with Floyd but within a minute, you see an officer sitting Floyd on the ground against a wall.
He is handcuffed. A minute later, Floyd is brought to his feet and both officers walk across the road to the police cruiser. Floyd falls on the edge of the sidewalk next to the police vehicle. He's lifted up. 8:15 p.m., Floyd is up against the cruiser, but you can't make out what's happening because a parked police cruiser has just arrived shielding the view. But you can see Floyd's head suddenly drop behind the police car.
Two more officers arrive, Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. They walk to the cruiser. Another surveillance video shows Floyd is already in the vehicle. There is a struggle and Floyd ends up on the ground on the other side of the car.
At 8:20 p.m. bystander Darnella Frazier (PH) begins capturing this video.
FLOYD: I can't breathe, man.
Another bystander at a different point in time also captures video from a different angle showing it's not just one officer restraining Floyd.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get off of him now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong with you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not responsive right now. SIDNER: Two minutes into the recording, officers call for an
ambulance. But Chauvin continues pressing down on Floyd's neck. The ambulance arrives. But Floyd's body is already limp.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that you guys aren't checking his pulse and doing compressions --
SIDNER: Paramedics eventually do but Floyd is pronounced dead a short time later.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I did see was murder. And that's what I want them to be arrested and charged and convicted for.
SIDNER: That is exactly what some in the neighborhood and others who saw the video thought, too. The next day they showed up in force to honor George Floyd. A 46-year-old bouncer, truck driver and father.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It broke my heart. It was devastating there. No words in the English language that would convey the despair that I felt watching that man life leave his body and him scream out for his mother. I heard my son saying, mama, save me.
SIDNER: The day after Floyd dies, the four officers involved are fired, but the emotional wounds have already been broken wide open.
By nightfall, sorrow turns to anger. Protesters rage against the neighborhood police. By Wednesday, it explodes. It's not just water bottles and rocks versus tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have been shooting me all -- look, I'm talking about all day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it just collapsed. There you go.
SIDNER: Buildings are set on fire and stores are looted. The devastation to a neighborhood further hinders its ability to heal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know that in this neighborhood the disparities are high. We have a high senior right in this neighborhood. All these couples, everything has been demolished. And everything is ashes now. What we want it to be is part of the solution.
SIDNER: But the protesters' anger cannot be contained. Thursday, protesters breached the police precinct perimeter. Eventually there is no police presence at all. Then this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we are definitely now seeing a fully on-fire Third Precinct here.
SIDNER: Protesters celebrated. The next morning as the National Guard rolls in --
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've moved back to where you'd like here. SIDNER: State police make a move that is widely condemned.
JIMENEZ: I'm sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're under arrest.
JIMENEZ: OK. Do you mind telling me why I'm under arrest, sir?
SIDNER: They detained CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew live on television with no explanation from police at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe they're about to -- you're all about to be arrested. That's -- up to you, sir.
SIDNER: And the governor apologizes.
GOV. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: I take full responsibility. There is absolutely no reason something like this should happen.
SIDNER: The crew is released. Friday afternoon an announcement. Officer Derek Chauvin arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a scene that has developed so quickly.
SIDNER: And protesters say justice means more than charges for one officer. It's about the systematic nature of policing black people in America.
LEROY WILLIAMS, MINNEAPOLIS PROTESTER: I am out here to get justice for my city. My city has been going through a lot of pain. This is not the first, second or third time. And this needs to stop right now. And this is the only way. You see all this damage? It's what we have to do to get our voice heard.
SIDNER: For those sworn to protect and serve, to some, they have become a sworn enemy. This time the fight was sparked by the suffering of one man whose death they now hope will finally break them free of a suffocating cycle.
LEMON: Sara Sidner, thank you very much.
Coming up, I'm going to speak to George Floyd's brother and Ahmaud Arbery's mother as protests are escalating across the country.
But first, I want to get to Martin Savidge who is live in Atlanta on the scene of some protests there.
Martin, what are you seeing?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right.
LEMON: Martin has been -- is obviously overcome with some tear gas that police have been using to fend off some protesters.
Martin, take care of yourself. But as soon as you can jump in, please let me know. As we were listening to the story of George Floyd, what happened to him, you could see on the right-hand side of our screen that there was a skirmish with police and it is right outside of the CNN Center in Atlanta. And those are some of the crew members from -- with Martin that I recognize from my time in Atlanta, as we look down the street at the CNN Center toward -- back towards Centennial Olympic Park.
This is the site of the CNN Center, which is really the main entrance here. Martin and his crew caught up in the skirmish with protesters in Atlanta. And I know from experience that once you get a big whiff of that, it is tough to breathe and it's tough to talk.
Martin, are you OK to speak now?
SAVIDGE: Better than I was. That's for sure, Don. Yes.
LEMON: Talk as much as you can. And I'll pick up where you can't.
SAVIDGE: Thank you. 9:00 is when the curfew was supposed to go into effect. That's when things turned last night. But clearly, tonight the crowd had a very different agenda. And that's been obvious. It's -- the tensions have been building for the last hour here. And the crowds suddenly escalated, grew tremendously. And you can sense that something was about to happen. Then there were just bottles that began flying through the air, coming in the direction of law enforcement here.
We're in the same place we have been for the last two nights or three nights now. And it was clear that this time this crowd was ready for a confrontation. I will say that so were the authorities. They had not only backed themselves up with police in riot gear, but also police that were supplemented with SWAT teams and then on top of that, the first time we had seen tonight, there was another row, another (INAUDIBLE) you would say of National Guard troops all armed with heavy shields.
You can see they are now starting to make arrests here, pulling people out of the crowd that are doing anything that are seemed to be assaulting towards the police officers. So yes, it just happened to be that the way they threw the canisters of tear gas, the wind just came right back on us. And even though we quickly threw the masks on, it was -- it was pretty overwhelming, Don. So thank you.
LEMON: And Martin, let me talk -- as you are speaking there, I have some pictures up, some live pictures that you can't see and you can help me through this. I can't exactly tell where they are. I am seeing a railing of an overpass. So as we pull up I may be able to tell where it is. But it looks like it is close to the park. And there are police lined up together in a barricade with their shields.
And I would imagine that was where you were caught up in that particular standoff with police just a short time ago right there in front of the Omni hotel. Am I correct on the corner?
SAVIDGE: We were just a little bit about 150 yards away from that. That's one of the things that have changed in the crowd tonight. Instead of all being in front of the CNN Center where they had been, it's clear that they decided now to attack this from a number of different angles to maybe try to throw the police and some of the security off.
But the police have also got eyes up in the skies. They have drones and then they've got helicopters that are hovering overhead. So they are quickly trying to adjust. But this is what it's turning into now. It's not a protest. This is turning into a contest of will and a strategy apparently of who can meet whom on what streets and at what time?
And it's clear that these crowds are also able to coordinate and shift very quickly. You'll see them suddenly walk in one direction and then do 180 and then start racing off in another direction. It would appear that's an effort to try to confuse police tactics as well.
But we're not yet at the curfew, which is at 9:00. But we obviously got ahead of the game here. And the Governor of Georgia had implemented the state of emergency.
LEMON: Martin, from what I'm seeing with police here, police are far more aggressive, it appears, than they were on Friday night when we watched all this. You can go back down. I'll continue with you, Martin.
Police look like they are more aggressive with their shields and their actions and even pushing some folks out of the way we just watched live there. Walking right into the tear gas they are throwing and the protesters are throwing back at them. It looks like they are far more prepared for this than they were on Friday night.
SAVAGE: Right, if you remember on Friday night, you probably heard Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The personal appeal that she made and the outrage that was in her voice are very clear that city officials here were shocked by the level of violence on Friday night.
This city is not a stranger to demonstration don't get me wrong. But they are not accustomed to violence. So they were caught off guard. It was clear you can tell that by you wouldn't have police cruisers parked in the road.
LEMON: Martin, do me a favor. Take a big swig of that water. We got you. We got all the time in the world. So continue on. What were you saying about the Mayor?
SAVAGE: So I was saying that it was just clear that the way the city tried on Friday was they had first their bicycle units that were out to confront the original protesters. It was a softer approach. And even the chief of police came down and there was a point where they said if they don't clear the street, they were going to be arrested.
Well, finally the chief of police said no, this was not going to be an arrest fest. In other words, they can stay in the streets as long as they protest peacefully. But it wasn't long after that that you began seeing people jumping on top of police cars and then defacing the police cars and then you saw one of them get set on fire and we saw the damage done to CNN Center.
So it escalated in a way that clearly caught the city off guard. It's a not to say they aren't prepared. It is to say that they have not seen violence like this. It's been described as a city too busy. Something has changed here. And the change is that that the birthplace of Dr. King, known for nonviolence, violence unfortunately is here.
LEMON: I wanted to ask this question to someone and I think if anyone can answer this question especially among our correspondent ranks it would be you Martin Savage considering your experience being in war zones, and a number of these - you have covered. When do we go from protests to riot?
SAVAGE: Well, there was a legal definition I'm sure for that. It's pretty clear that now we have gone from a level of people wanting to express their outrage and the horrible event carried out by law enforcement and not just this one that took place in Minneapolis but in many other places, including Arbery, whose case I have been covering for some time.
It's reached a point where people went from protests to rioting. Why that is I would ask many people everyone who I talked to notes there's been a shift here. And they can't explain it. I'm afraid I can't explain it either to you Don.
But it's clear that violence right now is ruling and it is destroying not only buildings and livelihoods, but a cause which is just. Because right now people are focused on just looking at the aftermath of violence you can see some of the heavy National Guard equipment.
LEMON: Yes. Well listen Martin, we're going to get to the break but we're going to continue to watch this. But what I do have to say and just quickly if you can just confirm this for me. There isn't just one group or two groups or three groups, these are a bunch of different factors and bunch of different people some of it is organized, some of it is not.
So we can't put the blame on one particular group and say well, this is a group because there are legitimate protesters in this group, a legitimate ravel rousers there are people want to cause trouble anarchies outsiders so on and so forth. So this is complicated.
SAVAGE: It is indeed complicated. At the same time, you have law enforcement that is put under tremendous strain as they try to weed out those who are doing things for the wrong reasons and those protesting for obviously for the right reasons here.
Just today the Mayor announced or the chief of police, rather, announced that two police officers have been fired as a result of what was deemed to be overaggressive actions last night in a takedown of several young people that were inside of a vehicle we happened to be right next to that as that all unfolded last night.
And so quickly, even under these conditions, the city is willing to say when they see wrong done by officers, they will immediately react to that wrong even in this case it ended with the firings of two police officers, Don.
LEMON: All right, Martin Savidge, thank you very much. We're going to continue to monitor what's happening in Atlanta as well as cities all over the country. When we come back, I'm going to speak to George Floyd's brother and Ahmaud Arbery's mother as these protests are escalating all over the country.
LEMON: Protests escalating across the country tonight over the death of George Floyd, his death coming just weeks after the death of Ahmaud Arbery their families speaking out tonight together. Joining me now in a CNN exclusive Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd and his attorney Benjamin Clump also Wanda Cooper mother of Ahmaud Arbery and her attorney Lee Merit.
Thank you all for appearing on this program. It's very important and I'm so happy that you're all here obviously saddened by the deaths of your loved ones. Philonise I'm going to start with you, protests that started in Minneapolis to seek justice for your brother now happening in almost every major city. What do you think about what you're seeing?
PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: People just want justice. They are going to continue to march and protest and as it were peaceful but we want justice. That's the reason they are acting out like that. Black folks have been killed for a long time. And my brother, I can't breathe. People just tired right now. African- Americans, they want to stand up for what's right.
LEMON: Wanda, these protests for your son Ahmaud too, who was killed at the end of February. What your thoughts when you're seeing the anger that is playing out across the country. People are angry.
WANDA COOPER, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: Unfortunately, it has come to this. It really breaks my heart that it's come to this. The rioting, I truly understand where they are coming from because black lives are being lost. They are being lost for no reason.
LEMON: You understand the anger.
COOPER: Yes, sir.
LEMON: Are you surprised as I am that there are people who are surprised that these sorts of things actually happen in our country because this seems to be an awakening for a lot of people in this country?
COOPER: Very much surprised. But when I say surprise, we have to deal with reality. Things like things these are happening and they are happening more than they should.
LEMON: Philonise is this is a country, I said earlier this is a country that we all built together collectively. This is a country that we all live in. This is the outrage of people who have been mistreated, unheard, their voices haven't been heard, they have tried to be peaceful in many ways.
They don't know when they try to protest peacefully, people call them out, shout them out. I know you don't condone, no one condones the violence and the destruction of property, but how are people of color supposed to protest or react to injustice in this country?
FLOYD: They are going to protest just like everybody else. Normal. Everything that's happening right now, it's not happening because of what they are doing.
FLOYD: People are jumping on them. People are killing them. African- Americans, you have women and men, both are dying right now. You couldn't watch the video and it was nine minutes the guy stayed on my brother's neck. Executed him, murdered him. He couldn't breathe. That's unreal.
I need justice for that. Three cops, they are at home right now sleeping in their bed, relaxing. The others, he's in jail. My brother he is in the morgue. That's not right. I want justice now. He deserved that. He's a gentle giant.
LEMON: You spoke to the President on the phone this week. Talk to me about what he said to you and were you able to share your pain with the President?
FLOYD: The Vice President, I loved his conversation. He talked to me for 10 or 15 minutes. I was talking to him because he was talking to me constantly. It was a great conversation. But Trump, it lasted probably two minutes. That's it.
LEMON: We lost your signal as you were talking about your conversation with President Trump. Can you repeat what you said please?
FLOYD: It was very brief. The conversation was okay with him. I was just respecting him, listening to what he had to say. I understood what he was saying, but it was just a brief conversation.
LEMON: Mrs. Cooper, I understand that you have not spoken to the President about Ahmaud's death. Is that a phone call you would like to have?
COOPER: At this point, the death of my son occurred back in February. I think that if President Trump was concerned about the death of Ahmaud, a phone call should have been already implemented and at this point, no.
LEMON: I want you both Philonise and Ms. Cooper I want you both to standby. We have some breaking news. We're going to get back to you. I want to get to my colleague Sara Sidner who is in Minneapolis tonight and she is with the police chief live there on the ground. Sara, talk to me.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're at 38 and Chicago right where George Floyd lost his life. The police chief showed up here. Chief, you came here to do what? We watched you walk up to this memorial. What did you come here to do today?
CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: I came to pay my respects to Mr. Floyd. And I came to just offer prayer for his loved ones, his family and our community that's hurting. I grew up about a block from here. And this has been so impactful for me, for this department, but for the city.
But I also wanted to be in a space where people who love Mr. Floyd. I want to be in a space where people are talking about how to heal and move from this? So it's going to take time. I think that everyone here is trying to do the best they can to offer what they are feeling and those are all valid. But I just needed to be here in this space today and offer my respects.
SIDNER: Let me ask you about what happened with the officer? First off, he had 18 complaints filed against him. 16 of those complaints were declined. They did not do anything to him. Two of those complaints, he did get censored. Should he have been on the force in the first place?
ARRADONDO: Well, we need to absolutely look at the record of those types of complaints that officers get. There are all types of other things that come into play in terms of whether it's grievances and arbitrations and those things.
But at the end of the day, our community members need to know that the men and women that put this badge on, that they are doing so in service to them and they should not have to doubt the integrity and if they are going to be treated in compassionate and in a professional way. So those are things that as we move forward, we need to get better in terms of this profession absolutely.
SIDNER: Can I ask you why you decided, I have not seen this happen this quickly before in past cases I have covered many, many protests around the world. Including what happened in 2014 in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri. Why did you decide that firing the officers would happen as quickly as it did? Many departments do not fire officers that fast.
ARRADONDO: There are absolute truths in life. We need air to breathe. The killing of Mr. Floyd was an absolute truth that it was wrong. And so it did not - I did not need days or weeks or months or processes or bureaucracies to tell me what occurred out here last Monday it was wrong.
SIDNER: I want to ask you what you thought when you saw the video that we all saw of Mr. Floyd on the ground, his face smashed into the ground, gulping almost like a fish out of water, with the officer's knee on his neck for more than seven minutes. What did you see? What did that do to you as a chief seeing your officer on top of this man?
ARRADONDO: There was a visceral reaction. I will just say I was emotional. Shortly after I saw that, I put a call out to our local black ministers, activists and leaders. We met that morning. I will tell you that it was - I asked them to start with prayer because that's what we needed.
And that's what I needed. And so it was an emotional reaction that I have never experienced in my career never experienced in my career.
SIDNER: So many times officers are fired and they get their jobs back with the help of the union. They end up getting paid out by the city. Do you see that happening to these four officers in the case that you fired?
ARRADONDO: That's going to be a process down the road. All I can be responsible is for the power that I had, which an employment matter decision. So I felt I made the right decision.
SIDNER: Why did you fire them though with an absolute violation of guidelines and policy?
ARRADONDO: In my mind, this was a violation of humanity. This was a violation of the oath that the majority of the men and women that put this uniform on, this go absolutely against it. This is contrary to what we believe in. And so again what occurred to me, it was an absolute truth it was wrong.
SIDNER: The Floyd family happens to be on live with us talking to Don Lemon. Is there anything that you would like to say to this family, who is in utter despair and grief right now?
ARRADONDO: I would say to the Floyd family that I am absolutely devastatingly sorry for their loss. If I could do anything to bring Mr. Floyd back, I would do that. I would move heaven and earth to do that. So I'm very sorry.
SIDNER: Thank you so much. I appreciate your time, chief. I appreciate it. People, you heard the chief and saw the chief take his hat off, take his hat off and say that he absolutely is sorry for what happened.
LEMON: Sara, can you get the chief back?
SIDNER: Yes, I can, Don.
LEMON: I think the family may have a question or two for him.
SIDNER: If the family wants to ask a question, please. I'll turn around. You tell me the question and I will turn to him and ask whatever you want. Whatever the Floyd family would like me to ask absolutely.
LEMON: Do you have a question for the chief? FLOYD: The question that I have, I want to know if he's going to get justice for my brother and arrest all officers and convict.
LEMON: Can you hear him Sara?
SIDNER: Okay, I just want to make sure I've got this right.
LEMON: Justice for his brother. Arrest and convict all the officers.
SIDNER: I will ask him that question. Just give me one second.
LEMON: Yes, ma'am.
SIDNER: Chief, may I ask you. I'm so sorry. I apologize. I'm so sorry. But the Floyd family actually has a question for you. They just talked to me in my ear. I'm sorry. The Floyd family is asking me a question. I apologize. I'm sorry. The Floyd family has asked if you are going to get justice for George Floyd by making sure that the other officers are arrested and that eventually convicted.
SIDNER: They want - I know that there are things that you cannot control, but they want to know if other officers should be arrested in your mind and if you see they should all four be convicted in this case?
ARRADONDO: This is the Floyd family right now?
SIDNER: This is the Floyd family.
ARRADONDO: To the Floyd family, being silent or not intervening to me, you're complicit. So I don't see a level of distinction any different. So obviously, charging and those decisions will have to come through the county attorney's office and the FBI is investigating that.
But to the Floyd family, I want you to know that my decision to fire all four officers was not based on some sort of hierarchy. Mr. Floyd died in our hands and so I see that as being complicit. So that is a about as much. I apologize to the family if I'm not clearer, but I don't see a difference in terms of the ultimate outcome is he's not here with us.
SIDNER: You don't see a difference between what the officer did and the three others who some of whom kneeled down as well, but some of whom just watched. You see that all as the same act?
ARRADONDO: Silence and inaction, you're complicit. If there were one solitary voice that would have intervened, that's what I would have hoped for.
SIDNER: That's what you would have expected from your officers?
ARRADONDO: Absolutely. That did not occur. So to the Floyd family I hope that's my response.
SIDNER: Thank you so much.
LEMON: Philonise do you have other questions? What's your response to Philonise?
FLOYD: They arrest guys every day. They had enough evidence to fire them, so they have enough evidence to arrest him. I don't know who he's talking to, but I need him to do it because we all are listening. Black lives matter.
LEMON: Sara that was an incredible interview that you did. It was the first time - hang on, Sara. You haven't spoken to anyone about the police department Philonise correct me if I'm wrong? Have you spoken to them directly?
That was really the first interaction that you have had with the police department since your brother's death. So Sara, in the course of this broadcast, we have been able to connect the family with the police department through your interview.
SIDNER: For the first time. I can't tell you Don, what that's doing to me to hear them have this conversation through me to the chief. Sorry, to hear the pain in the Floyd family's voice and to have to convey that, I hope that I did the right thing for them. Because I know that they are hurting so badly.
But I do want to recognize that when the police chief every time I said that the Floyd family has a question for you, he took his hat off. So he wanted to make sure to be respectful. And I know that they are angry. I know you are angry, and I know you are hurting. And I know it's not enough.
You cannot bring George Floyd back, but you heard what he said. That each and every officer who did not speak up against what was happening is complicit this is the police chief saying that. This is the police chief. Don, have you ever heard that before in your life? I have not.
In all of the 12 years I have been covered so many protests across the world and I have never seen a police chief say this. But I know it doesn't cure the ills that the Floyd family is dealing with and that all the people in this neighborhood are dealing with right now.
So I hope, I hope and pray that I was able to convey what they wanted to the chief in the first time being able to hear from the chief directly their questions, their concerns.
LEMON: Sara I think you're right. I think that Chief Arradondo deserves a lot of credit for doing that. As we know it's not the chief's role to convict them, but he did speak out about what he thinks, he said that silence is complicit.
Philonise I know - you're very emotional right now. What did you think of the chief's candor and again, as Sara pointed out, every time he talked and addressed you and your family, he took off his hat and he spoke very candidly about at least what he could share about how he felt this case was going?